The squirrels are going nuts!

I walked by St. James park on the way to work this morning and saw the effects of the city’s recent resodding project, completed a few days ago after the Occupy Toronto protesters had finally cleared away the last of their tents (or had them removed by the police). The lawns look great and there’s no sign now of the churned-up mud and ruts, caused by the tramp of hundreds of feet during the occupation. The park now looks very clean and manicured and professionally maintained and welcoming.

The only thing wrong with this picture is that the resident squirrels now seem to have lost all their cached supplies of nuts and seeds and whatever else they bury just beneath the surface, to help them survive the winter months. The top soil was removed during the resodding, so any food items they must have buried there recently have also been removed and taken away with the old dirt.

Right now, there are lots of squirrels in the park that appear to be frantically searching for any sign of hidden food supplies.

It really is a hive of activity out there!

I hope most of them make it through the winter. They say there might not be much snow this year, so any food they manage to bury between now and the start of a hard freeze should be fairly easy for them to recover, I would hope. And I guess they may have to rely on the kindness of strangers more, this time around.

Falling leaves

The leaves on the trees are changing colour into rich reds, golds, yellows and browns, before falling to the ground in St. James Park. Their decay will mix into the loam and fertilize the soil to feed the trees again, as well as the grass and flowering plants when they emerge next year. This incredibly ancient ritual—Autumn paving the way for Winter—continues blindly while a makeshift tent city grows as more people join the Occupy Toronto movement. There are sleeping tents, kitchen tents, media tents, and portable toilets steadily filling the park, as protesters camp out under the falling leaves.

As I walked by the park the other day and saw this scene, I was struck by the ephemeral nature of human issues; however real and important and stressful they may seem to us in the moment. No matter what happens with this protest, no matter what the effect of this movement on human affairs, the leaves will keep changing colour and the seasons will turn, long after the signs of the protesters’ fleeting presence have disappeared.

Tents in St. James Park
Tents in St. James Park

The Leslie Street Spit

It was another hot day in Toronto today. El Franco and I went out on our bikes to donate some no-longer-needed books to a local library branch and soon realized the temperature wasn’t exactly conducive to cycling around the city streets, which is what we’d originally intended to do. The heat was sultry with barely a breeze (it was around 33°C), so we quickly decided that a trip to the waterfront was in order, where it would be cooler with the wind coming off the lake.

We rode down Bathurst to Queens Quay, then along the bike lane until we reached the harbourfront, where we stopped and sat on a bench under the shade of a small tree. The water here was smooth and relaxing with an almost gelatinous look to it, as it slowly swelled and surged. People were arriving at the marina in their boats, tying hawsers to the jetty and shouting instructions and warnings to each other as they did this. The lake looked so peaceful, almost hypnotic with the clouds above reflected in the water below.

From there, we continued along Queens Quay, past the bustling Harbourfront Centre with its many visitors and tourists, until we reached the recently-created Sugar Beach on the west side of the new Corus building at the foot of Sherbourne Street. This tiny, man-made beach with its pink umbrellas was populated by a few sun worshipers and families with small children. On the other side of the Corus building the new George Brown College Centre for Health Sciences campus was under construction, and there’s now a small park there called Sherbourne Common, which is filled with fountains and artificial streams and water features; perfect for soaking ones feet on a hot summer’s day!

After a while, we left the Common and rode towards the Gardiner Expressway, where we turned onto Cherry Street and, after stopping for a stroll around the T&T Supermarket, continued on in the heat until we reached Cherry Beach, then went east along the bike path as far as the entrance to the Leslie Street Spit. It was here that El Franco decided he’d turn around and make his way home slowly. I, on the other hand,  had been wanting to visit the Spit for a long time now, so I turned into the entrance and went to check it out.

The Leslie Street Spit is North America’s most remarkable public urban wilderness. It is a 5-kilometre long peninsula, built by lakefilling, that juts into Lake Ontario close to downtown Toronto.
– Friends of the Spit website

The main road down the length of the Spit branches off at a number of points to smaller trails, some of which go down to the water where you can view many of the birds (some 300+ species on the Spit itself!) in the trees located safely across marshes and bogs, where prying humans are discouraged from venturing closer. I had heard that there was a bird sanctuary here—a few people had told me this already—and as I rode along there was a definite flinty smell of  feathers and guano in the hot, humid air. At the end of one of the many side trails, closer to the bird sanctuary, the scene was almost primordial, filled with wild flowers and lonely-looking lagoons; if it weren’t for the fact that you could still see the city skyline and CN Tower, and yachts  in the distance, you could almost imagine you were in a much wilder and exotic terrain.

At the very tip of the Spit, the land is full of rubble from the various demolition projects going on around the city, and it’s here that some of the bricks and concrete and rocks from these demolition sites end up—slowly, over time, increasing the encroachment of the Spit out into Lake Ontario.

There’s a small lighthouse at the end of the trail, which looks out into the distance and the immense size of the lake, where sail boats careen slowly across the water and the occasional sound of Sea-Doos disturbs the peace and tranquility of this area.

Below are some photos I took on the way to, and at, the Leslie Street Spit.

Wrestling Raccoons

Wednesday morning and I get ready for work. I look out the window to check if there’s any rain. The sky looks clear, and it seems there’s no threat of wet weather today. However, what definitely was in store, as I look outside, is a pair of young raccoons on the tarp-covered rooftop terrace. They’re in a very playful mood, rolling around the deck having an early morning wrestling match.

They may be considered pests by most people, but they are damn cute at that age. I managed to capture them on video.