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Traversing the Liminal Zone

Tilted Spheres at Toronto Pearson International Airport
Gazing back through the passageway from one world to the next.

This was the last image I captured in Toronto prior to boarding a long haul flight to Taiwan 台灣 little more than a week ago. Pictured here is Tilted Spheres, a massive steel sculpture by Richard Serra, installed 2002–2004, prior to the opening of Pier F at Toronto Pearson International Airport in 2007. The building was actually constructed around this imposing monument to the ritual disorientation of international air travel.

The airport is a movement processing machine, which directs the passengers through its spaces to the aeroplane (and back out). It channels and directs the flow of passengers through both security and retail spaces. Serra’s Tilted Spheres requires an act of passage, the walls all tilt inwards as well as curving, creating a looming pathway to be traversed.

The sculpture slowly comes into view as the traveller descends the escalator from the mezzanine. After reaching the floor, a decision must be made: pass through one of the three channels or go around. I decided to pass straight through—and stopped in the middle to test the acoustic properties of the piece by clapping my hands together. Sure enough, there was a strange, reverberated echo, an alien sound ringing in my ears.

With an odd smile I continued on my way. 17 hours later I landed in distant lands.

An Exercise in Democracy

A seemingly pointless democratic exercise
Mississauga votes 2014.

I executed my right to vote in Mississauga this election season. I can’t say I had strong feelings about any of the candidates but still went out to vote anyhow. Seems like not everyone felt the same for voter turnout was a paltry 36.6% or so. Spin the wheel and try again next time.


Twisting into the sky.

Picture here are the “Marilyn Monroe” towers in Mississauga, more formally known as Absolute World. They’re just about the only distinctive piece of architecture in the city apart from the “futuristic farm” of the Mississauga Civic Centre. The towers are relatively new—at least they weren’t around when I was growing up here—so I am still surprised anytime I see them, which is quite often. Even though they’re located in what passes for “downtown” Mississauga they are plainly visible from the western edge of Erin Mills.

Unmaking History in My Hometown

A window into hometown history
A window into hometown history.

This summer I went out in search of old, abandoned places in my hometown, Mississauga, a typically ahistorical Canadian suburb. I figured there must be something of interest in historic Streetsville, a 19th century settlement now embedded in the sprawling webwork of strip malls and sub-developments that define the suburban landscape. After finding nothing remarkable along the main stretch I headed south along Mississauga Road and chanced upon the Leslie Log House, originally built in 1826. It was moved to its current location on the grounds of the old Pinchin Farm in 1994 and later renovated and modernized. Nowadays it is both a museum and the home of the Streetsville Historical Society.

That’s all well and good—but such buildings seldom exude the quality of age I watch for in my wanderings. And so I set out down a short trail to investigate another building not far from the log house, a crumbling ruin for which there was no sign or plaque, only a poorly maintained chain-link fence that had collapsed in on itself. This barrier indicated that this particular building had not been sanitized for human consumption. Here was the secret history I had been seeking—something genuinely old, unrestored, and neglected. Finally, a storied place that had been left to the elements!

From what little I have been able to glean from online sources the Pinchin Farm was a commercial apple orchard, the last of its kind in Mississauga, and was home to a farmhouse and a barn (the foundation of which is pictured above). Unsurprisingly, both heritage structures were demolished in late 2009 due to the advanced deterioration of the buildings. I say “unsurprisingly” because this is altogether too common in Canada—we destroy what little scraps of history we have on the off-chance someone might step on a rusty nail and sue. This creates a safe yet bland society, for danger is ameliorated at the expense of adventure and discovery.

Seasons Change

Seasons change
Fall colours on asphalt.

Leaves on the driveway representing a moment of contemplation, a plan of action slowly taking form.

Sixth Line

Sixth line
A country road not far from where I grew up.

Yesterday I went out riding near where I grew up, something I haven’t really done before. I moved away from home as soon as I could and never really turned my attention outward to the countryside. Whenever I did go riding as a teenager I went inward to the big city. Nothing about long rides on rural roads appealed to me then. After a year of exploring Taiwan 台灣, typically on two wheels, I was curious to find out what might happen if I took the same unscripted approach. In Taiwan it was my habit to set out on rides with only a vague idea of where I was going. I opened myself to the possibilities and discovered many things of great interest to me that I might not otherwise have seen.