On the Beat

Squirrelly Beltline trek

I was entering the valley of the squirrels.

While Sly Stone mused about everyday people, I hardly believe the probing rodents, bulking up for a winter’s nap, were ordinary.

Entering through an unassuming wedge between two apartment buildings off Bathurst Street, I noticed an alarming number of leafy nests within the spindly boughs of trees above.

Below, an army of ebon-eyed sacks of fur rose on their haunches jerking their heads in inquisitive gestures.

Whenever joggers whisked by me the squirrels would hop away, only to return as I kept my pace along the fine gravel path.

One sandy coloured curiosity followed me for a good hundred metres. I snapped a few shots of it, noticing it had competition.

The squirrels quarreled over camera time.

I smiled. But not wanting to pick favourites I took Alanis Morissette’s cue and washed my hands clean of the rambunctious lot, venturing further on my journey.

I’m walking a landmark: the Kay Gardner Beltline. Toronto Sun columnist and Queen’s Park hopeful Sue-Anne Levy once told me about the wooded jaunt so here I am, walking along a quiet route while Three Dog Night sings of a peaceful Buddhist land.

“Wash away my troubles, wash away my pain,” Danny Hutton sings, “I’m on the road to Shambala.”

A large black heart is sprayed on a metal wall separating apartments from the path, and to my left Larry Grossman Arena comes into view.

Steady clumps of teens pass me by as I near Forest Hill CI. Someone has sprayed “I’m sorry danny!” on a fence. The Rs are backwards for some reason unbeknownst to me.

Passing the school I notice signs noting, “Caution: steps and paths are not cleared of snow and ice”.

There are no weather woes though as the only ice I notice is remnant of a zamboni’s duties at Grossman.

It’s December but Mother Nature looks to be waiting for the Winter Solstice to dump snow upon us.

Still, the drab skies “Steal my sunshine”, as Len rues through my headphones.

I keep my pace going, passing under a bridge with Halloween greetings tagged on its concrete.

An inquisitive Schnauzer runs up to greet me, thundering through shrubbery to protect me from the rampant squirrel population.

It stands beside me looking towards its owner like a sentry.

I nod to the owner, who walks another Schnauzer, and I continue, passing long plots of land behind monstrous mansions grabbing for my path.

On one back fence, a sign warns: “Beware of dog …” I laugh at the black markered response below: “& rich stupidity”.

My path continues on, but it has become a mucky stew of leaves and soil. Forest Hill students jog briskly. One chats with his coach about knowing his limits when it come to exercise.

He should keep that on the Q.T. since the squirrels watch everything and everyone from above, below and beside. Their glassy eyes vacant of emotion — there’s so many of them one would think they were planning an invasion.

In behind an Avenue Road Esso station, a sextet of the bushy-tailed vagrants flee a garbage bin as I approach. They sit in the trees flicking their tails franticly.

One thief carts away an apple core while John Mellencamp chants, “I fight the authority, the authority always wins”, in my ear.

But never mind those miscreants. I leave their small hollow and jog across Avenue and then Oriole Parkway. I’m emerging from the valley of squirrels, thankfully.

As the Knack winds down on their 1979 hit “My Sharona”, I see the TTC’s Davisville carhouse.

Standing above the tracks on the bridge that also spans Yonge Street, I watch the subway cars zoom by.

Time to get moving myself.

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