Wildflowers, Wild Canoes … & a Touch of Z’otz

3 July 2016 – We’re on for wildflowers. That’s why Phyllis & I are trotting down Pottery Rd., heading for the Lower Don Recreational Trail that will take us north along the Don River, surrounded by nature. We don’t expect wild canoes, though — let alone Z’otz.

The unexpected comes later, upstream; we start with the expected, in Todmorden Mills Wildflower Preserve and Wetland. It lives up to its name.

Look! Wetland.

pond in Todmorden Mills Wildflower Preserve and Wetland

And look! Wild roses. I bury my nose (checking first for bees). Nothing smells as sweet.

detail, wild roses in Todmorden Mills

The smell and the sight flood me with memories of Calgary back alleys, bursting with wild roses all summer long. (Alberta is called Wild Rose Country for a reason.)

Out of Todmorden Mills, and sharp right to start north on the trail along the Don River. We had a fairly short, but intense rainstorm a day or so ago — the extra water is now boiling its way downstream to Lake Ontario. Rapids are higher than usual around the rocks, and noisier.

Don R. trail nr Pottery Rd junction

Salmon leap — some of them right there in the river, or so I am told, but they’re not the ones we see. We admire the ones leaping in and out of the waves painted onto this section of the trail, accompanied here & there by inspirational text.

trail mural nr Pottery Rd junction

“Life” is good. I’m willing to be inspired by that.

More wildflowers as we go, some of which we can even identify! Not this one, though, but we love it every time we see it, so we wish somebody would enlighten us.

It is not exactly a wildflower, but it certainly is wild.

mystery wild plant by Don River

We chatter once again about how beautiful it is, how sculptural. Somebody else obviously admires its artistic properties as well — here it is adorning a prosaic old Natural Gas Pipeline pole.

Lower Don Recreational Trail

And, while we are on the subject of art …

Leaside Bridge trestles, art by Z'otz

That’s the Leaside Bridge (aka Millwood Rd.), spanning the river and an adjacent train track while it’s at it. But we’re not here to admire the bridge, are we? We want to check out the mural.

detail, Z'otz mural

Who is this artist? A little research later, and I can answer the question — but first reformulate it. Who are these artists?

Right. They are the Toronto-based Z’otz Collective, formed in 2004, still very active — proof right here with their 2015 “Panamania” project, i.e. commissioned artwork to brighten the Pan Am Bike Path. Click here, and get a CBC video of the creation of this mural as well as background on the collective itself.

We are now into the Wild Art stretch of our walk! Next up, the promised Wild Canoes. “Wild” simply because, well, they are not where you expect canoes to be. Namely, in or beside the water.

I suppose you could argue they are indeed beside the water. Just not in the usual direction.

art installation, Don R. underpass south of E.T. Seaton Park

Wouldn’t it be nice if I could tell you what underpass this is? Somewhere south of E.T. Seaton Park, is the best I can do. Sorry. For that matter, wouldn’t it be nice if I could credit the artist(s)? No plaque visible, so — again — sorry.

Finally we are in E.T. Seaton Park, practically up to the Ontario Science Centre grounds. We have gawked at some archery practice (in a well-fenced, off-to-one-side enclave), and dodged the wilder throws of some disc golf enthusiasts. “Sorry!” they shout. We are gracious: neither of us has been decapitated, so no need to fuss.

We’re about to climb steps up out of the ravine, on up to Don Mills Rd.; nothing more to see down here, we agree.

Hah. There is always one last bit of magic.

slack-wire practice, in E.T. Seaton Park

Slack-wire artists!

We watch for a bit, and then, suitably slack-jawed with admiration, we climb those steps & catch a bus.

 

 

 

 

 

Earth, Air, Fire, Water

31 March 2016 – If you’re paying any attention at all, all four elements dance with you, every walk you take. But, sometimes, they connect with more power than usual. Tuesday’s walk along Toronto’s west-end waterfront is one of those occasions.

For example, Air/Fire/Water right here at Toronto Fire Station 334.

Soaring sky, glinting water, and the Wm. Lyon Mackenzie Fire Boat in the slip.

fire boat, Toronto Fire Station 334

So-very-appropriate to name the fire boat for the City’s first mayor — but here’s the joke: he was also one of the leaders of the 1837 Rebellion, and quite rightly dubbed a “firebrand” in William Kilgour’s biography. A man, in other words, more likely to ignite fires than extinguish them …

A few other hints to our coming walk adventures in that photo, not that the Tuesday Walking Society knows it at the time: the fierce outline of the Canada Malting Company silos against the background sky and, to their left, the more prosaic outline of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport.

Close to hand, the fourth element: Earth. No. More precisely, Earth & Water.

detail, Spadina Quay Wetland signage

Immediately west of the Fire Station, the Spadina Quay Wetland. Once a parking lot, it is now a spawning ground for the Northern Pike (“a key indicator of the health of Toronto Bay”) and a support for the entire aquatic community.

I take the photo for the pike silhouette, and for the handsome appearance of the rusted metal. I only learn later that this wooden edging is a pilot project in urban park edging for such purposes. Here’s the problem: wetlands look, well, messy. The healthier they are, the messier they look. What will make a suitable boundary between the wetland and the smooth, urbane, urban pathway to one side? The trick was to devise a modular system that wouldn’t look too prissy for the wetland, yet would fit nicely with the park edge, and would also provide seating. Read all about it here.

On we go, through the Wetland, then through Toronto Music Garden park immediately to the west, and then we veer onto the planking for Marina Quay West. Lots of boats out here, still neatly swaddled for winter.

boats in Marina Quay West

We are slightly wary as we prowl — the marina is designed for people who belong there & have keys & all & all — but nobody challenges us. No external signs of action, but music wafts out from some of the boats, suggesting owners are beavering away inside.

A moment to admire another red & white boat, the view hampered by the fact that since we don’t have keys we have to view it from the one public-access walkway.

tug with chair, Marina Quay West

In my ignorance, I think of it as a tug. Maybe it even is a tug. Phyllis & I particularly like the red Muskoka chair up on top.

Back out of our Marina detour, closer every step to those 1928 Canada Malting Company silos — one of only two sets of silos left on the waterfront.

Canada Malting Company silos, Toronto Bay

I love severe industrial architecture, especially when tinged with modernism, as here, and I love Prairie grain silos. So I really love this structure, and I am glad that — once threatened with demolition, and still empty though protected by historical designation — it is still solidly present at lake edge. Not as large as it once was, battered, empty, its future unknown, but, by golly, emphatically still there.

detail, silos

I am thinking anthropomorphic thoughts about loss, resilience & survival as I round the waterfront corner of the building.

And have the breath knocked out of me.

Because never mind architectural equivalents of those characteristics. Here they all are, in human terms.

Ireland Park

We have come across Ireland Park, opened in 2007 by the President of Ireland, a testimonial to the Irish Famine of 1845-1851, to the millions of famine refugees who emigrated and, specifically, to the 38,560 who arrived by steamer in Toronto Harbour in 1847. At a time when the city itself numbered only 20,000 people.

sculpture, Ireland Park

The bronze sculptures are by Irish artist Rowan Gillespie, who had already created 7 such sculptures on the Dublin waterfront, to honour all those who fled. Ireland Park here contains 5 figures, honouring those who made it to our shores and, by the reduced number, those who died en route.

The man with outstretched arms symbolizes the joy of reaching land; the pregnant woman, the hope of new life and a new life for all; and this gaunt youth …

sculpture, Ireland Park

the newcomer mixture of hope and trepidation.

Walk to the jagged limestone pillars behind. Peer between their faces. Read the names.

names etched, Ireland Park

Of those 38,560 immigrants, some 1,180 died upon arrival or soon after. When this project began, 32 of their names were known. By 2007, dogged research had brought the identified total to 675 — information sent back to Ireland with H.E. Mary McAleese after she opened the park. Reading names on site, I am touched but saddened that “A Widow Hughes” is known only by her surname; knowing what I have since learned, I am touched and impressed that even this much has been discovered and made public.

A hint of Fire, and a lot of Water and Earth, in our walk so far. Now it is time for Air.

We walk the new underwater tunnel to Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. City-side, they’ve placed life-size statues of (L) William Barker and (R) William (Billy) Bishop — friends, and two of the greatest fighter pilots of the First World War. Bishop with 72 victories, Barker with 50, and between them very long lists of awards and decorations.

Barket, L; Bishop, R

Through the tunnel, back up the escalator on the airport side, into a lobby of Billy Bishop memorabilia — complete with a full-size model of his beloved Nieuport 17 suspended overhead. (Go see the real thing in the Canadian War Museum.)

Nieuport 17 model, Billy Bishop Airport

Only a model, but faithful and almost complete. Add navigational equipment and an engine, says the signage, and this model could really fly.

And now, speaking of navigation …

A Small But Important Geographical Note

I misled you! We were not in Leslieville last post, as I muttered about how Toronto’s east-downtown is finally spiffing up. We were in Corktown, as Larry Webb (faithful reader with sharp eyes) pointed out.

 

 

 

 

  • WALKING… & SEEING

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

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