My usual haunt is Bluffer’s Park, but today I ventured down the Doris McCarthy Trail. Once you enter the trail, nature will sweep you off your feet and throw your worries away as you walk amongst the trees, hearing the chirping of birds, the chipmunks rustling through the leaves, and finally at the bottom, the wind beating on your face, and the soothing sound of the waves in their turquoise glory. At the end of my walk I noticed this sculpture, lone on the hill, buffeted by wind and weather yet remaining steadfast. “Passages” was installed by the “Friends of Doris McCarthy” in 2002. Doris was a prolific artist and was passionate about the Bluffs. ” Passages” symbolizes the form of the ancient double pointed oval symbol for female, “vesica piscus”, to symbolize Doris. The elegant form of ribs add further to the symbolism, sweeping upwards to reference gothic windows, the Great Lakes’ fish, and the explorer’s canoe. Passage links together the idea of one’s passage through life; the passage of a soul in a journey of faith; the passage of the fish through the water of this place; and passage of the canoe that has explored our land.
Doris was singular in her passion for the geography and landscape of Canada, whether it be Scarborough, Georgian Bay, the Arctic, or the many other magnificent places she has painted throughout our land. She was born in 1910 and passed away in 2010. She lived out her final years at a home nicknamed “Fool’s Paradise” which was on five hectares of land located near the bluffs. In her lifetime she produced over 7000 paintings and published numerous books. For her continuing contribution to Canada’s artistic community, Doris McCarthy has received The Order of Canada; The Order of Ontario; 5 Honorary Doctorates and an Honorary Fellowship to The Ontario College of Art and Design. In November 1999, McCarthy was named the first Artist of Honour at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection. On March 11, 2004 the University of Toronto, Scarborough Campus opened the Doris McCarthy Gallery.
Today “Passages” is no longer in the wild space it once was. Breakwalls and a roadway have been installed. I wonder what Doris McCarthy would have to say about that? So next time you venture down this trail located at the foot of Bellamy road take a moment or two to think of people who have gone before us, and helped to preserve the spaces we now take for granted. I am sure she did her best, and was not able to foresee the change that has taken place to a trail named in her honour. Perhaps through “The Wild Bluffs” we will be able to make our own voices heard. Do make sure to venture down, it will rejuvenate your spirit.
Jackie Schuknecht works full time and spends a lot of time exploring and photographing the Bluffs.