Toronto Book Launch of Avós: Raízes e Nós

When I received an invitation to submit a piece of writing for a new anthology to honour, and reflect on,  the role of grandparents’ in the lives and memories of their grandchildren, I  immediately thought of a post I had written about my grandfather on this blog several years ago, Reading with My Grandfather on Sunday Afternoons.

I am grateful to the organizers of this project, Aida Baptista, Ilda Januário, and Manuela Marujo, for accepting my submission for inclusion in Avós: Raízes e Nós. I am very honoured to have my short reflection included in both English and Portuguese versions.

The anthology was published in record time. I received the invitation to submit sometime in April and by July, the book was published by Almaletra.

Given the reality of Covid-19, it was with concern and trepidation that Manuela Marujo and Ilda Januário planned a lançamento, a book launch. Taking all the necessary precautions, they went ahead. I think part of the urgency was to acknowledge the change that has taken place in the world since March 2020. Grandparents stopped seeing their grandchildren and isolation has become the new norm. In some way, the collection of stories and reflections about grandparents is a way to reconnect with those family members who are now apart because of the pandemic.

The Toronto book launch took place on Sunday, September 13, in Casa do Alentejo de Toronto, to coincide with Dia Dos Avós, Grandparents Day.

The room was lovingly set up for a limited number of guests, including the writers from Toronto who had contributed to the anthology.  We each had our turn to say a few words. When my turn came, this is what I said in Portuguese:

Boa tarde. É um grande prazer estar aqui com todos vós para celebrar o lançamento da antologia Raízes.

Estamos aqui todos juntos apesar do distanciamento físico. Não podemos cumprimentar-nos com um abraço ou aperto de mão. Mas, através da nossa antologia podemos aproximar-nos através da leitura. Estou ansioso para regressar a casa para ler os meus amigos e colegas de escrita.

Estou feliz por ter a minha reflexão sobre o meu avô incluída nesta antologia.

Meu avô materno, Manuel Pereira Duarte, falecido em 1968, era serralheiro de profissão, na cidade de Ponta Delgada, São Miguel, Açores, onde tinha a sua oficina.

A lembrança mais profunda que tenho dele é de estar sentado na cama com o meu avô aos domingos à tarde, lendo. O meu avô lia os seus livros e eu os meus.

Foi com ele que aprendi o amor à leitura. Por isso o meu trecho é de uma maneira especial uma homenagem à herança que ele me deixou.

Agradeço profundamente as professoras Manuela Marujo, Ilda Januário e a nossa ausente Aida Baptista pelo seu valioso trabalho e homenagem a todos que tem a honra do serem avós.


English translation:

Good afternoon. It’s a great pleasure to be here with all of you to celebrate the launch of the anthology, Raízes.

We are gathered here despite physical distancing. We can’t greet each other with an embrace or a handshake, but through this anthology, we can come close together through reading it. I am eager to return home so that I can start to read my friends and colleagues.

I am thrilled to have my reflection about my grandfather included in the anthology.

Manuel Pereira Duarte, who died in 1968, was a blacksmith by profession, in the city of Ponta Delgada, São Miguel, Azores, where he had his shop.

My most profound memory of him is being in bed on Sunday afternoons, reading. He would read his books and I, mine.

It was with my grandfather that I learned to love reading. This is why my reflection piece is a way to honour him for the legacy which he left me.

My deep thanks to professors Manuela Marujo, Ilda Januário , and our absent Aida Baptisa (in Portugal), for your valuable work and homage to all those who have the honour of being grandparents.

Thank  you.My grandfather: Manuel Pereira Duarte (30 de Outubro, 1898 – 10 de Julho, 1968)

Photos of the launch on my Events page.

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Rosetta McClain Gardens in Early September

It has been a challenging summer for the staff of Rosetta McClain Gardens to keep up with the needs of the garden but they have done a wonderful job and we can now enjoy the blooms of early September.

The air was crisper and clean on Sunday, and the sunlight already had that September quality we all know so well. It felt like a goodbye to summer but in a good way. All the flowers were showing their best selves in the early morning when I walked around and photographed them, capturing the many colours that give Rosetta Gardens that air of delight.

Already people had come to walk through the space and enjoy the Sunday morning of our Labour Day long weekend. I’m glad I went there yesterday because today, Monday, the sky is heavy with grey clouds after a long storm during the night, but I can still enjoy yesterday through my photographs.  I hope you like them, too.

Addendum to my previous post:

It is excessive of me to post yet more photographs of my yellow flowers, identified as Heliopsis Helianthoides by my friend and blogger, Valerie Ferrier, but I was walking in my garden and took these new photos which I immediately thought to share on the blog for you all to enjoy.

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August Yellow Flowers in My Garden

There’s a cluster of yellow flowers that grace my garden towards the end of August. I don’t know their name, nor where they have come from.  I don’t remember planting them. Perhaps they were seeds blown in by the wind or left by some of the birds who regularly come to visit.

What matters, however, is the joy they bring me as I watch them move; for they do move and sway in the breeze, as if dancing with each other, or simply following the sun’s teasing light upon them.

They have a simple beauty that requires no fussing over. They just exist and I let them be. They remind me of our human relationships and how we should simply delight in each other’s company as we move to life.

The following photos were added on September 6, 2020

It is excessive of me to post yet more photographs of my yellow flowers, identified as Heliopsis Helianthoides by my friend and blogger, Valerie Ferrier, but I was just walking in the garden and took these new photos which I immediately thought to share on the blog.

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August Flowers at Rosetta McClain Gardens

Friends watching flowers grow

How long did these friends sit to watch flowers grow? I didn’t stay long enough to find out!

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Grand Manan is an island on the Canadian side of the Atlantic

Anchorage Provincial Park, Grand Manan

Last summer, we drove from Toronto all the way to the Province of New Brunswick where we took a big car ferry across to the island of Grand Manan in the Bay of Fundy. We stayed in a lovely cottage across from Pebble Beach with views of the ocean. We enjoyed car rides along the coast and the interior of the island, with stops at Dark Harbour, Sea Cove, Southwest Head Light House, and the Swallowtail Lightstation. We also took a small ferry to White Head, a little island just off the east coast of Grand Manan.

Before the visit was over we were already making plans to return this summer. We had no idea then that we would not be welcomed back to the Maritime Provinces this year because they want to contain the spread of the virus that has changed how we live now.

Perhaps we’ll be back one day. It’s hard to know; especially now when it is hard to know how our lives will unfold. For now, I have these photographs to remind me of a lovely visit to Grand Manan.

Castalia Marsh:

Sea Cove:

Dark Harbour:

Swallowtail Lighthouse:

Southwest Head Lighthouse:

Places along the way:

White Head Island:

Pebble Beach:

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Avós: Raízes e Nós – A new Anthology

I am honoured to have a short piece of writing included in a new anthology, Avós: Raízes e Nós.

I extend my gratitude and thanks to the wonderful organizers of this project, Aida Baptista, Ilda Januário, Manuela Marujo, who continue to inspire me, as they do many others, with their tireless work to document and celebrate stories about grandparents and their importance in our lives.

Click to view content:


I wish I could attend the book launch:

July 27th, 2020 in Lisbon to be held at the beautiful Palácio dos Marqueses de Fronteira, Largo de São Domingos de Benfica 1, from 17h00-18h30.

Contact for  Editora Alma Letra

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Smiling in the Darkness: Adelaide Freitas in English

Smiling in the Darkness by (Adelaide Freitas 1949- 2018, Sorriso por dentro da Noite), published by Tagus UMASS Press, is a beautifully-written, lyrical story of an Azorean family’s journey of immigration to North America.

Through Xana, the 12-year-old girl protagonist in the story, Adelaide Freitas gives us a heartbreaking account of what it means for a child to experience the fracture of family ties. One of the strongest themes in the novel is the idea that you can’t ever really go back and recapture the past and that the present is not always a better place.  The damage has been done.

I relate to Xana because when I was her age, I also experienced being taken from one culture to another, losing beloved family members through immigration, and the ultimate realization that something deep within the soul gets damaged or changed forever.  At the end of the novel, Xana tries desperately to hold on to her world just as it is about to change forever.  It’s a profound moment in the novel that resonates deeply with my own leaving the old world for the new.

There is much more that I could say about this novel but the story is one that should be discovered by reading it.

You can also read Katharine F. Baker’s translation notes here.

I owe a great deal of gratitude to Katharine F. Baker for inviting me to contribute to her translation of this important book of diasporic relevance. I am also grateful to Tagus Press for selecting one of my photographs for the book cover.

Freitas, Adelaide Batista. Smiling in the Darkness. Novel trans. Katharine F. Baker, Bobby J. Chamberlain, PhD., Reinaldo F. Silva, PhD., and Emanuel Melo. N. Dartmouth, MA.: Tagus Press, Mar 2020.

Also available through Amazon

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June Light in the Garden

I like to photograph the quality of light that floods the garden during the month of June.

I follow June light as it moves over my garden; playful caresses that illuminate flowers and plants. I click the camera’s release button just in time before the light moves away.

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The Peony: Unforgettable Ephemeral Beauty

The Peony: Unforgettable Ephemeral Beauty

Peonies visit the garden each June. They blossom for a short while, filling the garden with a quiet beauty that although understated, lasts in memory well beyond the short weeks they live. As I write this, the peonies have already left, and I wait for their ephemeral beauty to return next year.

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Reading My June Garden

There are gardeners who see their gardens as works of art, paintings by nature that keep changing with each season, each day even, depending on the weather, light, and disposition of each plant and flower.

Although I like to photograph my garden and its many moods and changes, it is when I can sit and simply gaze at the flowers and plants around me that I am most happy.

I like to read my garden. By that I mean that by being attentive to the garden and observing how each plant and flower grows, I get to know their individual moods, likes and dislikes.  It helps me understand human relationships and their infinitesimal variety by associating people with plants and flowers.

My garden is mostly a perennial garden with different types of Hosta, sturdy and reliable, filling out the garden, year after year, lovers of shade, but burning with too much sun exposure; Peonies that grace the garden in June for a few weeks at the most, delicate and falling apart with the slightest disturbance of wind and rain; Irises, with long stalks that soon droop within days of their glory; Spirea that blooms in a shock of white beauty that within a few days starts to fall like dry snowflakes; Daylilies that open up and close up in response to light; Lilac trees that exude a sweet fragrance for a little while before turning brown after a short-lived season; Queen Anne’s Lace, delicate and white beautiful things; Bleeding Hearts that hang as reminders of human hearts and their frailty; Tulips in April, a splash of colour until their petals fall unless already eaten by squirrels; Hydrangea bushes that bloom in summer but are fussy and need watering, otherwise, they droop and shrivel up.

As I think of each of these plants and flowers that co-exist in the small garden space, living with their peculiarities side-by-side, I am reminded of people and their personalities. Each of us share qualities I see in flowers and plants: resiliency, strength, endurance, but also weakness, moodiness, temper tantrums, falling apart at the slightest thing.

So I like to read the moods and changes of each plant during each season. Like them, some of us survive longer, withstand more, while others are not able to weather storms and fall apart and die. June is a great month for living. Everything in the garden thrives and grows. It’s a positive month. I like to linger in June, before the heatwaves of July and August arrive. The extra care needed for the garden to survive: watering often, constant weeding, too, happens in summer. Each month has its own requirements but for now, I will only think of the ease of June.

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