This morning I walked to the end of the Queen streetcar, that’s Neville Park. It’s a turn-around in front of concrete stairs running up to a fenced-off grass courtyard– “THIS AREA HAS BEEN CLOSED FOR GROUNDS REJUVENATION, TORONTO WATER“. It’s the art deco water treatment plant from In the Skin of a Lion. I’ve been looking for it everywhere, casually, seeing it in places that it shouldn’t be. And now it’s there, at the end of our street.
The beach nearby is frozen in thin silica sheets, catching the receding line of the water, the moon’s movements. Flanked by boulders of thick quartz. Rough hewn from the shield, dripping threads of ice. Empty, but for two dogs who run up and inspect me, then bark for treats.
In People of the Deer the Ihalmiut describe that the chief reason for erecting inuk-shuks isn’t to provide directions, it’s to mark out that someone was there. That the earth was moved by a human hand. Mowat describes what it’s like on an unmarked, empty lake. Without a name, hugging the edges in their kayaks. Knowing what it would mean to tip. Vulnerable to strange magics.
The lake is at the edge of one of the largest cities in North America. But looking across, it’s empty and you can’t see the end. And you know what it’s like. And you see the first settlers, from the ice bridge, and see how they came. To a land not inhabited, but full all the same. Dripping, a different world; lacking people, but full of powerful spirits, and trees.