summer’s remains: alexander muir gardens

Moving back to Toronto has meant that each day brings something incredibly new—and old—my way. Alexander Muir Gardens, my neighbourhood park, is the same park I ran wild in as a child. I’d leave home on a summer’s afternoon with a brother (or two) and ten minutes later we’d arrive at the entrance, a pair of gothic iron gates. Down the stone steps we’d run, through the terraced gardens onto a sprawling lawn that led past tennis courts, lawn bowling and into the deep, cool woods. We’d play on the banks of the stream, stuffing treasures into our pockets, entire afternoons passing as we walked through the woods and into Sherwood Park, its sister park. That we were unaccompanied by adults at the ages of 5, 7 and 8, is inconceivable today. We were untethered, our senses overcome with the majesty of that freedom, those woods, those long summer afternoons. We trusted our instincts, knowing it was time to head home when we were hungry, when the sun dipped below the treeline, when our pockets were filled.

Growing up in Toronto, I lived in several neighbourhoods not far from each other, filled with centuries old trees, parks and wading pools. I still remember the smell and feel of Moore Park’s concrete pool. Circular in shape, it angles down towards the centre with an imperious concrete drain rising above the water. It seemed impossibly deep at the age of four, where we’d swim underwater daringly around the drain. But height and distance are all relative, and as an adult I remember the surprise in discovering that the pool was only 3′ deep at its centre. It turns out though, that my childlike perception of un-ending green space remains accurate. Toronto has spectacular parkland winding through the heart of the city. Over 18,000 hectares of urban forest whose trails and deep ravines, streams, rivers and marshes offer solace from urban buzz. Recently, I spent several hours walking the ravine system from Davisville down to the Don Valley’s Evergreen Brickworks, and back again. The Beltline Trail remains a protected area for ancient trees and wildlife. It’s connecting ravines are home to coyotes, deer, great horned owls, opossums, foxes, porcupines, minks, and beavers. There’s a 16 km loop consisting of trails and ravines that you can cycle nearly completely off-road—right in the centre of the city. There’s magic below ground and Torontonians are committed to protecting it.

The flowers in Alexander Muir Gardens are pushing back against September’s chill. These are the remains of summer…






















photos by: bliss {in images}