Tipper is my cat. She loves my awkward attempts to play the guitar and eats cat treats whenever she can get her paws on them. This has not always been the case, for if it was this would be a pretty short and irrelevant post. See, Tipper is a trail cat, a refugee from our woods. About 10 years ago when the woods were much more a secret and the forest was a place for adventure, I found her. Back then I didn’t know all the trails and there were places still unexplored. I swear wild beasts prowled the trails, coyotes were quite common and bunnies less so. Feral cats have always call the Crothers Woods home and still do. House cats and lost dogs often find their way down into the valley and begin a wild existence. I remember one particularly fluffy white cat who frequented the Bayview slope near the abandoned railway. These former and future feline friends share our wild spaces. We are but one of many species who seek spiritual and physical refuge in the Don.
We claim it, name it and pretend to own it. It is ours and they are the visitors, “ how bout that, a deer in the woods”. We leave more then footprints and lately our memories are of trails covered in trash. We violate our one sided treaty with nature. A new road or development, we adapt the woods to us and then we appoint ourselves stewards of the woods. And now we have what we have spared. Our best selves fight to save those parts and our worst selves treat these rare urban patches of green with carelessness and arrogance. We are not treating the animals of the forest like they belong there, in their natural spaces, rather like they are the visitors and it is ours. Just beyond the fence, just beyond the picnic area and the cycling path, just over the edge of the valley lies the secret that we don’t want to tell. Ten of thousands of pieces of garbage deliberately thrown into places no one cares about and no one will ever see. If Riverdale Park teemed with garbage we would act with community vengeance, if High Park were a dumping ground and Grenedier Pond were fed by streams of rotting trash we would have photo ops with political actors and activists. Where is our outrage at our largest river valley, once filled with bubbling brooks breathing life into our most famous river, which is now fed by streams of trash. Through the garbage the waters of the Don flow on, feeding the harbour and then gently wave upon wave on to our Blue Beaches on Toronto Island and Cherry Beach where we stand in shorts throwing tennis balls to our golden retrievers and stand proudly on our paddle boards telling ourselves what a wonderful city we have with such natural beauty. Clean the Don, Bring back the Don, Paddle the Don, Friends of the Don and now Don’t mess with the Don. Everyone a noble effort that has brought us so much closer to sharing a sustainable Don. Crusade upon cause, cause upon campaign and the battle is still not done. The battle is joined by us and you, clean, save, befriend, paddle, bring back and please don’t mess with the Don.
Tipper sleeps not three feet from my feet as type this post. A former trail cat who now dozes on a comfy bed near the top of Pottery Rd. instead of scratching out a precarious living on the trails at the bottom. I found her on the trail from the Pottery Road parking lot, in the days when there was only a single trail for ascent and descent. Though terrified, she couldn’t move, covered in fleas, emaciated and run though with worms she allowed me to pick her up and bring her up the hill. As we nursed her to health and debated about when we might turn her over to the Humane Society, we knew that Tipper was ours to love and nurture. Like the river valley which for a time she called home, we must care for the Don, love the land and bring it back to health for it is part of our home and our family.
We can do better, I can do better
Dont Mess with the Don – please visit our Facebook page, Don’t Mess with the Don