Although pennies are no longer in circulation in Canada, the forest economy is different. Last May I found a 1978 Canadian penny on the forest floor of Serena Gundy Park. I shifted it to a curved patch of moss for a photo and left it there.
Two months later, I followed the same trail, and to my surprise I saw a penny in almost the same spot! It was a different one though, stamped with the year 2007. It rested just beside the moss patch, possibly nudged from it by a curious animal.
Thank you, mysterious hiker, for creating an anonymous penny exchange! If I had had a penny with me, I would have extended the game. As it was, I took a picture and let the coin remain there for the next pair of wondering eyes.
Near the beginning of an extended walk last November, I became transfixed by a tall flapping windsock outside a bakery. I ended up taking over seventy pictures of the wind-animated figure, and each one had a different pose. It was like receiving a free art class on the topic of gesture studies!
It’s astonishing how expressive fabric can be when it composes a long tube for the body, two hollow arms, and a head with strips of black cloth for hair. The different angles of the head and arms as well as various bends in the body’s “spine” gave strong impressions of joy, fatigue, despair, sass, embarrassment, playfulness, surrender, overwhelm, triumph, and humor.
I managed to reduce the number of pictures by more than half, but I still need to ask viewers’ indulgence for the quantity of images posted here. (Sending a big thank you to Veronica Paloma for her thoughtful comments on these photos when I first posted them on Facebook last fall and for providing ideas for the titles “Bliss Float,” “Cheerleader,” and “Responding to the Latin Beat.”)
After lunch with a friend last Monday, I enjoyed a windy walk on the shore of Lake Ontario at Humber Bay Park. Much to my delight, I discovered a spontaneous outdoor gallery on top of a boulder.
Anonymous artists had created a gathering of small inuksuit sculptures, and I loved how the waves had become co-artists, knocking some sculptures over and leaving others intact.Before I left the boulder gallery, I contributed an inukshuk of my own to say thank you.
When I descended the steps at the beginning of a three-hour trek from Taylor Massey Park to the Don River Valley, a multitude of surprises awaited me.
Along the trail, I discovered green palaces reflected in the creek, a memorial bench wreathed in spontaneous wildflowers, animal sculptures carved from a fallen tree, and the sight of a chipmunk fleeing to its burrow.
Flowers and chains framed the beauty of the stream, and wavy reflections of tree trunks served as pillars for a temple of nature.
The first trail marker for the Lower Don appeared after an hour and fifteen minutes of walking. This was exciting because I had never witnessed the transition from Taylor Massey Creek to the Don River before.
Much as I love the sheltered flow of a woodland creek, the impact of seeing the waterway expand and deepen in capacity astonished me. My chest expanded, my breath deepened, and I felt freer, bigger, and more open.
Ten minutes into the Lower Don section of the walk, I noticed a short dirt trail leading to a lookout on an elevated bank. With my camera looped around my wrist, I fell into a reverie while looking at the opaque water and began to daydream about the Missouri River (my home river). Suddenly, a very large pink and white fish jumped high above the surface and made a flamboyant splash upon re-entry.
I was so startled that I almost dropped my camera. However, I wasn’t upset in the least, for it was a privilege to have been shaken up by that feisty fish. Its breathtaking leap made me feel alive and gave me hope for the health of the river.
Tired but refreshed by so much beauty, I continued the journey, noticing a family of geese, graffiti murals at base of soaring bridges, and an artist painting a shimmering river portrait in olive green, brown, and ocher.
Near the end of the hike, I encountered historic Todmorden Mills at the base of a very steep incline up Pottery Road. I had almost reached the top of the hill, panting from exertion and the extreme heat, when the final surprise of the day greeted me: a Dairy Queen right at the summit!
In my personal history of ice-cream consumption, no plain vanilla cone has never tasted as good as the magical one purchased on Pottery Road that afternoon. It was the perfect ending to an adventure made possible by Toronto’s generous creeks, powerful rivers, and unpredictable wildlife.
A visit to Haliburton Wolf Sanctuary was one of the highlights of a recent family vacation to central Ontario. We were fortunate to see so many wolves from the observatory last Wednesday because the pack could have decided to hang out elsewhere within their 15-acre enclosure.
A trip to Brookbanks Park led me to bifurcating trails, the sight of a hare bounding across an iron footbridge, and the waters of Deer Lick Creek.On the banks of the creek, a giant tree had fallen and snapped in two. The distance between its severed stump and trunk was not great, but the expanse of liquid space between the two jagged ends took my breath away with its beauty.
I loved how the brook filled the void of disconnection and death, blessing an abyss with a measure of peace. As witnesses to brokenness and loss, the slow movement of water, the round stones on the creek bed, and the reflections that animated the skin of the creek comforted me. That tree died, but beauty didn’t die. It just changed. A whole tree, intact, thriving, with glossy leaves is beautiful. But a broken tree with only half of its body still rooted in a muddy bank is gorgeous too. Like Cohen’s cracks that let the light in, the shocking break is an opening for time, change, and water to move — not to take the pain away but to lovingly acknowledge its impact. The broken edges can breathe into that forgiving emptiness, exposing their ache to the kindness of night.