top of page

The One-track Mind WALK Project

Updated: Dec 25, 2021

WHAT'S THAT? I recently completed a one-month long experiment I called the One-track Mind WALK Project. As the author of Toronto walking guides, I was curious to see how choosing a specific focus during my walks helps me see things differently... (It also gave me the extra motivation to get out in the grey and cold November).

WHY? This Attention Test got my... attention. Try it for yourself, it's fun! And see what author Daniel Simons has to say about the results.

About my one-track mind project:

• I did a daily 30-min WALK • Over 31 consecutive DAYS

• On the SAME PATH every day

• Each day with a DIFFERENT THEME

• Posting my BEST 4 the next day

What I learned:

We don't know what we don't notice!

DAY 1 was all about FALLEN LEAVES

The late fall has been good to us! Plenty of golden hues left…

DAY 2 was all about STICKERS

The stickers on the lamp posts, behind street signs, on garbage cans, and pretty much everywhere fill my walks with stories…

DAY 3 was all about URBAN TREES

True story: When a mature tree falls in the city, we are in mourning. One day I saw one of the largest trees in the neighbourhood, lying on the ground, cut into large pieces. It had come to the end of its urban life, probably hard by the railroad tracks.

Someone had the good idea to ask a fantastic company, Gardens for Living, to use every part of that tree to develop McCleary Playground, where the tree had grown probably over 100 years. From its wood, two chairs were carved, planks were made to build two picnic tables, and the pièce de résistance was reversed to make an arch by the small pathway.

DAY 4 was all about LITTLE FRUITS

Lots of birds chirping in the morning, thanks to my neighbours’ great landscaping. Do they eat the colourful little jewels popping on the branches? It made me choose little fruits as the theme of the day. I saw more than I expected as I walked around Riverside neighbourhood! And just to illustrate how a one-track mind works, I was so focused on fruits that I had the surprise to hear the message “Of fruit” through the open doors of a streetcar. As it turned out, they were saying “Off route”. ;-)

DAY 5 was all about the PASSAGE of TIME

Bricked-up windows, faded signs, crumbling plaster... everywhere, traces of the passage of time.

DAY 6 was all about UTILITY HOLES

I knew from admiring the very cool collection of utility hole on that Toronto had a wide variety of them but I didn’t expect to find so much along my Riverside stroll. I found old holes buried under the asphalte, traffic light holes. Covers for the hydro electric system, Bell, water, sanitary, sewage, gas valves, used waters, storm water. Some have dates (I saw a manhole dated 1927!). That was fun!

DAY 7 was all about CLOUDS

I often say I have my head in the clouds but most of the time, I don’t even take the time to look at them...

DAY 8 was all about YELLOW

First thing that caught my attention as I got out was the flamboyant line-up of yellow trees, and the way they reflected on my neighbour’s windows… Then, all things YELLOW popped out!

DAY 9 was all about WROUGHT IRON

I've been asked how I set my "one-track mind". From the first steps of my daily walk, I become very aware of the first sight which catches my attentions. On this day, seeing the beautiful vanishing point, with the black wrought iron fence echoing the bare trees above, the theme of the day imposed itself.

DAY 10 was all about GLOWING HEARTS

This summer, when my sister visiting from Montreal, asked: “What’s with all these hearts?”, I realized it was a Toronto thing. She went back to Montreal with her own! They are the creation of MossLED and on their website, they explain all it all started. The 12-inch tall hearts retail for $100 ($5 goes to charitable organizations). They now sell 7-inch mini heart for $70. Extra $10 if we want a dimmer.

“The film, television, and live entertainment industries were all mandated to shut down. MossLED and its staff were facing an existential crisis as well and in order to keep our staff employed & our company running, we pivoted our manufacturing to building neon hearts. We decided that not only was this an opportunity for us to do something different with our capabilities but also to give back to the community in which we live. Our Glowing Hearts has been so successful that as of the end of September, 2021, we have donated over $70,000 to various charitable organizations and one of those is the Michael Garron Hospital Foundation.”

DAY 11 was all about FIRST SNOW

I am 7 again when I wake up to the first snow. The night before, nothing. The next morning, all white. We measure the snowfall by the precarious accumulation on the fences. We get to follow the tracks of those who preceded us. We see which bike owner was taken by surprise...

DAY 12 was all about MAGICAL DAWN

I woke up at the crack of dawn and was blown away by the sights. Snow accumulation on the exposed side of everything, the heavy white coat on the branches, the blue hour background, the yellow glow… Magical!

DAY 13 was all about IT'S A SIGN

There's always plenty of reading to do when I walk down Queen Street East in Riverside. The telling sign of a good neighbourhood life!

DAY 14 was all about INSIDE OUT

Beautiful night in Riverside, inside out...

DAY 15 was all about TWILIGHT

I love walking around when the sky is not black yet and the windows are already starting to cast their yellow reflection on the street. The perfect time for closet voyeurs (such as myself).

DAY 16 was all about PUDDLES

Yucky day, melting the snow and leaving mud and rotten leaves behind… then, looking down, beauty in the puddles!

DAY 17 was all abou BLUE LIGHTS

The blue aura of my neighbour's "Glowing Heart" stood out in the night. Without much hope for this theme, I went in search of the blue lights on my usual circuit. Then I noticed for the first time the blue headlights on the front of the streetcars… and more.

DAY 18 was all about TERRA COTTA

Lots of terra cotta detailing on many of Riverside’s buildings! It’s because it started off as a railway neighbourhood, where several hotels opened to accommodate travelers. I could read Orient Hall 1885 on 798 Queen St E, and the current Broadview Hotel was the Dingman’s Hall, dated 1891.

DAY 19 was all about BRANCHES

The cloud formed a uniformed white ceiling. The perfect background to admire the leafless branches.

DAY 20 was all about DOGS

All kinds of dogs, cherished by all kinds of dog lovers.

DAY 21 was all about GRAUPEL PELLETS

Wherever the strong wind could not blow them away, the tiny white pellets have lined every nooks and crannies of Riverside.

DAY 22 was all about EVERGREEN

Standing tall, bundled up, small, ready to go, fully decorated, even upside-down… Evergreen, everywhere along Queen East.

DAY 23 was all about WINDOW SHOPPING

Windows that make you look…

DAY 24 was all about CHRISTMAS LIGHT

I’m such a sucker for all the bells and whistles of Christmas time (I’ve been listening to Christmas music on my computer for over a week now…). So I definitely enjoy the lights put up especially for the Holidays along Queen East.

DAY 25 was all about QUIRKY THINGS

I-Spy… a penguin on a roof, a dog named Doug, a hopeful urban maple syrup producer, a collective installation of smiles (good one @Arts Market!)

DAY 26 was all about MORNING SUN

It’s not just the dark night subsiding! It’s terra cotta walls lighting up, high-rise windows glowing, shadows creating geometrical forms, low rays highlighting the architectural details…

DAY 27 was all about WHITE LIGHTS

There’s something classy… and soothing about white lights in the dark.

DAY 28 was all about RED and GREEN

Red… and green, popping everywhere.

DAY 29 was all about LAMP POSTS

Lit by the lamp posts, the delicate branches turn into lace and the streetcar wires look like spider webs…

DAY 30 was all about URBAN AVIARY

A pigeon flew in front of me. I went looking for more birds along Queen East. That’s when I noticed for the first time on a few historic plaques that Toronto has a crest featuring an eagle, a bear and a beaver, with the motto “Diversity Our Strength”. I looked it up and it’s quite recent! It was made following the City’s amalgamation in 1998.

DAY 31 was all about CAFFEINE FIX

I think independent coffee shops make a neighbourhood. (When in a new town, I always find them to get the pulse of the place.) So, with the likes of new comers Venom and Jimmy’s Coffee, and old timers Dark Horse, Boxcar Social and bakery café Bonjour Brioche, Riverside is quite the neighbourhood!

True story I just witnessed inside Jimmy’s:

Barista: What can I get you?

Client: Coffee. (Even with the mask, we can hear she’s smiling and saying it tongue in cheek.)

The barista fixes her coffee while the client sifts through her things.

Client: How much do you like me?

Barista: What?…

Client: How much do you like me?


Client: Cause I just realized I forgot my wallet! (Even with the mask, we can hear she’s mortified.) Can I pay later?…

Barista: We can run you a tab. We do that from time to time.

The grateful client accepts and swears she will return.

I love that the barista felt she could make that call, probably backed by a manager who truly understands the value of good customer service and word-of-mouth. I’ll drink to that!


Nathalie Prézeau is the author of the walking guide Toronto BEST Urban Strolls available in Toronto’s major bookstores, on and or We also deliver or contact the author directly at to arrange for a pick up with a discount at 299 Booth Avenue, in Leslieville.

bottom of page