Down the Leslie spit, just east of Checkpoint Charlie, where the dump trucks sign in, there's a place as haunting and beautiful as a dream.
Forgotten rubble worn smooth by 60 years of storms has risen to express itself in little Italianate towers of exquisite elegance that lean lakeward, blue water and sky breathing through shapely apertures.
The hands of artist Brian Pace, along with hundreds of other people, most of whom he has never met, have guided the flowering of this Zen healing garden he calls the Sacred Edge.
Problem is, the sculpture fantasy sits in the centre of competing agendas - so the lovely creation has been bulldozed into the lake.
Grief over the death of more than 100 friends from AIDS and other tragedies drove Pace away from Toronto for 18 years. When he returned, he found ghosts and painful memories at every turn. Three years ago, he came to sit by the lake and write out his mourning. There he discovered a comfrey plant, used for its healing properties wherever it grows, and knew this was a special spot.
Eventually he began to pick up and play with the irresistibly evocative remnants of great buildings dumped here in the 1950s. He built a "grief playground," a holistic drug-free approach to feeling better that struck a chord of sympathy with the public.
Shrines and drawings by those who sense the nature of the place appear spontaneously. Pace considers music integral to the work, so he set up sticks in a cast iron pedestal. He once arrived to the beautiful sight and sound of eight little girls banging out a symphony.
On Canada Day weekend, he intended to hang hundreds of found gloves and mittens adorned with buttons, prayer flags for the deceased, to sing in the wind. But here's the thing: he was informed by Ralph Toninger of the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, acting manager of Tommy Thompson Park, that he would be arrested if he did so.
Toninger has a strong argument. There's informal art all over the Spit that appears and disappears, he says. But Pace's installation is persistent. "It's growing and it's being advertised,'' says Toninger.
"This is an area for wildlife, and the installation is in the footprint of our landscaping piece," a berm to act as a barrier insulating wildlife from the staff booth being constructed nearby.
People gathering at the art, says the Conservation Authority rep, are walking over newly planted plants, and too much trampling discourages ground-nesting birds. "We have an existing plan; a park can't be planned by individual user groups. The place is a globally recognized birding area. This is the poorest location for an installation."
But Pace, who learned the proper way to lift the heavy weight of bricks when he trained as a palliative caregiver, thinks the environment he's creating shelters vulnerable souls. After the first few art knockdowns, he began to work hundreds of fine mellowed bricks into a mosaic path and organic shapes on the ground. So far, these have been left intact.
Pace is moving on. He knows that life is change. Rigidity and rules crack under pressure. Meanwhile, over at Cherry Beach, all the beautiful-looking, law-abiding people enjoying a long-weekend trip to our open-air cottage find the doors to the bathrooms locked long before the sun has set.