Doris McCarthy Trail in October

It’s mid-October and the colours of autumn in Toronto are taking their time in reaching a full show of yellows and reds, although some have already made their presence on trees. A visit to the Doris McCarthy Trail starts with a descent along a path through a beautiful forest with a brook below, the sound of running water a soothing soundtrack to accompany your walk until you arrive at the bottom of the trail. There you are greeted by the expanse of Lake Ontario. You can then walk for a long time and enjoy the sight of the lake on one side and the beauty of trees and sumac already turned red on the other. These are photos from a recent visit.


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Tommy Thompson Park

Tommy Thompson Park is a great place for walks and cycling along 10 kilometers of nature paths with wonderful views of Toronto’s cityscape. It’s also the home of remnants of demolition materials turned haphazardly into art along the shore of Lake Ontario.

Thousands of people visit the park on weekends during the summer months but it’s also a wonderful place to visit during the fall when it’s less crowded. Regardless of the time you go, you have the pleasure of being away from the city but also the comfort of knowing that it’s still nearby.

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The Promise of a Sunrise

Sunrise over Lake Ontario from another August in Toronto

Every sunrise assures us of a new day coming and that the world is alright despite our human folly.

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Rosetta McClain Gardens: Summer Flowers

August in Rosetta McClain is a time to appreciate the array of colours found in its many flowers and plant life. People visit the garden for various reasons but mostly to photograph it, to read in a quiet spot, to sit in contemplation and even paint. Since the pandemic, there have been intimate family picnics which are, technically, not allowed, but they happen anyway, because there’s no better place than a garden for people to gather and be with one another. It’s good to hear the laughter of children and the relaxed look on people’s faces as they explore the garden, leaving behind the worries of the world.

Flowers have always been an important part of my emotional landscape. I grew up with them, not only in the house, where we kept flower pots of geraniums and coleus but also out in the garden. In public spaces on the Azores, flowers abounded, too. Flowers could be found in churches decorating the altars of the saints or on the procession routes throughout the city on the many feast days that brought the holy statues out of their churches and onto the streets of Ponta Delgada.

The religious use of flowers was not restricted to public display but was intimately a part of family life. In my parents’ and grandparents’ bedrooms, on top of their dressers would be a religious statue surrounded by fresh flowers.  Their scent is still with me, and when I survey the beauty of the garden I have the privilege of walking in every day, I am reminded of the place of flowers in my memory of home.

A display of flowers in honour of Senhor Santo Cristo in the 1940s or early 1950s, from my family’s photo collection. Ponta Delgada, Azores.

We would gather to pray the rosary in front of Our Lady of Fatima. Photo from May, 1969, Toronto, Canada.

And now, back to photos of Rosetta Gardens, the place that conjures up memories of my past.

Photographing the garden

Reading in the garden

Blending in with the garden. Can you spot the person amongst the flowers?

Painting the garden

May the path take you on your own discovery of the garden

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Sunflowers at Rosetta McClain Gardens

The Portuguese word for sunflower is girasol. I don’t remember seeing them when I was growing up in Ponta Delgada but I do know that they grow on the island of São Miguel. My mother tells me stories of how she loved them when she was a child, so I don’t know why she didn’t have them in our small garden.

Rosetta McClain Gardens has sunflowers in July and August. It’s a pleasure to see them on my walks and for some reason, when I see them, I try to recall the past. Surely I must have seen them somewhere back home, so my mother assures me, surprised that I don’t remember. Yet, I rely on her memory to inform mine. Which begs the question, do we always remember accurately or is memory-saudade-nostalgia seeking something else?

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My Summer Garden, Again

After all my recent posts reminiscing about long ago visits to Portugal, it’s time for me to get back to my Toronto garden and stay there as much as I can during these short summer months. Here’s some photographs from June and early July.

Hydrangea on the way

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Lisboa, 2006

Padrão dos Descobrimentos (detail)

Avenida da Liberdade

Café Nicola

Praça do Rossio seen from the Santa Justa elevator lookout

Steps leading to York House Hotel, Rua das Janelas Verdes

Window view from our bedroom at York House Hotel

York House Hotel patio

One of the many beautiful buildings on Avenida da Liberdade

Looking toward the Rio Tejo

Castelo de São Jorge above the city

Castelo de São Jorge

Castelo de São Jorge

On a quiet street near the castle

View from Museu Tesouro da Sé Patriarcal de Lisboa

The cruise ships have gotten bigger since 2006

City life

Another view of São Vincente de Fora and Panteão Nacional

All aboard to see the Lisboa of today


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Lisboa, 1992

Views of São Vincente de Fora and the dome of Santa Engrácia, Panteão Nacional

The elevador de Santa Justa for beautiful views of the city

Dome of the Panteão Nacional

Basílica de Santa Maria Maior, Sé Patriarcal de Lisboa

Basílica da Estrela

Basílica da Estrela dome

Basílica da Estrela

A certain beauty in the decay but I hope this building has been restored


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Lisboa, 1989

I have visited Lisboa five times. That may not seem like a lot for those who love to travel to Portugal more often, but I am content with my few visits. Each time, I do get something new out of my experience, even when I am revisiting favourite spots, curious to see if anything has changed since the previous visit. Of course, like all cities, Lisboa has evolved from the time I first saw it in 1984. I had a pocket camera back then and didn’t take too many photographs, which was a good thing because I was able to focus on the moment while exploring the city.

However, by the time of my second trip, in 1989, I had a good camera with me, and so I took more photographs. In the age of rolls of film, it was still a limited number of photos I could take but I always had rolls of 36 exposures rather than the modest 24 in order to get a few extra pictures! As it was, they took much space in my carry-on bag, something I don’t regret giving up once digital cameras became the norm.

These photographs are from my second trip. Back then, I was interested in finding an older Lisboa, the one in my imagination, and so I took many photographs of decaying buildings. I include them here, along with photographs of a timeless Lisboa.

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Sintra is the Romantic Heart of Portugal

I visited Sintra in October of 1984 and then in late-September of 1992. I mention the months because the fall light cast a spell over me and allowed me to experience Sintra as a magical place; full of early-morning mist moving over the castle walls, as we meandered in silence, taking in the peace and fresh-scent of the forest that surrounded us.  There is much that has been written about Sintra and its appeal to travellers, including the poet, Lord Byron, who praised Sintra in his famous poem, Child Harold’s Pilgrimage.

Rather than retell the stories easily available on-line, I prefer to share these photographs of a place and time that I am grateful to have experienced.

Me in Sintra, 1989

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