Wandering Down the Valley

It’s been awhile since I’ve walked the Humber River Valley in Toronto from Lawrence Avenue to Bloor Street. Today was the day.

I bundled up (Is that a Canadianism?) and headed down the path. My feet remembered the steps from months and years ago.

As I passed through the underpass below Lawrence, towers appeared on the left. Actually they were twin basketball hoops, ones that I knew. Last August, my Belgian friends Olivia and Baziel came across the water for a visit. They’re basketball fanatics and we spent many an evening hour on this court, with the kids being welcomed by TO ballers. This afternoon all was empty and cool on the cement. Young ghosts still dribbled and deked and launched three-point shots. I smiled.

There was ice on the edge of the river and ducks riding the current. There were trails across grass that had lost its green. Stuck amid the leaves, bushes and trees was garbage. Plastic and styrofoam and glass and metal dotted the land. Some would call this disgusting but my time in Senegal lent perspective. There you throw stuff away when you’re done with it. Ecology hasn’t caught up with the warmth of the people.

At Eglinton Avenue and Scarlett Road, I came upon a familiar sight: Bevo Espresso and Gelato. It was time for warmth and a cappuccino. I sat with the frothy one and thought about … tennis. I’m enthralled with the current tournament – the Australian Open. On my trusty phone, I discovered a story about Rafa Nadal, the immense Spanish champion.

Rafa had launched a wild shot that smacked into a ball girl’s head. He rushed over, clearly distraught. He lifted her cap to see if there was a welt, and then planted a kiss on her cheek. She smiled … so widely. It was an immensely tender moment and I got to be with them both in a coffee shop.

Onward down the valley. Around more turns of the Humber, tennis came to me again. The Edenbridge Tennis Club was alone in the grass, devoid of nets and people. But the thrill of the match remained, even a white umpire’s chair where someone makes the tough calls. I could feel the summer energy washing over the three courts.

An hour later, here I am in the Home Smith Bar of The Old Mill, a sweet hotel of wood and stone. A glass of Riesling sits before me and the thumbs are happily tapping away. Voices are all around, many no doubt eager to hear the jazz musician who right now is bringing his instruments into the lounge.

I won’t be staying. I’m drawn to the Toronto Raptors on the big screen at Boston Pizza, many miles away. The jazz player and I laugh together. “I’m happiest when I’m making music.” Yes. May we all be the happiest.

On I go.