“During spring, the stream that once ran through the site would have been teeming with wildlife and native fisherman would have lined the hooks with gill nets and fish weirs to partake of this bounty. For them, the stream would have been a sacred place – a place of powerful and audible spirits.” *
Those who have wandered through the University of Toronto’s campus to run to class or passing by are familiar with its historically enchanting architecture. But not everyone knows about its little secret – the Philosopher’s Walk.
Wedged between the Royal Ontario Museum and the university lies a ravine where students go to congregate, find a shortcut to class or squeeze in a short nap. Here, the city noises are mostly muffled and you can hear people chatter and squirrels rustling above in the trees. This is my ideal spot to practice a bit of seasonal photography – to capture nature in all of its states.
This ravine not only has an environmental significance as urban green space but it has history too. Philosopher’s Walk is imbued with physical and functional change throughout hundreds of years. Before European settlers arrived, the Walk was originally a gathering place for the Anishnaabe people (Misissauga Ojibway). The Walk’s “formal” entrance, the Queen Alexandra Gateway stands on the west side of the museum and south side of Bloor Street. It originally stood south of the Walk as an entrance to Queen’s Park until it was relocated in 1962. The gate recognizes the 1901 visit of Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York (King George V and Queen Mary). *
The Philosopher’s Walk is still a special meeting place to this day. On the side of a hill lies a small ampitheatre, shaped by a little stone circle. The place is a natural gathering spot for university students and others, and – as its name suggests – a theatre. I could picture Hamlet reciting his woeful monologue to a skull in his hand to a surrounding audience of students. Overall, it serves as a “quiet oasis for contemplation in the heart of a bustling city.” *
As my first seasonal feature, I found it fitting and convenient to begin with spring, where you can just see the buds emerging from the trees. The opening quote recreates an idyllic past of things becoming, and the sights and sounds of nature bursting up under months of respite beneath the ice and snow. I imagine the nature that once existed so long ago, before this space transformed into a retreat that lies within a hustling metropolis today. I look forward to exploring this site in all its seasons and colours.
Bear in mind however, my lack of philosophical expertise -so this I leave this part for the subjective imagination.
* Information from city plaques on location – “Philosopher’s Walk Ampitheatre” and “Queen Alexandra Gateway”