Also T.O.

30 March 2017 – Oh yes, street art is so Toronto … but the beaches & parks along Lake Ontario are also Toronto. Phyllis & I take the Tuesday Walking Society (all two of us) out to the Beaches boardwalk, and start stomping around.

After a five-week absence, I am freshly appreciative. A dull day, grey water exchanging pixels with a grey sky, your eye could fall over the horizon.

Well, no it couldn’t.

Because it bumps up against those happily garish Muskoka chairs, and that happily prancing dog, who knows his owner is about to throw the stick. Again! (And she does, and the dog shoots off in full chase, throwing up little spurts of sand with each footfall.)

This year’s Winter Stations has just ended, Phyllis tells me, who visited the art installation, now in its third year, soon after it opened in late February. More than 350 design entries this year, worldwide, with eight winners.

The pieces are already being dismantled. Which somehow makes them even more intriguing. No signboards to tell you what is supposed to be what, just you & your reactions.

I like the reflections. I like the way the luminous silver panels fold into the luminous grey day, reflecting sky and water and each other. (Later I look it up online: This is Aurora, the work of Hunber College students, and, I discover, meant to dissolve visually into its surroundings.)

We’re walking west, close to the water. It brings us to the Leuty Lifeguard Station, one of two vintage ones (the other on Cherry Beach) still in use, and the symbol of the Beach neighbourhood. This is real life, not a winning design for Winter Stations — but it is just as powerful: the tender mother, the entranced child playing with sand, the lapping waves, the grey waters flowing out to meet the grey sky at the horizon.

Phyllis pulls me over to the next Winter Stations design. Collective Memory, says the battered signboard, now propped askew in the sand: the work of Spaniard Mario Garcia and Italian Andrea Govi, it offers two walls shimmering with 6,000 clear bottles, each one inviting visitors to insert a card with the story of how they came to live in Canada.

“The day I was here,” says Phyllis,”people were writing out their comments, and then telling each other their stories as they inserted the slips into the bottles.”

Eventually, we turn back east, farther from the water now, up on the wooden boardwalk.

More wood over there in the mid-distance: the 8-metre Beacon (by Portuguese team of Joao Araujo Sousa & Joanna Correia Silva). Later online reading confirms what my eye assumes at the time — yes, it is inspired by the silhouette of a lighthouse. It was also, when active, a drop-off point for charitable donations of food and clothing.

But my eye is drawn as much by the lake as by the art, by that horizontal line ‘way out there, slicing water from sky — or, perhaps, seaming them together.

And I think again, as I do every time I am here on the Beaches boardwalk, I think about Rita Letendre’s acrylic on canvas, Aforim.

When I stare at it in the Art Gallery of Ontario, I think about this stretch of beach. When I am on the beach, I think about the painting.

You see?

Good news for all admirers of this great Quebec artist: the AGO will mount a retrospective of her work, Rita Letendre: Fire & Light, from 19 June to 17 September.

I Flirt with a Lion

9 March 2017 – And with a lighthouse. And a whole lot of mossy trees. And clouds who are too busy flirting with mountain-tops to notice me.

And with a dragon.

Who also doesn’t notice me, perhaps because he is too busy chin-chinning with the lion.

Aren’t I the coy one? All will be revealed. Soon.

I’m in Stanley Park — the 405-hectare downtown park that Vancouverites rightly adore & tourists rightly visit in droves.

Though the droves have not yet arrived, this damp & still-early morning. My only fellow passenger, when the bus reaches its Stanley Park terminus, is a young woman bearing a carefully-swaddled kayak paddle. She strides off, clearly knowing where to go.

Which is one up on me, since I have no idea where I am or where, precisely, to go. But I don’t care, since … how can I lose? A random walk anywhere will be just fine.

For example, down to this suitably massive chunk of tree, honouring the BC lumber industry.

Lumbermen’s Arch, it is called, and it is the latest (1952) focal point in a clearing that has been a meeting place since the West Coast Salish people first began using it thousands of years ago.

I continue downhill on pathways that remind me, absolutely unreasonably, of bits of High Park in Toronto. Perhaps it’s the downward slope, the shrubbery, and the water ahead. Except Grenadier Pond (High Park) does not also offer a suspension bridge!

Even peek-a-boo, I’m in love with the bridge.

Built in 1938, officially named First Narrows Bridge, but pretty well always called Lions Gate Bridge. No, I don’t know why, but it’s more appealing to flirt with a lion than with a first-narrow …

I am diverted by the sound of yet another small plane droning its way overhead. Some have been helicopters, some seaplanes; I tilt my head to this seaplane  as it climbs above Burrard Inlet, silhouetted against the clouds draped around (maybe) Grouse Mountain.

Don’t hold me to that Grouse Mountain ID, I don’t really know, Grouse may be a bit farther to the east. Well, anyway, part of a line of very handsome cloud-draped mountains.

There’s a slipway down onto the beach and I take it. Instant flash-back: I’m visualizing an entry-point I used to take onto the beach at St. Peter Port in Guernsey, during a visit several years ago. The resemblance is probably slight, but …

but Guernsey is on my mind. (Spoiler alert.) I’ll be there again in May! As you will see.

I head east, but look back west, now able to see pretty well the full length of Lions Gate Bridge. Stretched gracefully across the Narrows, as sinuous as any cat inviting your admiration. (Oh, I’m getting silly.)

Passing ducks are nowhere near as impressed as I am.

Then I look east, and walk on east — and turn my attention to a dragon.

Effigy of. The 1960 replica of the figurehead of the SS Empress of Japan, which — says the plaque — from 1891 to 1922 carried Vancouver’s commerce to the orient.

Now you know what I was blithering about at the start of this post. Here is the dragon, and there, tucked neatly under his chin, is the lion.

But I am diverted once more! Good-bye lion, good-bye dragon; I have a lighthouse to track. Down there on a point, with (I think) North Vancouver & Mount Seymour in the background.

It looks like the beach will soon-ish collide with the seawall; I spy some steep steps, and climb to the adjacent path. I would here love to insert some informed comment about the state of the tide … but that wouldn’t fool you for a minute, would it? I have no idea.

On the path now, still heading east, and I dodge up-slope a bit, to indulge yet another of my BC obsessions: moss on huge tree trunks. But look, this time it’s like a quadruple-hit in Scrabble: big old fir trees AND moss AND the ocean AND a lighthouse.

By now the visitor droves are beginning to arrive.

We dodge each other politely on a narrowed section of path just west of the lighthouse. I wait, camera at the ready, for one group to pass, meanwhile admiring the ability of a young mother to calm her little boy, who is  hiccuping with distress. “Darling,” she says, “I promise, we will come back tomorrow. And mummy will have a surprise for you. Yes, really!”

A seagull is also listening in. He doesn’t care.

Seagull & I, we are at the Brockton Point Lighthouse, which guided ships in and out of Coal Harbour 1890-2005, when newer technologies made it superfluous. But still handsome. Still deserving our respect. One of our icons.

Speaking of icons!

I salute a couple of Canada Geese before I turn back west.

Then I’m onto the bus, back across town to the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood where I’m staying, and off the bus in time to fall into the Main St. outlet of Cartem Donuterie. This mini-chain is a legend, says local friend Louise, and who am I to argue with insider info?

Especially when it includes a hazelnut mocha doughnut.

 

 

POP! Go the Chairs

22 January 2017 – It is a totally pissy day (dull, damp, raw, intermittent rain-spittle), & I march out into it anyway.

And I am rewarded.

If waterfront summertime chairs can be this cheerful, if they can go POP! despite the weather, who am I not to join in?

chairs in Harbour Square Park, lakefront & Bay St

I’m in Harbour Square Park, by Lake Ontario just opposite the ferry terminal, starting to walk west along the lake and thinking how my attitude has changed to out-of-season accessories. Such as these Muskoka chairs, for example.

I used to sneer — yes, peaceful broadminded me — when confronted by public facilities designed, so I thought, for one season only. And for summer at that. When we inhabit, in fact, a primarily not-summer environment.

Now I delight in them — the chairs, the huge umbrellas at HTO Park and Sugar Beach, the lot. Why? Because so many others delight in them, and enjoy them year-round. So I am now an old dog with a new attitude. (Woof woof.)

More of those chairs keep popping at me through the drizzle as I walk along.

For example, when I meet Leeward Fleet in Canada Square. Background, but still definitely a presence.

2 of 3 components, Leeward Fleet, Canada Square

I read the signboard, and learn these pivoting structures (by RAW Design) were inspired by iceboat & sailboat technology. “Ancient fleet, blowing in the wind,” says the slogan.

The signboard also excuses me for not having noticed this installation before: it is one of five along Queen’s Quay West that together make up Ice Breakers, an exhibition that only opened yesterday and runs until 26 February.

A little farther west through Harbourfront Park, and my eyes follow my ears, to discover the source of the shrill squeal that fills the air …

marina along Harbourfront Park

Oh, I know, not a Muskoka chair in sight. But we can’t let ourselves be hamstrung by a theme, can we? And the sight does support my “out-of-season” sub-theme. All these little boats in the basin, tucked away for winter, and one man out there anyway — in a T-shirt! — power-drilling his way through an off-season project.

North side of Queen’s Quay, down by the Peter Street Basin, I spot giant hands. And jaywalk to check them out.

Tailored Twins, Queen's Quay W at the Peter Street Basin

Wouldn’t you?

It’s Tailored Twins (Ferris + Associates), another of the Ice Breakers installations, 3-metre-high faceted wooden hands, their golden palms glinting, even on a dark day. “Put your hands where my eyes can see,” says the slogan, and my eyes say thank you.

the west-end of the two hands

Well, that’s fun, and I head back east full of bounce.

Another of the installations, this one Incognito (Curio Art Consultancy and Jaspal Riyait), with — yes — a POP! factor.

Incognito, Queen's Quay W at Rees Street

This time the chairs, highly visible as they are, counter-balance a theme of invisibility. “An invisible city inside a park, can you see it?” The design, the signboard tells me, copies the same camouflaging technique used by World War I warships.

And on east I go, and on, and short winter days mean that by 6 p.m. it is already dark.

I turn north up Jarvis, and at King West see one final chair. This time it is just part of a tableau, and it is the tableau as a whole that goes POP!

through the Second Cup window, Jarvis & King West

I like everything about this scene: a warm, dry refuge glowing into the rainy night; a man ensconced in that refuge, head bent over his acoustic guitar, coffee near to hand.

I pick up the pace, walking on to home. The sooner I am there, the sooner I, too, will have coffee near to hand!

Wind & Water

7 July 2016 – There is a breeze as the Tuesday Walking Society sets out, but it’s nothing — nothing! — compared to the wind-power I discover after our walk is officially over.

Phyllis & I are focused on water, not wind: it is hot & sticky, and we agree the only thing to do is head for Lake Ontario. Not to swim, but even the sight & sound of water should cool us down. (Shouldn’t it?)

The first big splash comes at the east end of David Crombie Park — not yet lake-front, but a very fine fountain to cheer us on our way.

fountain at east end of David Crombie Park, on The Esplanade

The next splash is much smaller. On the other hand, it is multiple. I catch the Sugar Beach splash pad just as the jets are revving up again.

splash pad revving up, Sugar Beach

Some children stayed in it through the dead period, waiting patiently for the next eruption. Not that little boy on the left! See how he is streaking back in, as soon as he hears the first whoosh?

A moment’s near-excitement in the Harbourfront stretch of the Toronto Harbour. A Zodiac? A diver in the water? We join other passers-by clustered by the boat. Nobody quite thinks it will be sunken treasure (or a corpse …), but we hope for, well, something interesting.

off Harbourfront, in Toronto Harbour

Alas, the agreeable young woman overseeing the dive — her cap shading her eyes & identifying this as an H.M.C.S. York operation — tells us they’re just retrieving a bit of superstructure that had fallen off one of the vessels moored near-by. Oh, darn.

Phyllis & I watch a small flotilla of ducks paddle by: mamma in the lead, babies churning industriously along in her wake. We look past the ducks, & start to laugh. The human equivalent:

sailboat class in Toronto Harbour

Wouldn’t you be impressed if I identified the class of sailboat for you? I’d be even more impressed … but, alas, it’s not going to happen.

Now look at that speck in the sky, upper right. Yes, a descending airplane, which I also cannot identify, but at least I know where it’s going: it’s on final approach to Billy Bishop Airport, on the west end of Toronto Island.

Just past Simcoe Street, Phyllis & I find a lake-front café for our traditional mid-walk pause. Most un-traditionally, I do not order a latte. I am seduced by a strawberry-banana smoothie (plain, natural yogurt plus frozen fruit, period). Oh, yum. I may switch allegiance for the rest of the summer.

Right from the café window, more water. This time lapping its way under the Simcoe Wave Deck.

Simcoe Wave Deck, Queens Quay W. nr Simcoe

It’s one of three wave decks along this stretch of waterfront, each on the land edge of a public dock, and each a tribute to the waves and contours of the Great Lakes. This one has the most dramatic curves: some up to 2.8 metres above the lake.

We head inland, make our way east along King St., Phyllis peels off at Yonge to catch a subway north, I continue east on King, and at Church St. offer myself one last sight, sound & smell of water: the cascading water-wall in the Toronto Sculpture Gardens.

Toronto Sculpture Gardens, King E. & Church

No sculpture at the moment, but on hot summer days, we are all perfectly happy with the tiny park’s greenery, peacefulness & water.

I cross the street. The Anglican Cathedral of St. James is immediately opposite, and — I suddenly remember — they have regular Tuesday organ recitals. The sign is out, the church doors are open; I go in.

The recital has just begun. I sit in the calm, cool church nave, and let music — instead of water — wash over me.

a few of the 5,101 pipes of the organ of St.  James Cathedral

Wind-power, yes?

Later, I read about this organ online: a Montreal-built, 1888 English Romantic organ, subsequently maintained & expanded by the legendary Casavant Frères of St-Hyacinthe, Québec for most of the 20th c., with a solid-state console installed in 1979.

If that means wind-power is no longer involved, please do not tell me. I like to think of wind, surging through those 5,101 pipes, setting our eardrums a-flutter, and being converted to the most glorious sound, deep inside our brains.

 

More Icons of the City

8 June 2016 – Well, more of what I consider icons, of my particular version of the city — but I explained all that in the previous post.

Which ended halfway through Saturday’s walk, with me still laughing at the thought of a dog ordering his owner to fill in that hole! (Don’t know what I’m talking about? Check the previous post…)

Out of Coronation Park, on around a few streets, zoop down toward the Billy Bishop island airport, come round a corner — and bag myself a hat-trick of icons!

black Ierland Park  boundary, grey Malting silo, & the CN Tower

Yessir, neatly piled on each other, as you round the corner heading east: the soaring grey hulk of the Canada Malting silos, the jagged black edges of Ireland Park, and, down there in the distance, the needle of the CN Tower.

I’m headed around the edge of the marinas at this end of the harbour, my mind and my eyes pretty well set on the Toronto Music Garden, which is already in view. But I’m snagged by the water-edge railing just east of the Malting silo. It’s small-scale, as snags go, but vivid.

railing east of the Malting silo

An icon? Do I care to defend the label?

Sure. Street art is iconic. Well, railing art, if you want to get all sub-category about it. Anyway, I like it, and it’s my blog. (That bit of arrogance a deliberate bow to William Zinsser, author of On Writing Well, who, when asked by what right he got to define good writing, replied: “It’s my book.”)

I head into the Toronto Music Garden, a sculpted tribute to Bach’s Suite No. 1 in G Major for Unaccompanied Cello BWV 1007 — co-designed by cellist Yo Yo Ma and landscape designer Julie Masservy, in collaboration with city Parks and Recreation landscape architects.

Each movement is interpreted in its own section of the park. I always seek out # 3, the Courante.

Music Garden sign

As the sign promises, it features a spiral pathway, up to a glorious maypole, designed by Anne Roberts. I climb the path, every visit.

The Courante movement, with its maypole

Handsome from a distance; even better when you’re right next to it, craning your neck backward for the full vertical hit.

the maypole

Back down the spiral, following parkland at water’s edge again, into the Harbourfront complex, where I see one of the tall ships at anchor — and, for the first time, also  see people busy at work in the rigging. It all looks very 18th century.

Except for the clothing. And the tourist cameras. And the flags, come to that …

tall ship at anchor, Harbourfront Park

And on, and on I go, and now I’m at HTO Beach. (HTO, think H2O / water, remember TO = Toronto … oh, you get it. Forgive me for thinking it needs to be explained.)

on HTO Beach

Choose your icons: beach umbrellas, bicycles, sailboats, and the Toronto Islands just across the harbour.

I bang hopefully on the Power Plant gallery doors as I go by, but the facility is closed for maintenance. Or something. Oh well, another day. I pass one of my favourite Harbourfront coffee bars — and keep walking! I’m still fully caff’ed, thanks to that earlier Merchants of Green Coffee hit at the Fair Trade Show.

And then, whoa.

Major icon moment.

chairs in front of Queens Quay Terminal

Big red Muskoka chairs are all over the waterfront now — an invitation from the City to its residents and visitors: slow down, sit down, take a moment, enjoy being where you are, right now. This pair, right in front of Queens Quay Terminal (condos + retail).

I smile at them, but I don’t sit. I keep on hoofing.

Which brings me to the foot of Yonge Street, having just stepped my way along a kilometre marker paying tribute to the world’s longest street (if you allow Yonge + its continuation, Highway 11, to count as a single street): 1,896 km from Rainy River on the Ontario-Minnesota border, to right here.

Yonge St. & Lake Ontario

I always do a little hippety-hop on the 0 km marker.

But not yet 0 km for me! I walk on east, and a wee bit north, to home.

Can’t rival 1,896 klicks, but I do rack up something like 14.6 all told, so I am pleased with my day.

 

Lights! Action! & Camera!

24 February 2016 – The lights are supplied by Nature, bright sunshine bouncing off the lake and ice-skimmed rocks & bushes. The action is courtesy of the Tuesday Walking Society, west-end this time along Humber Bay Shores & through Humber Bay Park (West). The camera? Well, you know about that.

We are revelling in all the brilliant colour, whole colour-fields of colour — what  a contrast to our snow-blurred trip to the Beaches Winter Stations.

The restored butterfly arch welcomes us to the Humber Bay Butterfly Habitat, leads us on down to lake-edge and pathways toward the twin lobes of Humber Bay Park (West & East), spreading comfortably into the lake.

arch into Humber Bay Butterfly Habitat

Lake Ontario, flat grey last week, is today blue to beat the Caribbean — bands of dark blue & light, streaks of turquoise, all dancing in the sun. There’s no snow and little ice, nothing permanently on the ground this mild winter, just some evidence of frozen spray.

Sometimes it wraps a second skin around rocks at water’s edge …

sheen of ice on rocks by Lake Ontario

and, sometimes, it drapes delicate lacework on a shrub.

ice-draped shrub; city & CN Tower in the background

Away from the water, tucked back by tall winter grasses, a lone birdhouse. Charming at mid-distance, but its defect show once you are up close! Any resident bird would need to keep his umbrella up, even indoors.

a "handyman's special" bird house

We point to reviving colour in trees and shrubs — spring is coming! we cry. The deep red bark of the Siberian Dogwood (aka Redtwig Dogwood, for good reason) …

Siberian (Redtwig) Dogwood

and the golden yellow, soon to become acid-green/yellow, on neighbouring tree tops.

yellow-tipped trees

But the brightest colour, the very brightest, comes as we work our way back through a condo-side park toward our streetcar stop.

For one hallucinatory moment I think the birch tree is blowing a big wad of brilliant blue bubble gum. Then I shake my head, and realize it is a very small child’s sock, put on display by some considerate passer-by so the parent has a chance of retrieving it.

Phyllis laughs at me.

lost dog-boot on display

“It’s a dog boot!” she explains. Which it is.

Freeze-Thaw by the Lake (2)

21 February 2016 – And now I snap my fingers — snap!! — we awaken from our state of suspended animation, and we continue to explore Toronto’s Winter Stations 2016. (See previous post, as a reminder.)

Phyllis & I leave Cardinal’s wonderful Fire Pit, & start walking eastward again, headed for another trio of lifeguard-installations farther down the beach.

First we veer to water’s edge, spend a moment with Nature’s own winter installation of snow/rock/ice/waves …

view eastward down the beach, Lake Ontario

and then take ourselves back up to the boardwalk, where the walking is easier.

We pass a succession of park benches, much-used in summer, somewhat used in winter, but on this snowy-blowy day, not used at all.

Except by this very small truck, neatly tucked away to shelter from the storm.

on the Beaches boardwalk

Tromp-tromp, and finally another trio of installations come into view. We cut back down onto the beach, and as we approach the first one, I look at all its dangling ribbons and cry, “It’s like a Maypole!”

I have sudden giddy images of dancers at some summer festival on an English village common, meticulously weaving the Maypole (or whatever it is they do …). Then I shake my head. In blustery winter Canada?

Maybe not.

Hah. Shows what I know — The installation is  called “Aurora,” but essentially it expresses the same twirly concept.

sign for "Aurora"

Alas, it is not doing all those wonderful things at the moment. Phyllis gives it an experimental twirl  …

"Aurora," Winter Stations 2016

and we’re prepared to love it just as it is.

From fluorescent pink to white-on-white, practically disappearing against the camouflage sky.

""Lithoform," Winter Stations 2016

Once I’m close enough to touch the installation walls, I’m intrigued by their sinuous white skin.

"Lithoform" sign

But, even more than the pliant skin, I’m intrigued by those colour cubes on top. Perhaps especially because of their sharp contrast against the bleached sky.

close-up, "Lithoform"

We decide we’re glad that we are visiting the installations on such a blustery day. The theme, after all, is about sanctuary in winter weather, and this bout of weather gives you the full experience. Not just as a clever-boots art concept, but in physical reality.

Final installation. Such a contrast with the smooth white skin draped around “Lithoform”! This time, it’s all ropes & rough textures.

"Floating Ropes," Winter Stations 2016

Heavy, solid, workmanlike — yet look how it floats mid-air.

And so well-named: “Floating Ropes.”

"Floating Ropes" sign

Just simple ropes, hanging down. But look at the complexity they create! I admire the door arch and roof edge as I enter …

entrance to "Floating Ropes"

and I strike a pose as I push through the wall on the other side, blinking in the light, my nostrils still full of the pungent rope-aroma inside.

Iceland Penny strikes a pose...

Iceland Penny, learning the ropes!

 

Beach & Boots & a Q&A

14 January 2016 – We’ll start with the Q&A. Well, with the Q.

As follows:

Why did the traffic light turn red?

I’ll get to the A later. Promise!

Meanwhile, join me at the very eastern end of the Beaches neighbourhood, right where Queen Street begins/ends, a boundary marked with Art Deco flourish by the R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant — still functioning in that role, but with historical designation for its architecture.

I’m not gawking at the water treatment plant. I’m down on the beach gawking at ice on rocks, glinting against the grey Lake Ontario waters under a chilly grey sky.

ice on Beaches rocks, Lake Ontario

Even the nasty abutments pushed into the lake to baffle wave action become sculptural, given a sheathing of ice.

Beaches, Lake Ontario

 

As always, quite a few people are larking about with happy, bounding dogs — the pooches busy fetching sticks, lugging fluorescent tennis balls to and fro in their mouths, & pushing indelicate snouts into delicate places on total strangers, in equally total certainty they will be praised & stroked, not scolded.

Lifeguard stations dot the lakefront year-round, all currently bearing their seasonal notice.

on Kew/Balmy Beach

After a while I take myself back up to Queen St. East, planning to walk on west toward home until … well, until I either reach home or hop a streetcar en route.

Not surprising that I almost immediately see another dog. This community loves it dogs.

outside a Queen E grocery store

I contemplate Doggie-Two-Boots a moment. Has the little devil shucked two boots, or — for some arcane reason — does he only have two? (About an hour’s-worth of walking time farther west, I see him again — all four paws neatly encased in boots.)

Somewhere near Coxwell, I catch a surprising sight down a short alley-cum-parking-lot. I start down the alley to investigate. “Yes?” calls a voice behind me. The man attached to the voice is wearing a restaurateur apron & has just rushed out of the adjoining building. “Can I help you?”

Which, we all know, means: explain yourself.

“Just want a photo,” I reply, smiling as endearingly as I know how & waving my camera in his direction. His smile matches mine as he waves me on down the alley.

This is what the fuss was all about.

off Queen nr Coxwell

Well, it’s very odd, isn’t it? I realize I’m thinking of it as a barn, a corrugated metal barn, but of course it isn’t that & I don’t know why it strikes me that way.

A bit later on, another just-off-Queen sighting, this time at Curzon.

N/W Queen E & Curzon

It could have been projected, that tree silhouette; a perfect art installation against the wall. (Come to that, it is projected. By the sun.)

Somewhere in there I peer hopefully up Craven Rd., home to “Tiny Town” and the city’s longest municipally maintained wooden fence. Also the city’s longest wooden-fence public art gallery.

Except… it isn’t, not any more. Finally all that wonderful art work has tattered itself to the point of (or so it seems) being removed. Just a long, very naked fence. I’m glad I have images, first shared on this blog in November 2013 and several times since then.

Between McGee and DeGrassi streets, some public art that is increasingly battered looking, but still in place: the animal vignettes running the length of the railway underpass.

Queen E railway underpass at McGee

This guy is one of my individual favourites in the series. Each side bears a whole wall’s-worth of images, currently enhanced with a few icicles in the framing arches.

RR underpass south wall

I angle toward home through Joel Weeks Park, north of Queen & just east of the Don River. I could have chosen many other routes — but I cannot resist the squirrels.

south end, Joel Weeks Park

I’m as amused as ever. Acorn worship!

detail, squirrels & acorn in Joel Weeks Park

The A to the Q

Did you get all impatient on me & scroll down? Or did you wait?

Before totally wowing you with the A, let me give credit where credit is due: I read this on the sidewalk “street talker” for The Sidekick, a Queen East coffee & comic books emporium.

Remember the question? It asks: “Why did the traffic light turn red?”

Answer.

You would too, if you had to change in the middle of the street.

Was it worth the wait? I hope so.

 

 

Ice & a Bright Blue Sky

6 January 2016 – Weather was on our minds, as Phyllis & I planned our Tuesday outing, so, when we finally set out, what more appropriate wall-comment than this?

a prescient street-scrawl, near Jarvis

It is – 11C: that’s not terrifically cold in, say, Moscow (or Winnipeg) terms, but pretty nippy for Toronto, especially after the very mild temperatures we’ve had until now. We decide to stick to downtown streets & take in Cloud Gardens Conservatory as we go. Nothing better than a hit of steamy tropics in the midst of a cold snap.

The bonus of cold weather is a bright blue sky. “An Alberta sky,” I always think, imprinted as I am by my years in Calgary. It lifts the spirits and makes colours pop.

Example: the old (1892) Confederation Life Building on Richmond St. East between Victoria & Yonge.

1892 Confederation Life Building, Richmond & Victoria

Romanesque Revival style, you bet, complete with the gloriously-named “wishbone surrounds” over those tall windows.

Nearby, just across Yonge St., our tropical hit: Cloud Gardens Conservatory. There is the open park section as well, but we head into the Conservatory, closed for a chunk of 2015 while they upgraded their light-management systems for all those plants.

inside Cloud Gardens Conservatory

Our glasses completely mist over as we enter. Once they clear, we mooch about. The new, filtering window curtains are fully retracted, this early in the day, so plants get full advantage of morning light.

glass wall, Cloud Gardens Conservatory

We’re heading west, wobbling between Richmond & Queen as fancy dictates. Fancy happens to dictate Queen, just where it passes City Hall at Bay St. The summer-time pond is now the winter skating rink.

skating rink, City Hall

Look again at that child in the lower-right, just off the final “O” in “Toronto.” He is about to go ker-SPLAT!! on the ice.  Happily, he is both unhurt & undaunted. (Later, we notice that the kiosk, along with the usual skates, also rents kiddie helmets and green push frames.)

Back to Richmond & still heading west, with new buildings, both office & condos, popping up all around. Example, this Picasso on Richmond condominium tower. I smirk at the name, but like the lines — all those hits of red on the white, popping at us from that bright blue sky.

"Picasso on Richmond" nr Peter St.

Old buildings are still around, some probably slated for demolition but others being integrated with the new. And some still sporting faded old advertising. Perhaps deliberately preserved as an architectural feature?

 

old Tip Top Tailors advertising, Richmond West

Tip Top Tailors. Still in business, though not right here.

One of the city’s newest examples of old/new “fusion architecture” is just down the street, at Richmond & Peter. Imagine two old 4-5 storey brick buildings that now serve as underpinnings for a 27-storey glass superstructure that straddles them both, creating a single entity, the Queen Richmond Centre West.

I ask you to imagine it since, lacking my own private helicopter, I cannot properly show it to you. (Though you can click right here and check it out on the architects’ website.)

I can show you the atrium, though — once external space between the old buildings, now soaring glass internal space, 75 feet high. We stand inside, swivel our heads, and start to laugh.

“Does everybody walk in and say ‘Wow!’?” we ask the Nice Young Man At The Desk. He laughs too, delighted that we are delighted. “Yes, they do.”

atrium, Queen Richmond Centre West

Great criss-cross pillars support the superstruture (and, temporarily, some Christmas ornaments as well). Old external brick walls, left & right, become internal atrium walls. Your mind & senses hop back & forth. It is very neat.

There’s a sleek little coffee bar in the atrium and we hesitate, almost peel off our coats & settle in — but we resist the temptation. Let’s head down Spadina to the lake, we decide; reward ourselves somewhere down there.

So we do. Passing our first ice display as we go: a perfectly preserved, but frozen stiff, ornamental cabbage outside the 401 Richmond West complex of art galleries & design studios.

frozen ornamental cabbage outside 401 Richmond West

More ice at the lake front. Not yet in solid sheets, more like translucent jigsaw puzzle pieces, neatly fitted next to each other but still floating free.

buoy & ice in the lake, at HTO Beach

We’re in HTO Beach, whose yellow-striped umbrellas & oversize beach chairs look more than slightly out-of-season at the moment. But what am I saying? Two of chairs are occupied. The occupants may be bundled up to the point of near invisibility, but there they are, by golly, enjoying their Day At The Beach.

Across the slip, more ice & another great tapestry of colour beneath the bright blue sky.

canoes cradled for winter, near Rees Wave Deck

I love ’em in the summer, and even more in winter. And yes, they are as out-of-season as the beach chairs –but aren’t they glorious?

And a reminder that summer will come again.

 

 

 

The East Is Red …

24 September 2015 – Or at least rouge. If approached from downtown Toronto.

Which is exactly what the Tuesday Walking Society does, this exuberantly beautiful fall Tuesday. (One day short of official fall, but who’s counting?)

The perfect day to revisit — after a 16-month gap, or so — Rouge Beach Park. So-named because it is at the mouth of the Rouge River; in turn so-named, back in the early 18th c., by French explorers struck by the red clay in its riverbanks.

Today this is the south end of Rouge Park (+40 square km., stretching north to beyond Hwy 407), and noted among other things for its magnificent wetlands — described in its promotional literature, not just as the biggest marshland in Toronto, but also “the best.”

These swans seem happy enough.

swans in the Rouge Beach Park wetlands

Phyllis & I stand there, woefully ignorant, but appreciative and at least able to distinguish swans from egrets, and ducks from geese. We even know about “GBH”! That’s thanks to the very patient, very helpful birding ladies we met right here a year ago spring, who taught us the slang for Great Blue Heron, and much more besides.

We plan to walk farther east along the Waterfront Trail, on the far side of the Rouge River, but first explore a bit along the lakeshore back west toward the city. Rolling waves, slight breeze, a marine tang in the air — and even one hit of street art.

Commissioned, I soon realize, but full of punch & sass for all that.

clubhouse back wall, at mouth of the Rouge River

We also walk the water’s edge along the river’s mouth for a bit, marvelling at all the bird tracks in the firm wet sand and the piles of feather-rubble all about. Enthusiastic groomers, these swans, but they don’t exactly tidy up after themselves.

one isolated e.g. of all the preened feathers lying around

We pass quite close to some Canada geese as we walk along. They give no signs of alarm, indeed show no interest whatsoever, so we simply walk quietly & keep moving. Different story with a grooming swan. Swans for all their beauty are hissy, irritable creatures, I have always thought, and this one raises his (her?) head to fix us with a beady stare. No fools we, we back off.

Never mind, there’s plenty more shoreline to be had, and a very handsome view on eastward. The cluster of white structures in the distance makes a satisfying resting point for the eye — even when you know it is a nuclear power generating station!

view east from mouth of the Rouge

Now we backtrack, to cross the Rouge via a pretty pedestrian bridge that angles over the river mouth on a sturdy white pillar. Parallel to it, but out of frame in this next shot, a railway bridge. Not pretty, but striking in an industrial-geometry sort of way.

pedestrian bridge across the Rouge

I’ve already carried on about the shaggy mad beauty of late-summer growth. Now I’m doing it again. Because — just look — it really is terrific. But what wouldn’t be, on such a sparkling day?

view over Lake Ontario, from First Nations Trail, part of Pickering Waterfront Trail

This is a delightful stretch of the Waterfront Trail, up on the bluffs, great views over the water, great sense of being lost in nature even though in fact the Trail here is practically ribbon-wide in most places, with the railway track running close on the northern side.

I keep forgetting about the scope of the Waterfront Trail; I reduce it to the stretch that snakes its way across lakefront Toronto.

Coming elsewhere, even somewhere as close as this next municipality of Pickering, reminds me what an achievement it is: 1,600 km. total along the Canadian shores of lakes Ontario, Erie and St. Clair, plus the Niagara, Detroit and St. Lawrence rivers, linking 75 communities and more than 405 parks and natural areas. I am again wowed, and grateful.

We slow our pace to read a sign that we can see has been posted regularly all along the luxuriant meadows that stretch between trail and cliff-edge.

posted  frequently along the trail

I had no idea of this kind of parkland management; how interesting, how sophisticated. As we walk on, we pass parks employees implementing the program. One machine levels the existing plant life (though some stands, e.g. of Staghorn sumach trees, are left); the next turns the remain stalks into the soil beneath. Several hours later, when we again pass this same spot, it too is bare.

We walk as far east as Frenchman’s Bay, with Pickering proper lying to the north, and then up the western shore of this sizeable bay before doubling back west. Occasionally the Trail takes us along stretches of city street. Most homes reflect their close relationship with the water — beach chairs, canoes, nautical garden froo-fraw.

One home thinks horses instead.

garden swing by Frenchman's Bay

The rubber-tire garden swing variety. I’m not sure it is actually “swingable,” if you follow me, but I must add it is very sturdily attached to a great tall tree. Either way, what fun!

Back we go, the return trip seeming so much shorter the way return trips always do — though also yielding some views we missed when going the other way, also a characteristic of return trips.

At Rouge Beach Park, I stand a moment under the railway bridge for a last look down the sandbars along the river’s western shore. People laughing, strolling, fishing; a couple, each carrying what appears to be one half of a snap-it-together kayak.

Then I hear a soaring voice. Contralto in range and singing opera, I think.

I finally pick out the woman, move closer, begin to distinguish some sounds, and refine my guess to Chinese opera. Not that I have any idea! It just sounds very formal, very traditional — I am quite confident that she is not boppin’ some Chinese equivalent of a show tune.

Her voice is good, her pleasure evident, and I am delighted to be here, at this moment. And it is only a moment — her friends catch up & she turns to talk with them instead.

An hour or so later, another musical gift. This time it floats above the ambient clatter as I stand on the Davisville subway station platform, waiting for a southbound train.

flautist on the Davisville subway platform

An urban Pan, as skilled, and as abosrbed in his music as the lady back in Rouge Beach Park.

How lucky I am, to have heard them both.

  • WALKING… & SEEING

    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

    "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" -- Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

    "A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities" -- Rebecca Solnit, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking"

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