From the windswept paradise off Leslie to the ancient bluffs and back over the bridge that stops time, magical spots make our eco spirits soar.
Spirit of the Spit
Some consider it an “accidental” paradise, but there’s nothing accidental about the way Mother Nature has transformed the Leslie Street Spit. Time and again over its 40-year history, the winds whispering over this landfill-turned-wild-treasure have pushed back the forces of development, blowing life-giving soil and water carried by the crashing waves of mighty Lake Ontario into every nook and cranny in the piles of twisted metal and stone. Birds soar. Beavers swim. Coyotes roam. The spirit of the Spit lives because, for once, we left well enough alone. The butterfly Nature lifted its wings and took flight.
Bridge over the River Time
Like the Don River that passes beneath Eldon Garnett’s Queen East creation Time: And A Clock, time flows on imperceptibly, stands still and looks back, all at the same... time. The marquee above the bridge tells us so. “The river I step in is not the same river I stand in.” The metal banners nearby – “coursing,” “disappearing,” “trembling,” “returning” – flap continuously even when there’s no breeze. We’re all at once locked in time and looking hopefully toward the future. On the minute hand, doomed to repeat the mistakes of our industrial rage – see the ’dozers making room for condos below. On the hour hand, waiting for the dawning of a new eco paradigm. The city gleams expectantly on the horizon.
Cathedral by the shore
A remnant of the last ice age, the towering bluffs of Scarborough rise like a cathedral to our geological past, their haunting white face playing hide-and-seek with the sun. One second the bluffs are hiding in silhouette, the next appearing in all their jagged glory. A scientific marvel, their boulders, sand and clay contain animal and plant fossils dating back more than 70,000 years. A heritage trust.
Eco wonders don’t usually come clad in aluminum siding. Then there are the Cubes on Eastern, rising from a neglected patch below the Richmond Street off-ramp. The gleam of possibility has worn off these gems of energy efficiency. They’re what living in the new green economy would, and should, look like, working on the same thermal chimney concept that keeps forests cool. Once again, our addiction to the wasteful old ways of doing things got in the way of an eco idea ahead of its time.
The art of ecology
The concrete city has its own offspring, strangely beautiful works of art that tell eco stories. The Hug Me tree on Queen warns of big-box doom. The metal half-man, half-insect in an alley off Logan, forged from scraps of steel, reminds us of humankind’s connection to the smallest of creatures.
A lost river runs though us
We are a city of lost rivers. Some large enough in their day to take ships as far north as present-day Bloor still flow beneath our streets. The most mysterious of these, Wychwood Creek is one of only two or three ancient streams that still appear aboveground. Trickling from a slope behind the tennis courts in tony Wychwood Park, this tributary of Fort York’s Garrison Creek flows into a pond before disappearing into a storm sewer on Davenport, the former shoreline of Lake Iroquois.
Blown away by the waves
Standing solitary, motionless above the smoggy boulevard below, the answer to the future of our eco-sustainability looks curiously like a remnant of some distant halcyon time, stuck in an outdoor museum. Then, suddenly, its giant blades begin to turn, daring the gusts kicking up waves on the lake below to give their all. For a brief moment, all is right with the world.
The oaks in the savannahs of High Park reach like black giants into the sky. Formed when glacial Lake Iroquois retreated from these shores 12,800 years ago, these meadows offer up a witch’s brew of flora and fauna. Most living things rely on water, but these oaks also depend on fire for their survival. When all else dies, High Park’s black oaks sprout stems and come to life. In a celebration of stewardship, the fire department obliges with an annual burn.