On one of my meandering walks through Rosetta McClain Gardens I came upon a bench where someone had left a pair of shoes neatly placed on the ground in front of it. The composition was too good to miss and so I photographed it. The idea of an invisible person sitting on that bench where only her shoes were visible made me wonder who she was. Perhaps she was some carefree soul who decided to go walking barefoot or even someone who was taken away by the rapture.
It made me think of all the other souls who linger in the confines of this garden filled with old trees and flower beds. I know that they do. There are reminders of people everywhere etched throughout the garden by markers and plaques at the foot of trees and on benches. Some have faded over time but many of them are recent. They are symbols put there by people who continue to honour a loved one who had some connection with the garden. People who probably loved coming to it as much as I do.
The garden is many things for those who come to spend time there. Depending on the time of day I see solitary people doing Tai Chi in the morning, while others stroll through flower beds, or jog along the winding paths; others photograph flowers or bird watch; a few come to paint or read; many just stare out into the lake; and some sit and do nothing but just be. One day, I saw a woman drumming in front of an oak tree and it felt reverential and sacred. On another occasion, I witnessed a congregation gathered around the stone water fall to celebrate a marriage between two men. On summer evenings, the garden is crowed with families and groups of friends who come for a stroll. Children’s laughter breaks the silence when they spot a raccoon family on parade. There are smiles and relaxed faces mingling with the trees and the flowers. The gift of Rosetta to those who choose to enter this space is joyfulness and peace and tranquility and a connection to life.
So it’s indeed fitting that many people put up plaques of remembrance of a loved one or to mark a special occasion but I had not really paid much attention to them until I saw those black shoes with their missing owner. I walked around and was amazed by the beautiful words of remembrance scattered throughout the gardens. Some have simple sayings:
Others reveal more fully something about the person remembered:
I was glad to see that Proud Canadians come from all ethnicities:
I remember this wonderful gentle man who I’d see every weekend surrounded by other bird watchers. He always said hello:
Sometimes the living are also remembered to commemorate a special moment:
A few are surrounded by extra beauty:
And some aim for poetry:
A few speak directly to the loved one in tender words understood only between them:
And then, amongst this array of ethnicity, a name that I am sure belonged to someone of Portuguese descent: Ferreira. My maternal grandmother’s surname was also Ferreira, and as delighted I was in knowing that someone with that same name already had a place in this garden, I could not help but feel sad when I saw how young this person had died.
One day, when I am no longer here to walk these gardens, I wish that someone who loves me will also add a plaque to my memory. I hope it will be placed closer to the edge of the garden where it meets the Bluffs and the view of the vast Lake Ontario where I always stop along my walks to gaze out into its almost oceanic size. It is while I stand there that I see what lies beyond: my other love, the Atlantic Ocean, and the view almost takes me back to the shores where I began.