I am forever fascinated by the number of human engineering achievements suggested to us by nature, both animate, and in this case, erosive and geological, as resisted by animate trees and root-systems above.

The Scarborough bluffs are a lovely (and slightly dangerous) feature of East Toronto. Every year a few people have to be winched off the slope (often going-after their dogs that went over – even though the dogs are either fine and largely self-rescuing, or else need a winch themselves)

I will grant that this particular view of them is not exactly the Crac Des Chevalier – and further, that the keep and it’s sequential evolution into ever more elaborate fortification is reasonably well-documented in history – but all the same, pretty much every idea you need for a castle is here, isn’t it? Square towers and round, battlements and buttresses, firing ports – even a narrow, and easily defensible (bottlenecky) access channel.

Maybe the glacier that scraped out the basin of lake Ontario long-ago was just having a little fun with us. Leaving a nifty diorama buried, for the wind and rain to gradually reveal-it to the (perhaps overly) poetical wanderer.

Bluffer’s birch

Scarborough is a curious place. First occupied by the Seneca, who were then displaced by the Mississauga, it was parcelled up and colonized as far back as the 1790s and became a township in 1850. After several further expansions and evolutions of designation, it was finally swallowed-up by the megassity-amalgamation of Toronto in 1998 – which no one here wanted, but was shoved down our throats by a hostile provincial government (expect many shrill reminders, in the upcoming election).

Thinking castles also calls to mind the hilariously antiquated pitch – “A man’s home should be his castle” – which was used to goad so many into fleeing downtown life, for the sake of a yard, more distant neighbors, and a car-port. Due to it’s proximity to Toronto and comparative affordability, as Canadian auto culture took off, Scarborough took on the character of a suburb, and single family housing expanded rapidly after the second world war.  High-density housing and strip malls followed, a couple of decades behind.

Scarborough long had a bad reputation, largely undeserved. As a couple of local councillors have pointed out – crime everywhere else in the region was always reported by the nearest intersection – localized precisely – whereas crime in Scarborough was often lumped together, creating a very distorted, much-multiplied picture. Actual stats? Safest part of the entire city! Also the greenest by-far, and still host to the most newcomers.

I remember it as a peaceful slow-paced suburb from when I was very young, because my grandparents had a nice little house there, with a huge back yard in which my grandmother grew many excellent edibles, including concord grapes with which she would bake beautiful grape pies! (Insane amounts of work to peel all the grapes – but OMG so delicious)

She even had one of those simple home-made boxy wood-frame and plastic-sheeting greenhouses that sits only a little ways off the ground, but captures enough sunlight-heat each day to keep on growing things all winter long. It was magic to peek inside when there was snow piled everywhere around it, and see fresh green abounding.

I also hiked Scarborough as a teenager with my orienteering pal, and grew very fond of the incredibly lovely and wild forest in the Rouge valley.

Nada and I have had several excellent explorations there – our twenty-K epic a few years ago (where every single person we saw said, “You can’t walk to Pickering from here, you have to drive” but we DID walk!) was especially nice, because we also got to enjoy the lovely fall colours.

Illumined arch

One of the more interesting discoveries we made on that expedition was the old Guild Inn – then mothballed and crumbling badly (frame off-square is a pretty seriously-bad sign), but the grounds were open – and filled with architectural elements saved from lovely old buildings Toronto has lost.

Despite it’s derelict state, it was still a primo spot for wedding photographers, anyone who likes sketching or photographing historical architectural details, and all those who enjoy contemplating in Ozymandian surroundings. They even had a quaint little hut where the resident sculptor lived and worked on the grounds full-time (every place of adequate size should be encouraged to have a resident sculptor, don’t you think?).

When we visited the old place again on Sunday, we were delighted to find that they had renovated the old building, expanded it with spiffy and accessible new additions (to host elaborate weddings – a very sensible business-plan for such a lovely spot), and had even opened up a weekend brunch room – a decadent tradition for which they were once locally famous.

So naturally, when the super-sweet waitress said they had one reservation that hadn’t shown, and she’d squeeze-us-in if we stuck-around, my stomach somehow got so excited that it went into kid mode, like when my mom brought me here for a treat ages ago.

I honestly don’t believe I’ve eaten that much at one sitting in twenty years! But it was a buffet – and everything was so lovely, I just couldn’t resist. Think I’ll probably be full all-week (hint: try the poached salmon with hollandaise!).

Thanks again, Mirjana! A lovely day indeed!

Inspiring sisters

Which of course reminds us of the most important thing about walking, exploring, seeking inspiration, art, exercise and even simple fun – it is always best, when we find ourselves in truly excellent company.

These two women are super-inspiring to me. Dedicated, involved, principled, and intensely curious about pretty-much everything on earth – just like me (only WAY more useful and knowledgable). ;o)

They also remind me how much we can do with determination – that achievement does not need to come at the expense of humour – nor does sense of social duty need to cost-us our playfulness and genuine enthusiasm for life itself.

It is a very fortunate thing indeed, to have such energizing and uplifting friends at my age (and with all of my odd eccentricities). I am learning all the time from the adventures and example of the fantastic Nesin sisters!

GREAT huggers, too! (Never trust a genius who isn’t)

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Scarborough Bluffs

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