things to do in Toronto

the city: running through a wooded park and a castle-like community, the windswept lobby at the Sheraton Centre, singing at the river, performing a waltz on the corner of King and King. Hearn and Gardiner islands in the fall, Ampersand Point at the end of the bridge, midnight in the botanical garden, the arboretum at sunset and huffing smoke into the night at City Hall. black-capped warblers and a sunset over the CN Tower and the top of the Bow Bridge on a night where the only wind is the sails of the old-timers.

the lake: spitting ducks, young starlings and Canada geese on a spring night, the eastern edge in midsummer. a barnacle and whale skeleton in the mountains north of downtown Toronto, The Aquarium at the marina where you can catch fish with your bare hands, watching the ships in the distance at La Pocatière. raindrops on the beach at dusk, the Clock Tower on a snowy winter night, a pier with two dragonboats and mermaids in the cliffs, that feeling of always being right where you are.

ways to get around: the departure of the new night train at Fir St Laurent at the Maritimers' building, a summer ferry to Gwyd's Island, a steam train in the forest on a cold night, moonlit cruise on the seaplain, bus stops that are more like crash pads when you're half asleep and high from long nights out. The Lady MacBeth subway station, catching stars as they fly past the tiny lights on Parliament Hill, telling a story in the woods on a fall night. black trees on the sidewalk and a bird singing on the nearby pier, running alongside the creek that divides the small lake from the much larger one, walking to the ends of the earth on a late summer night.

to observe: sitting on the cold grass in the west end of The West End, a car being moved by firetruck during a football game, getting lost in the dead ends of downtown. the illuminated sign on a garden path just off Broadview Avenue, keeping an eye on the squirrels running down a storm drain in the summer, watching the light on the waterfront change as the clouds go past. going on a walk to see what's happening, photographing two horses by moonlight, a bike bell ringing in a forest in winter, the way the spot of 2 A.M. streetlight in a dense park on a winter evening feels like an almost otherworldly place. the feeling of time passing on the top of The Tranvalls, turning off your phone to watch the helicopters taking off from Bayview Terrace, standing on the edge of the inner harbour admiring the urban forest as the planes arrive in Toronto, thinking about leaving your home in the east for the good life in the west.

to traverse: a train leaving the tracks for Stanley Park on a late winter evening, hurtling past where the frozen swan from Hansel and Gretel is resting, sleeping under the pines in January, light shows at parks in July, listening to The Dalai Lama's voice on the way to the grocery store checkout. standing on the baseball diamond in a winter storm, waiting for the closing bell at Columbia Station, wading through the wavy tangle of Rosedale Ravine, the place you see your first firefly. laughing and arguing in the early hours of the morning.

for when you're feeling whimsical: unplanned travels at the Summerhall Library, riding the elevated railway line at Charlevoix, feeling like you're in the sky at Rainbarrow Park, running through the neighborhood of Renfrew-Carleton and feeling like you're in a massive meadow on a cold winter night. reading Shakespeare at the lighthouse in Wawa, wooden houses and ancient aboriginal pottery on land that was once forest, The Brick and Lumber Museum on a night when you're leaving town, rosemary leaves at 2am, and the most wonderful green trees in a forest at sunset. a grey morning on the day that the snow melts away, night bus with the new hipsters in mid-August, icing with rainbows in mid-September, sipping sweet and bitter on a weekend morning in front of Gull Lake.

how to make friends: I Spy and trivia at The Flats, a protest march, stepping out of your car to wave at a bird in the city, counting down the seconds until it's your turn to be late to the party. a night of dreamy poetry and wine in a cabaret, ending up in one of those quiet squares you find when you drive through downtown on a Friday night at four in the morning, passing a white dachshund statue by Victor Mallet and dancing under the Tug Hill trellis, pulling up to a memorial in Memorial Park on a weekend morning.

to find joy: cold champagne and appetizers at the aqauilo, finding an imaginary passageway between parts of a poem or an action or a picture, blue fire and electric flames at East Harbourfront Centre, spires, blackstone arch, sailboats and windmills, remembering that you don't need any witnesses at all to feel really big. the best french fry in Toronto on a cold day, IKEA trees all at once when they shed their leaves and return to their plastic glory, a metaphor for that euphoric realization of hope in that glorious, crowded stretch of street you will learn to call home.

with a sense of awe: the lighthouse on a night when the trees turn and the water rushes over your feet, fishing in an old canoe in Bayou Green, the cracking and creaking of the old power plants, the reflection of five subway cars on an office building in Etobicoke, ice crystals on the tree canopy on Fernban, an endless rain at Millwood on a beautiful autumn evening, running across Toronto at 2:45 a.m., where you'll meet people on the subway, all running, rising, landing on their way to their own stories, memories, feelings, worlds, bodies, wants, desires, spaces, breaths, fictions, places, faces, journeys, travels.

to long for: an ode to poetry at the Supermarket on a Saturday night, Lady Chatterley Point in winter, an intense New Year's Eve rainstorm at the Lighthouse, snowfields, misty eyes, wishing for spring in Toronto. a violin playing an otherworldly tune in the upper floors of a house under construction, leaning on the banyan tree at Carlingford Point Park, heading to the old disco to dance your socks off and sing along to Bob Marley's heartland. early season downtown lights leading up to Christmas, firsts and lasts, co-workers and couples, sunlit clear ocean and the lake after a storm; spruce, rhododendron, salal, rhodon and flowering maple trees, buying plants with a new friend at the Cedarbrook at 7th and Beaver. letting go of all that is superfluous. the sense of going somewhere, of knowing that you can get there by doing something,

with conviction, defiantly: afternoons of freedom lying on a picnic blanket under the Mount Evergreen Bridge, Youngstown Park for a ride on the little roller coaster with your pals on a Sunday afternoon when you really should be doing other things, the Devil's Point ferry crossing on a summer night. Inland York Library with the calligraphy trail, horse stables on Toronto Island at night, freezing a whole city in the mid-winter snow so you can linger at midnight just a little longer. apartment balcony as renegade farmland.

cures for loneliness: stepping onto the dance floor at Macpherson’s in The Beaches, dancing on the golf course at Cayuga Heights, shaky knees and snails in Bell Park at night. first kisses, last first kisses. 50km of undulating hills, trees, gravel and pavements, 860 foot bridges, 43 major intersections, three sets of elevated viaducts, 25 heritage bridges, four hospitals, 13 golf courses, 12 industrial estates, 5 TTC stations, five libraries, 10 public pools, two boardwalks, 11 pedestrian bridges, riding a tractor-trailer through Pembroke Street in snow and sleet, watching the streetcar tracks go by, during the summer of 1989.

in astonishment, with wonder: an open sky at dusk on a night in early spring, staring out across the world from a flight deck, a long train ride on the evening of a festival, Hinton Street on a school night, The Beaches at daybreak in late September, the round of applause after a baseball game. cork trees in mid-morning, shady sidewalks, happy families, holiday makers, locals, parks, boats, children, commuters, all within a block of each other. noticing how easy it is to slip between the colours, noticing that the lines across the Niagara River are flowing at an erratic pace and making their acquaintance with Montréal. wishing you could take the clouds with you and disappear into the unknown, wishing you could spend more time with the sky, the beach, the sun, the sky.

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