Tia Catarina on Gávea-Brown

I wrote a non-fiction essay which, to my delight, has been included for publication in the latest online issue of Gávea-Brown: A Bilingual Journal of Portuguese-American Letters and Studies.

“I waited alone in the small room that promised the comfort one might expect from someone’s living room. There were a few bookshelves crammed with paperbacks frayed at the edges, perhaps left behind to be read over and over by strangers who maybe just found it helpful to flip through the pages while their minds worried over the reasons that had brought them there to wait. I sat on a sagging yet strangely comfortable sofa, looked out the window onto a barren winter garden, and for a moment tricked myself into believing I was still at home on that dull Sunday morning.”

I hope you enjoy reading the text in full: Tia Catarina

Many thanks and gratitude to the editorial committee of Gávea-Brown for giving my short memoir story a home in their 44th issue.

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Hendrie Valley: An Autumn’s Day Walk

The day I went to Hendrie Valley was the first time in eighteen months that I had taken public transit! I had hesitated to use buses and the subway during the pandemic and, although the virus is still with us, I am slowly returning to my former ways of living in the world beyond the inclausura of home.

Hendrie Valley, situated across from the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington, Ontario, is a place I had never been to before but it was well worth the long trip from Toronto by GO train followed by a bus that took my friend and me near the entrance of the nature trail. There we walked along boardwalks and lookouts with beautiful views of marshes and deciduous forest.

It was a day well spent in the good company of both a friend and nature.

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The Last Days of October at Rosetta McClain Gardens

A Golden falling at Rosetta Gardens

The month of October at Rosetta McClain is a time to put everything to rest for the winter months ahead.  The garden’s staff empty flower beds, pots and other containers of summer plants while nature does its part by changing the colours of leaves on trees to an assorted shade of reds and yellows. Some trees shed their leaves fast, covering the ground with a carpet of golden yellow while others hang on a bit longer until the cold days arrive. It’s still pleasant to walk through the garden and see all these changes and be grateful for the lingering memory of the summer and autumn of 2021.

Until next spring…

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Rouge National Urban Park

Although not as showy as the vibrant colours of our usual autumns, I do like the soft, demurred shades of reds and yellows splashed throughout the forest of the Vista Rouge Trail, one of the eight trails that make up the Rouge National Urban Park.

It always amazes me to see how much nature co-exists within the city of Toronto in a seamless geography of concrete and green.

Here are some photos of a pleasant day’s walk.

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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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