Into the Woods

2 May 2016 – I’m off into the woods with my friend Mary — and when you have 100 acres, as she & Mike do north of Gananoque, you have lots to explore, right there on your own property.

This is Canadian Shield country, with its ancient, massive granite outcroppings, the land scraped to its elemental bones by glaciers.

outcropping of Canadian Shield, near Gananoque

We’re on a big looping walk that will take us eventually up to a road, to a farmhouse for a new supply of eggs, and via road on back home.

That’s eventually. Meanwhile, we enjoy the woods, scramble our way to a high point with sweeping views across the wetlands and the creek meandering its way from South Lake to Gananoque Lake, ultimately to dump its waters into the St. Lawrence River.

Sassy admires the view!

That’s Sassy — officially lives on the farm next door, but always up for a walk.

The glory of early spring in Canadian woods is the wildflowers. Glorious for their beauty, also for their ephemerality — here today, gone tomorrow, one display after another, all pell-mell for their brief moment in the sun before the tree canopy leafs out.

The cool spring has put everything a bit behind schedule. Trilliums are just beginning to unfurl.

White trillium buds

Some, though, are fully out.

Trillium grandflora

That’s the white trillium, Trillium grandiflorum, the provincial flower here in Ontario.

Soon, to my delight, we begin to see red trilliums as well, the Trillium erectum. They are typically less plentiful than the white, which — especially when happy on south-facing slopes — carpet the woodland floor.

red & white trilliums

Other treats as well.

Look! Dutchman’s Breeches! (Dicentra cucullaria)

Dutchman's Breeches

A member of the bleeding heart family, just look at those leaves, and nicknamed for its twin-tipped flowers, quite like upside-down trousers, pegged out on a laundry line to dry.

And look again!

Dogtooth violet, I say promptly. Then I begin to doubt myself. Ummm. Trout lily, perhaps?

Trout lily, aka Dogtooth violet

Later, thumbing a guidebook, I learn I am right. Both times. Two common names for Erythronium americanum. Hurray for me. (Not being at all sure of these things, I enjoy any moments of accuracy that happen to come my way.)

We reach a bit of fencing, the dividing line between this property and that of a neighbour.

Sassy tummy-wiggles through a convenient gap in the fence. We use legs, not tummies, and instead climb over the stile.

Mary climbs the stile

A distinctly boggy bit next, rare & welcome (even if personally inconvenient) in this unusually dry, as well as cool, spring. Sassy splashes through; we explore this way, then double back that way, and find a sufficiently narrow stretch to hop across.

Someone has carefully laid branches across the rivulet next to where we hop, creating a mini-version of the pioneer-era “corduroy road” — logs laid perpendicular to the road’s direction in swampy areas, and named for the fabric, with its distinctive ridges.

a corduroy road (mini-mini)

I am grateful not to be in a buggy, jolting over long stretches of corduroy road.

Instead, we climb on up a path; Sassy and a neighbouring dog shout a few half-hearted (and safely long-distance) insults at each other; we wave at a couple of young men splitting wood in a clearing — and we end up on the road.

Where we buy the eggs, and finally walk on home.



Discord at Yonge & Belmont

28 April 2016 – I’m walking back south on Yonge Street, enjoying the sun (if not particularly the chill), and I suddenly think: “Barcelona!”

Which is silly, because I am in Toronto.

I am victim — or beneficiary — of a visual pun.

Namely, the sight of this building, all bendy & brilliant, picked out by afternoon sunshine & reflected in the plate-glass opposite.

reflected building, N/W Yonge & Belmont

And I flash to the bendy-buildings of Barcelona’s famous Illa de la Discòrdia (Block of Discord), in the Eixample district of Barcelona.

Block of Discord, Barcelona

“Discord” because these examples of early 20th c. architecture — the work of Modernists Lluis Domènech i Montaner, Antoni Gaudí, Josep Puig i Cadafakh & Enric Sagnier — clash not only with the sombre beauty of the district as a whole but also with each other.

(Since I nicked that 2nd photo from Go Barcelona Tours, the least I can do is give you their name & the website link!)


Wait For It …

25 April 2016 – Oh, I know you!

You don’t care that I discovered this spankin’ bright new mural down a parking-lot wall on College Street, the work of Jimmy Chiale

parking lot mural, S/E College & Huron, artist J. Chiale

Nor do you care that, by spinning 90 degrees on my left heel, I could also photograph the iconic inspiration for that mural’s central image …

CN Tower, from that parking lot


All you want is this.

Cafe Novo, Augusta Av. s. of College

My latest coffee-philosophy signboard, courtesy of Café Novo on Augusta Avenue.

How cross will you be, to learn that I (blush) went & had my latte somewhere else?


Into the Market

18 April 2016 – On Sunday I had a terrific time being guided through a walk, instead of inventing one of my own. (Small tip of the hat here to Jackie, of Tour Guys.)

The day is gloriously warm & sunny, everyone in the group is silly with pleasure as we cluster at our meeting spot, Henry Moore’s Two Forms outside the AGO. But this is just the meeting spot, soon we’re in neighbouring Chinatown, and ultimately spend most of our time in …

at Augusta & College

Now you get the “Market” reference.

Factoid about these Ken Market elevated signs: each features two of only three symbols — a globe, a chair, a cat. I’ve often enjoyed the signs, never before noticed the pattern. See? Tours can be wonderful.

Now a quick back-up into a Chinatown alley. Jackie wants everyone in the group to see & appreciate graffiti, tags, throw-ups, street art & the rest of the terminology — and the corresponding realities, right here on walls & doors.

ANSER eyes on a Chinatown alley wall

ANSER eyes for sure, but not that mouth!

We spend a lot of time in … if not always exactly alleys, certainly very-very-very narrow-&-hidden little streets. Where sheer streetscape can itself be a form of street art.

With prayer flags, for example …

inside Kensington Market

or an ode to means of transportation.

in a Kin Market back street

Oh, go ahead, start counting. One canoe, with wheels; several bicycles; one wagon; one bright red come-along. And I may have missed something. (Surely not all needed to transport Chinese herbs from hither to yon?)

Then again, sometimes the alley/street is not about streetscape at all. It’s total street art, in every direction.

Like this.

in a Kin Market back alley

Multiple works of art, and multiple mail boxes too!

Around another corner, and the unmistakable work of one of the city’s most unmistakable artists: Birdo.

wall mural by Birdo, In Ken Market

This one looks curiously like a muzzled dog.

The next Birdo creation, around a few more corners, gets me thinking instead about lobsters & parrots. Then I shake my head & just let it be whatever it wants to be.

by Birdo, in an alley N/W of Queen & Bathurst

By now our tour is finished, I’m just N/W of Queen & Bathurst, and I nip through an alley onto Bathurst itself.

Where I see an old fave.

on Bathurst, just n. of Queen West

I hope you get a kick out of it …


Two Jeffs & a Raccoon

14 April 2016 – One Jeff (Blackburn) to paint the raccoon; the other Jeff (Phyllis’ husband) to wave a newspaper article at us that includes the raccoon in its street art photos; and, finally, the raccoon himself.

Whose teeth look like this.

detail, Blackburn raccoon, Spadina & Davenport

(That’s a tease. The rest of him comes later. Be patient.)

The Tuesday Walking Society decides there is no way to build a coherent walk route around all the photos, they are too jump-about for that — but we can at least pick a few as the starting point for our next outing.

Which is why we find ourselves walking up Bedford Rd. north from Bloor, heading for a trio of pieces roughly clustered in the Davenport/Dupont/Spadina area.

Aha, we’re not halfway up Bedford Rd. before we make an unscheduled stop in Taddle Creek Park. You really cannot simply walk past something like this.

public art, Taddle Creek Park

I can’t tell you why a pitcher is the chosen adornment, let alone who created it — no signage — but a bit of snooping seems to suggest there is a water outlet inside the pitcher. Maybe it trickles merrily away, all summer long? This demands a revisit!

Bedford is lined with old Victorian homes, most of them restored and/or renovated, and many of them (perhaps most?) still single family dwellings.

Bedford Rd., Victorian housing

Very pretty indeed, and it’s churlish to point out, as I am about to do, that the gas lamp now sports a light bulb. Humph!

The first of the “official” trio of art works we plan to visit (i.e. ones shown in that newspaper article) comes soon afterward, just north of Davenport & Dupont.

Synethesia RR underpass art, looking north from Dupont up Davenport

You with me? I’m showing you Synesthesia, the artwork Paul Aloisi created to cover the walls of this railway underpass, based on his sound recordings of trains passing overhead. And look, there’s even a stationary freight train on the tracks, to get you in the mood. (Do click on that link; you can then click on a video and hear the trains for yourself.)

I decide I like the way the rusty metalwork adds to the total effect.

Synesthesia west wall

We follow Davenport, closing in on that raccoon.

But first, the even bigger landmark that looms over his head: Casa Loma.

This is the Gothic Revival mansion that very-very-rich financier Sir Henry Pellatt decided to have built for his family, a whim that occupied 300 men from 1911 to 1914. And included gold-plated faucets in the adjacent horse stables …

Casa Loma, from Spadina s. of Davenport

Not surprisingly, the building is now a tourist attraction, run by the city.

Back to the raccoon.

He is one of a growing number of traffic signal boxes that are now huge fun, as well as functional, thanks to the attention of local artists. Jeff Blackburn has wonderfully loopy animals all over the city; this guy is just one of them.

Blackburn's raccoon traffici signal box below Casa Loma

Here he is, genus Procyon in all his urban — & artistically enhanced — glory.

Complete with ringed tail.

back view, same box

Also complete with an impatient pedestrian, who wishes the traffic signal box would just do its job, and give her a green light when she wants one.

On we go, still heading west on Davenport, our target now being the retaining wall just to the north on Bathurst.

Bathurst n. of Davenport, west side

It may all be by one hand, I’m not sure about this, but though the images vary widely the style seems consistent. Kind of 1950s cartoon-y. I think.

detail on the Bathurst wall

This suitably alert-looking owl is right next to the command “Despierta” (Wake Up) — you can see the “T” and “A” on the left.

I’m most amused, though, by an obvious interloper on the scene:

detail on the Bathurst wall

Then again, this may only be amusing if you are familiar with “Tout est possible” — a stencilled slogan that pops up around town.

After that, the walk goes downhill.

Literally, as we start south again, following the incline of the city itself toward the lake.

More wandering-around ensues, with the usual latte/americano stop along the way. Our route takes us past Matt Cohen Park at Bloor W. & Spadina, where we admire the stacks of domino sculptures.

in Matt Cohen Park

Perhaps this fine Canadian author (who died far too young) liked to play dominoes?

in Matt Cohen Park

Eventually Phyllis peels off, to catch her subway north. I keep walking — long enough to decide that, yessir, I will walk all the way home.

Finally home, and a peek at my pedometer, which says 14.5 km. That’s not wildly heroic, but I am pleased.


Coffee: all the way to Perfect

10 April 2016 – Signs about coffee promise a lot, have you noticed? Whether on a sign inside the café, or on the sidewalk sandwich board outside its front door.

Sometimes, though, there is no promise — just a warning about the dangers that await you, should you be foolish enough to ignore the coffee option.

oppoiste OCAD, on McCaul

This one spotted & photographed by my great friend & fellow WordPress blogger, Rio (Seriously Clowning Around). We’d just gone through the Outsider show at the AGO, by the time I’d reached home she had emailed me this discovery just opposite OCAD, down the street from the AGO.

“Use it,” she said, bless her generous heart. So I am.

It also made me riffle through some photos, to see what other coffee-related signs had amused me.

This one I first saw (& photographed) a couple of years ago in  Victoria, B.C., but spotted again last week in a new local favourite cafê of mine, The Flying Pony.

downtown Victoria; also in The Flying Pony

Then there’s Merchants of Green Coffee, another longtime haunt, chalking up its priorities for all to see.

Merchants of Green Coffee

Or, or, consider this medical advice being dispensed at the Rapido Café.

Ignore this symptom at your peril!

Rapido cafe

I lured you into this post with the promise of “perfect.”

Never let it be said I’m a bait-&-switch kinda gal.

The Atlas Espresso Bar tackles the eternal mystery of perfection … and solves it.

Atlas Espresso Bar

See? No need for existential dread.

Real & perfect is within reach.


No Fun, Snow Fun

5 April 2016 – Here in Toronto, opinion is not even slightly divided about snow & sub-zero temps on April 5. We are not happy. No Fun, is the verdict.

Rather, that is the human verdict.

Opinion is more mixed once you broaden your field of inquiry.

These baby daffodils? That thrust through the warmed ground & turned their little faces to the sun so trustingly, just a few days ago?

surprised baby daffs, on Gerrard St. E.

They agree with the humans. No Fun.

But then there’s the Snow Fun contingent.

This flower, for example …

Greenwood, edge of Greenwood Park

and this whole flock of flamingos.

on Kingston Rd.

For all they care, the snow cover could be froth on Lake Naivasha.

Balcony Boy seems perfectly contented as well …

Gerrard East

and the moose smiles happily — perhaps because he knows that he and his cute little shoes are safe on the Flying Pony washroom wall.

Flying Pony café, Gerrard E. at Rhodes

The school crossing guard isn’t currently sitting in his/her chair, so has no opinion …

on Kingston Rd.

except, maybe, to be grateful in absentia that — per the plea on the chair seat — nobody has stolen the chair.

And this guy?

studio window

The one whose crutch is propped in the window of this kickboxing studio?

Perhaps he has other things on his mind.

Earth, Air, Fire, Water

31 March 2016 – If you’re paying any attention at all, all four elements dance with you, every walk you take. But, sometimes, they connect with more power than usual. Tuesday’s walk along Toronto’s west-end waterfront is one of those occasions.

For example, Air/Fire/Water right here at Toronto Fire Station 334.

Soaring sky, glinting water, and the Wm. Lyon Mackenzie Fire Boat in the slip.

fire boat, Toronto Fire Station 334

So-very-appropriate to name the fire boat for the City’s first mayor — but here’s the joke: he was also one of the leaders of the 1837 Rebellion, and quite rightly dubbed a “firebrand” in William Kilgour’s biography. A man, in other words, more likely to ignite fires than extinguish them …

A few other hints to our coming walk adventures in that photo, not that the Tuesday Walking Society knows it at the time: the fierce outline of the Canada Malting Company silos against the background sky and, to their left, the more prosaic outline of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport.

Close to hand, the fourth element: Earth. No. More precisely, Earth & Water.

detail, Spadina Quay Wetland signage

Immediately west of the Fire Station, the Spadina Quay Wetland. Once a parking lot, it is now a spawning ground for the Northern Pike (“a key indicator of the health of Toronto Bay”) and a support for the entire aquatic community.

I take the photo for the pike silhouette, and for the handsome appearance of the rusted metal. I only learn later that this wooden edging is a pilot project in urban park edging for such purposes. Here’s the problem: wetlands look, well, messy. The healthier they are, the messier they look. What will make a suitable boundary between the wetland and the smooth, urbane, urban pathway to one side? The trick was to devise a modular system that wouldn’t look too prissy for the wetland, yet would fit nicely with the park edge, and would also provide seating. Read all about it here.

On we go, through the Wetland, then through Toronto Music Garden park immediately to the west, and then we veer onto the planking for Marina Quay West. Lots of boats out here, still neatly swaddled for winter.

boats in Marina Quay West

We are slightly wary as we prowl — the marina is designed for people who belong there & have keys & all & all — but nobody challenges us. No external signs of action, but music wafts out from some of the boats, suggesting owners are beavering away inside.

A moment to admire another red & white boat, the view hampered by the fact that since we don’t have keys we have to view it from the one public-access walkway.

tug with chair, Marina Quay West

In my ignorance, I think of it as a tug. Maybe it even is a tug. Phyllis & I particularly like the red Muskoka chair up on top.

Back out of our Marina detour, closer every step to those 1928 Canada Malting Company silos — one of only two sets of silos left on the waterfront.

Canada Malting Company silos, Toronto Bay

I love severe industrial architecture, especially when tinged with modernism, as here, and I love Prairie grain silos. So I really love this structure, and I am glad that — once threatened with demolition, and still empty though protected by historical designation — it is still solidly present at lake edge. Not as large as it once was, battered, empty, its future unknown, but, by golly, emphatically still there.

detail, silos

I am thinking anthropomorphic thoughts about loss, resilience & survival as I round the waterfront corner of the building.

And have the breath knocked out of me.

Because never mind architectural equivalents of those characteristics. Here they all are, in human terms.

Ireland Park

We have come across Ireland Park, opened in 2007 by the President of Ireland, a testimonial to the Irish Famine of 1845-1851, to the millions of famine refugees who emigrated and, specifically, to the 38,560 who arrived by steamer in Toronto Harbour in 1847. At a time when the city itself numbered only 20,000 people.

sculpture, Ireland Park

The bronze sculptures are by Irish artist Rowan Gillespie, who had already created 7 such sculptures on the Dublin waterfront, to honour all those who fled. Ireland Park here contains 5 figures, honouring those who made it to our shores and, by the reduced number, those who died en route.

The man with outstretched arms symbolizes the joy of reaching land; the pregnant woman, the hope of new life and a new life for all; and this gaunt youth …

sculpture, Ireland Park

the newcomer mixture of hope and trepidation.

Walk to the jagged limestone pillars behind. Peer between their faces. Read the names.

names etched, Ireland Park

Of those 38,560 immigrants, some 1,180 died upon arrival or soon after. When this project began, 32 of their names were known. By 2007, dogged research had brought the identified total to 675 — information sent back to Ireland with H.E. Mary McAleese after she opened the park. Reading names on site, I am touched but saddened that “A Widow Hughes” is known only by her surname; knowing what I have since learned, I am touched and impressed that even this much has been discovered and made public.

A hint of Fire, and a lot of Water and Earth, in our walk so far. Now it is time for Air.

We walk the new underwater tunnel to Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. City-side, they’ve placed life-size statues of (L) William Barker and (R) William (Billy) Bishop — friends, and two of the greatest fighter pilots of the First World War. Bishop with 72 victories, Barker with 50, and between them very long lists of awards and decorations.

Barket, L; Bishop, R

Through the tunnel, back up the escalator on the airport side, into a lobby of Billy Bishop memorabilia — complete with a full-size model of his beloved Nieuport 17 suspended overhead. (Go see the real thing in the Canadian War Museum.)

Nieuport 17 model, Billy Bishop Airport

Only a model, but faithful and almost complete. Add navigational equipment and an engine, says the signage, and this model could really fly.

And now, speaking of navigation …

A Small But Important Geographical Note

I misled you! We were not in Leslieville last post, as I muttered about how Toronto’s east-downtown is finally spiffing up. We were in Corktown, as Larry Webb (faithful reader with sharp eyes) pointed out.





Rising, and Risen

27 March 2016 – This little fox (I think he is) has nothing to do with my theme. But then, when I set out on this walk, I have no theme in mind. He just amuses me, with his two tails, stencilled onto an alley wall just off Berkeley & Queen St. East.

stencilled fox, Berkeley/Queen E. alley

I’m still innocent of any theme as I head south on Berkeley Street, even though I’m planning to get myself to St. James Cathedral by 4 p.m. for an organ recital. And even though this is, after all, Easter Sunday, when Christians celebrate the day Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead.

No, it is this streetscape, just north of Adelaide, that sets my theme. I begin to muse about urban renewal, about the new buildings now rising up among, and almost always towering over, the old.

row housing Berkeley n. of Adelaide E.

This Victorian row housing has a whole new skyscape rising to the south.

I take another look from the corner of Berkeley and King St. East. Smack on the S/W corner, protected by Heritage designation, still sits the lovely brick building that, in 1891, housed the Reid Lumber Company.

view of S/W Berkeley & King E.

And there, just to the west & appropriating the whole skyline, rises the imposing new Globe and Mail Centre, a LEED Gold structure by Diamond Schmitt Architects, due to open this year.

East-downtown Toronto, once so scruffy, is changing fast!

In between those two shots, when just south of Adelaide, I lower my eyes long enough to admire yet again the Bell Box mural painted in 2013 by Natasha Kudashkina.

It is smack in front of the Alumnae Theatre, and suitably theatrical in motif. You’ll have to take my word for most of the front side, alas, since a car blocks almost all of it. Here is the one end panel on view …

Bell Box mural detail, 70 Berkeley St.

I squeeze behind the box, & find myself caught firmly against some shrubs and the theatre wall, No room to back up, so here is a necessarily partial view of the Comedia del Arte couple on this reverse side.

detail, reverse side

All happy with art & architecture, I now head west on King Street and, over by Sherbourne, find another example of — let’s call it — Architecture Rising. Here is one of a pair of pillars, guarding the arched doorway of an old building, now subject to restoration & expansion.

1 of matching doorway pillars, King E. nr Sherbourne

As is often now the case, the façade of the old building is being preserved, with its charming & human-scale presence on the street. But inside, it is being gutted for new purposes, and the new structure will rise far above the old building’s original height — though with a set-back that preserves street scale.

I lean toward the companion pillar, to capture a bit of what is happening behind the archway.

companion pillar, with view to construction behind

After that, a very happy stop for a latte & scone in the Rooster coffee house on King (sibling of the original, on Broadview Ave.), and then on to St. James Cathedral.

steeple, Cathedral Church of St. James

I plan to leave after the organ recital, but end up staying for the Sung Evensong that immediately follows. I am glad that I did.


Light & Shadow, Light from Shadow

20 March 2016 – I am again at the Aga Khan Museum, drawn by Visual Stories of a Toronto Community — the one-day exhibit of images created by teenagers after a photography workshop that provided them with skills, encouragement and (I think) cameras as well. I also want to revisit the stunning Abbas Kiarostami installation Doors Without Keys before it closes on March 28.

But really, this is a centre I think I’d gratefully visit for its architecture & serenity alone. The play of light is an important component in that total effect.

entrance, Aga Khan Museum

Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki gave the museum strong, simple lines — proof that strength need not be aggressive, it can be very calm indeed. Even on grey days, the building radiates. Even more so today, in the morning sun.

As always, I am fascinated by the play of light & shadow in the inner courtyard, the result of mashrabiya patterns etched into its glass walls.

view of innter courtyard, up to open sky

Each glass courtyard wall, transparent yet delicately veiled …

detail, courtyard wall

throwing its ever-changing pattern upon adjacent Museum walls.

Here, next to the coat-check stand …

pattern thrown onto adjacent wall

here, playing against the entrance to the Bellerive Room, with its own patterns in gleaming wood …

next to Bellerive Room entrance

and here, on up to the ceiling, pattern on pattern, texture on texture, shadows working with the light to create luminous beauty.

courtyard walls

Later, I cross the formal Islamic Garden, by Lebanese landscape architect Vladimir Djurovic.

It is a sensory experience even now, when the reflecting pools are empty and tree branches bare. I feel gravel beneath my feet & hear its crunch; I admire the sculpture of bare branches against the sky; I slightly narrow my eyes against the glint of sun on the facets of the prayer hall in the adjoining Ismaili Centre.

view across the Islamic Garden to the Ismaili Centre

I have already taken one of the public tours offered of this beautiful building, the work of Indian architect Charles Correa — and recommend the experience — but I am here again today for a more focused purpose. The Exhibition Hall currently features a display entitled Tolerance, Understanding, Coexistence: Oman’s Message of Islam.

Messages of hate reverberate so much more easily than messages of peace and good will, do they not? All the more reason to pay attention when light emerges from all that shadow.

Photography is not permitted in the exhibit, but you can visit the Omani website and see for yourself why I bring it to your attention. Here is an opening quote, it gives the flavour:

We have three population groups on earth: the first, consisting of Christians, Jews and Muslims, who believe in one God and a holy book; the second, atheists, who have lost all confidence in religion; and the third group, representing a variety of religious and spiritual ideas. We endeavor to maintain a constructive and genuine dialogue with scholars and representatives of all these groups.

The aim of exchange is to reflect on the foundations of our thinking, a common morality and a common sense of justice. For only when we are aware of these similarities and they form a basis for our actions, while accepting cultural differences, will we and our children enjoy a peaceful future.

— Sheikh Abdullah al-Salimi, Minister of Endowments and Religious Affairs

(One further comment about Islam in Oman: the education of girls is not only permitted, it is compulsory.)

Speaking of websites, the Ismaili Centre’s own WordPress site has captured all my previous posts about this complex of buildings. Visit me — and much more — here.


    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

    "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" -- Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

    "A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities" -- Rebecca Solnit, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking"

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