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Monday, March 2nd, 2015

Join me in exploring the everyday spaces of our city to see, appreciate and value the complex beauty of our urban ecology.

Last post was about the interaction between natural processes and a homeowner’s aesthetic values. This week we keep in the theme of ordinary spaces to take a look at how repetition can change a landscape over time. Picture the impact of waves pounding against the seashore for thousands of years and what that does to rocks.


image courtesy of Desiree Marshall

or just go to your neighborhood park.

The Setup

I have been playing shinney for years at the same rink located in a typical Toronto park. Over the years I have often wondered about Davey, an older gentleman who I see on my way into the arena. I always see him walking in circles around a tree. Arms outstretched slowly making his way round and round.

The Tree

The tree is ordinary in every respect. In fact I would go so far as to say forgettable. It is an Acer Platinoides (Norway Maple), and if you have one, you know that gardeners love to hate this tree. Helen and Sarah Battersby and others have written about the difficulty of gardening with Norway Maples and what to grow under them around here in Toronto.

In addition to being hated by gardeners generally it is also  listed as an invasive species by the City of Toronto Parks Forestry and Recreation.

This particular Norway maple is further lowered in my estimation by the rather large gash on the trunk indicating that it will eventually need to be removed.



Getting to the Point

So we have a tree that gardeners hate, the city recommends you avoid planting, and is horribly injured to boot. All this to say I would not give this tree more than a passing glance on my way to play shinney.


But wait just a minute, take a second glance, just how do you explain that giant crop circle shape around that tree?

Stop. Davey (who I later worked up the courage to interview) has been walking around and around this tree for YEARS! Now you realize that the path has been formed from the repetition of his feet walking around the tree.

Bringing it Full Circle

It is hard to imagine the investment in time to accomplish something like this. Or why anyone would want to do this in the first place. The fact is Davey walks slowly and deliberately day after day round and round that tree and the evidence is embedded in the ground for all to see. You have to respect that kind of commitment regardless of the outcome. In fact the landscape outcome is completely irrelevant to him, but rather the journey, the exercise and the health benefits are important. Regardless of his reasons, I just love that circle telling a story of a remarkable man to anyone who cares to see.

Just another ordinary piece of the city rendered extraordinary by human interaction. Take a look around and see what’s growing on right around you. You might begin to appreciate how many things have to come together to manifest what you see.  I believe that appreciating the world around you is a step toward caring about it. Let me know how it goes…


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3 comments on “Footsteps”

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