Cherry Blossom Time at the Aga Khan Park

It’s not a cherry blossom competition but just across the street from the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre you can also enjoy visiting the extensive grounds of the Aga Khan Park in Don Mills, Toronto,  where more cherry trees abound. It’s now almost the end of May and the cherry blossoms are long gone and replaced by green leaves. But you can still enjoy seeing them in these photos.

I am looking forward to visiting the Aga Khan Museum once it opens again.

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Cherry Blossom Time at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre

Visiting gardens and parks that have cherry trees is a popular thing in Toronto and, during cherry blossom time, normally in the month of April, people enjoy their ephemeral beauty. These photographs were taken in April while visiting the grounds of the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre.

Even the parking lot has cherry trees so you can just stay in your car and enjoy them! 

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Dying in this Time of Pandemic Living

The virus finally came to my family after fourteen months of our pandemic living. All the social distancing, mask wearing, hand sanitizing, avoidance of gatherings, all of it, turned out to have no power to protect and keep us all safe until this plague comes to its inevitable end.

The dreaded virus, whose scientific name I refuse to write down here, fooling myself that I can give it less power by not naming it, took away one of my family members, only after a few weeks of ICU and all the attempts of hospital staff to save his life.

The cruelest part of this pandemic is not only the lives it has, and continues to take, but it’s also how it’s taken away our human social life: it’s destroyed all our rituals around grief and our ability to come together as family and friends to be with each other at the most vulnerable time of loss.

We said our goodbyes on Zoom; we visited the funeral home in carefully selected small numbers, unable to offer an embrace to our dear cousin who lost her husband, as she and her son sat roped-off, and we, her cousins and friends, could only gesture our grief from afar; we watched the funeral Mass on live stream and couldn’t be there for the interment. We live in the same city but we might as well have been living across an ocean.

All of this is a sadness that will forever have changed us.

We all die. This I do accept and am at peace with. It’s our human condition: we are born and we eventually die.

But dying because of this virus, or even just dying during this time, is a wretched thing because we have also had our collective humanity taken away. We must grieve alone. Grief is ultimately a private experience and we can’t take away the pain of loss felt by those who grieve, but our normal attempts to offer comfort and support to the bereaved have also been taken away and we grieve in ways that don’t offer healing to the wounded heart.

I know that we must not give in to despair and remain forever devastated by grief and loss. After a time of feeling that your world has ended and changed forever, human experience shows us that we do go on, that we rebuild a life for ourselves without our loved one, but right now it’s a time of grief for my family, and we need to be with our loss.

There’s an absence now of someone loved, whose time perhaps came at the wrong time, and whose smile we won’t see again except in memory.

I hope this pandemic ends soon but the damage it has done will always stay with us, with all of us around the world who, in one way or another, are touched by it.

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Slowly, Spring Comes Again to Rosetta McClain Gardens

A welcoming forsythia bush cheers up the walk along the path

It’s almost the end of April and we are still waiting for warm weather. However, it’s typical of this month to be cold and wet (with the occasional snow). So while we wait for the sunny days ahead, here’s some photographs of the coming of spring to Rosetta.

New photos added after a morning walk on April 30

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Magnolia Stellata

Royal Star Magnolia, Magnolia Stellata

Rosetta McClain Gardens, a place I like to showcase on my blog from time to time is, as far as public gardens go, a modest place. It has no showy or spectacular plants and flowers. Yet what is there, delights the eye with simple beauty. Like the small magnolia tree, a Magnolia Stellata, also known as Royal Star Magnolia, native to Japan, which lives close to the edge of the garden near the bluffs with views of Lake Ontario.

Every year, I like to go see it unfold in early spring.  Last week it was doing well and I photographed the beauty of its new flowers. A few days later, we had a heavy snowfall which smothered the delicate white blooms.  The day after, the snow melted, and I went back to see if it survived unscathed. Unfortunately, it did not. Yet, there remains a gentle beauty to these weather-beaten flowers that painfully reminds me of the fragility of life. They are still clinging to the branches, not willing to let go just yet, wanting to stay for as long as they can, even if bruised.

Such resiliency encourages me to do likewise, and carry on during these difficult times.

Before the snowstorm

During the snowstorm

 Survival

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The Last Snow Visit to My Garden

A little bit of snow lingering on my forsythia

Looking now at the photographs I took of my garden the day snow came to visit on April 21, I am reminded again of those wise words of Ecclesiastes. You know, the ubiquitous and overused “There is a time…” Well, as much as I marvel at the sight of snow, I really don’t want to see it now. Not until it returns in its proper season of winter. There is a time, indeed, for everything, but it’s also wise to know when to let go of something. The garden constantly reminds me that it’s as metaphor for life.

Growing up in the Azores, snow was not even part of my geographical world nor did I have fantasies about it. It wasn’t until I came to Canada that snow imprinted itself on me as something that would forever alter my consciousness and relationship to the physical world and the transition of seasons.

Had I never come to live in Toronto, I would have never known snow as anything more than images from faraway places.  But I’m glad my parents brought me here. Snow became associated with all the complex feelings and adventure of arrival in a new land, a land I call home.

I am now looking forward to spring.

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April Snow Comes to Rosetta McClain Gardens

I know that it’s April 21, and just yesterday I was working in my garden, but it’s not unusual to have late-April snow make an appearance before spring really takes over from winter. I woke up this morning to a beautiful snowfall in Toronto. We were expecting it. My first thought was to go out and take a walk to see it at Rosetta McClain Gardens.  Here’s how it looked this morning.

By now, as I write this, the sun is back and the snow is melting.  Such is the ephemerality of the weather. As much as I find this kind of spontaneous outburst of nature’s whimsy delightful, I hope this will be my last post of snow for a while.

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When Spring Comes to My Toronto Garden

Spring comes slowly to Toronto. All the plants in my garden are waiting for warmer weather before they make their debut but these brave ones have decided to come up.

 

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While Waiting for Spring…Some Photos of São Miguel, Azores

São Miguel, Azores

It’s already the middle of March, but there’s still patches of snow in my garden. Spring tends to come late to Toronto. So, for now, here’s some photographs from trips of years past that make me long for the green of São Miguel.

O mar dos Açores

Standing by gates wondering what’s on the other side.

I can still hear the hypnotic sound of these cows munching on dewy ocean-salted grass.

Stones blending with the green life.

Planalto dos Graminhais

Plant Life

Homes in a past life.

 

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Coming to Canada 53rd Anniversary

February 4th marks the 53rd anniversary of leaving my home in São Miguel, Azores for Toronto, Canada. Fifty-three years in the life of a sixty-two-year-old means that the balance of time is weighed heavily on the side of Toronto with only a few years of life in the city of Ponta Delgada.

Yet, it’s the balance of my younger life that in some ways weighs the most. I have already written enough about my inner journey of discovery and self-exploration; what it means for me to be someone who came from an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean to settle by the shores of Lake Ontario.  The parallel between these two landscapes has continued to be a geographical mirror reflecting where I came from with where I live.

In 2008, I wrote Coming to Canada to celebrate my 40th anniversary with the intent of sharing my journey of immigration with my family and especially the younger generation; namely, my nieces (and later my nephews) and my cousins’ children all of whom were born in Canada. They were not immigrants but instead first-generation Portuguese Canadians.

I think all children’s stories of their immigration experience are important and I wish more people told their stories so that our collective diasporic memory gets documented and shared. I have said it often, but I’ll repeat it now on this anniversary date: Coming to Canada was the best thing my parents could have done for all of us.

Still, I miss my visits to São Miguel but I hope to return when the world health situation allows. Visiting the Azores is a gentle reunion with a place I love which still has the familiarity of home and yet is not home anymore.

I already posted Coming to Canada on my blog years ago, but here it is again, for anyone who is interested in reading it:

Part 1: My Azorean Childhood

Part 2: Leaving for Toronto

Part 3: Arriving in Toronto

Part 4: To the Azores and Back!

Where the road goes, I go…

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