Have you noticed how green this city is right now? I’ve been nearly knocked off my bike or feet a number of times in the last few weeks by either the smell of this city or some particularly stunning ultra-vivid green vista. The same weather systems that are causing such terrible floods in the American Midwest are dumping just enough rain on Southern Ontario to turn this chunk of province into a rain forest. Word in the dog park the other day was that the Don had crested its banks and covered the path (and there have been some flash floods in the north part of the city). The last few days in particular have seen the Ailanthus Altissima (check out arborist-about-town Todd Irvine’s “Tree of Heaven” Tree Tuesday write up of these infamously named “Cum Trees,” due to their notorious scent) explode, invading every nostril in nose-shot, even inside air-conditioned buildings. This is the smell of spring, and this year it’s the olfactory analogue of those Iowa and Illinois floods. Sitting at the bar in the Rivoli last night, arguably as concrete-encased as any part of Toronto can get, I noticed that the smell flooded inside. It feels thick. Wet and thick and organic. Like you’re walking through spoors, stamens and damp leaves writ metropolitan.
June is the greatest month because everything is new and fresh and sometimes obnoxious. Come late July or August — those dog days — the natural city starts to get a wilted and worn-out look to it. Beaten down by smog days, exhaust, heat emergencies and herbivorous bugs that make erratic mandible patterns in the leaves, it is the point when you might euphemistically refer to the leaves or season as being “of a certain age.” Right now, the city has its baby skin and we can’t escape the constant anxiety that it all has to be sucked up as quickly and voluminously as possible, like some Scorsese cocaine addict hoarding everything that makes his or her body feel good, lest you let it slip through your fingers.
Steam rises from clumps of trees in the distance, especially in those places where you can see a vista like around the Don Valley. Here on the edge of the valley the hot-wet-steam-green is only a couple minutes away. I’ve taken to going for dusk-to-dark runs up the Don Valley paths. This long route up to the top of Rosedale is good, as is this Brickworks run. Down in the valley it gets even thicker, and sometimes there are strange cool spots — kind of like the cold spots in a Muskoka lake — that can send chills up an already sweaty spine. The paths get dark and deserted at this hour and even though you’re in the middle of 4.5 million people it’s easy to be alone with only a good cadence and a deep-house-music podcast until a deer (as happened on Sunday night coming down from the Brickworks’ observation point) or a (very occasional and harmless) Valley dweller wanders out into the path and scares you out of the trance. On some of these humid nights, it’s like running underwater — algae-covered water like that found in nearby Binscarth Swamp.
The water has receded back into the Don, but the muddy “bathtub ring” marks the high water mark. The Don looks like the Amazon right now.
Beautiful Half-Round peeks out of the jungle. We will miss you when you’re gone more than we know now.