No Longer At Sea: A reader’s response to “No Longer in Translation”

I am indebted to Susan K. Riggs  for writing a reflection on my post, “No Longer in Translation,” and I am delighted to publish it in full here on my blog:

No Longer At Sea

“No Longer in Translation” is an Odyssey for the 21st century and its author is a weary traveler returning home from a voyage of self-discovery that has led him to seemingly disparate geographical and biographical “ports of call”. Appreciative readers have pondered and pontificated about these “ports” for years.

As a writer, Melo’s intriguing constellation of literary themes revolving around dissonance and isolation convey a powerful sense of humanity and understanding.  Now, however, the author is haunted by the Scylla and Charybdis of what he refers to as “emotional places I had never thought I’d visit”, places that he has constantly sought to translate from one world to another.

Now seemingly frustrated with his “journey of self-discovery”, he returns “home” to a simple acceptance of his multi-dimensional self. In this current work, he walks through the front door, lays down his burdensome baggage of endless self-assessment and proclaims that he will no longer attempt to interpret what he may believe is the “uninterpretable”.

While all this may sound pessimistic to some, it may simply represent the beginning of a new journey, one closer to home, for Melo has returned to a house of many mansions. Let us hope that his explorations of self will remain with him forever, perhaps less as a “quest” and more as a “re-deployment” as he moves from room to room in his splendid literary mansion, inhabiting unconnected (but always adjoining) and always well-appointed rooms of the self.

In the final analysis, his body of work will translate itself.

Susan K. Riggs

Jan. 8, 2020

Susan K. Riggs is a writer who teaches writing at Victoria College (University of Toronto). You can read more about her on the Victoria College Writing Centre web page and scrolling down to Writing Centre Instructors.


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Entre as brumas na Ilha de São Miguel

Planalto dos Graminhais Mountains surrounded by Azorean mist calling me home.

All photos taken during my 2017 visit to the island.

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A Farewell to Toronto’s CLRV Streetcar

CLRV (Canadian Light Rail Vehicle) streetcar

On Sunday, December 29, 2019 the Toronto Transit Commission retired its CLRV (Canadian Light Rail Vehicle) streetcars after forty-two years of service.

Enthusiasts of all things Toronto and transportation came out to experience one last ride (for free) on the old streetcars that have moved passengers around all these years. I was only twenty-one when these futurist-looking cars glided along College, Dundas, Queen, and King Streets and, as a non-car driver, I have relied on them to take me around the city.

There was something bittersweet about saying goodbye to these streetcars that have occupied space in the streets of Toronto. People have great affection for them, as testified by the number of nostalgic fans (young and old) who gathered in the rain to photograph the streetcars for the last time.

Stephen, my partner, and I went on a ride from Greenwood to Bathurst and back. It was an experience we will fondly remember, not only because it gave us a chance to ride once more but because, as we sat at the very back of the streetcar, shaped like a cozy living room, we met and talked to beautiful young people who care about our city and this mode of public transportation, forgoing the convenience of the car for the sake of the communal experience of a streetcar ride.

Today is not a day to complain about slow, street congested, frustrating experiences of getting around the city, but a day to fondly remember these vehicles that have been a part of our city’s life for forty-two years.

Original vinyl seats

Commemorative streetcar paper model

View of Queen Street West through rain streaked streetcar windows 

Waiting for the streetcar in the rain

Queen and Spadina (southeast corner) photo taken from streetcar

Photo of original painted streetcar taken from the back of a graffiti streetcar 

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Les Santons de Charlevoix

Les Santons de Charlevoix

Many years ago, while travelling through the Province of Quebec’s Charlevoix region, I came upon a wonderful shop nestled in the small town of St. Joseph de la Rive, called Les Santons de Charlevoix, where they make beautiful Nativity scene figurines.

Also known as crèches throughout the world since the 18th century, the tradition goes back to 1223 at Greccio, Italy, and is attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi. The display of Jesus lying in a Manger, with Mary and Joseph on either side; the donkey and the cow; the three wise kings and shepherds with their sheep, are the essential figurines that make up a crèche but most Nativity scenes also include an accompanying display of houses and vignettes of village life. One of the most beautiful is the Neapolitan crèche yearly displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Crèches can be displayed at home but also in churches during Advent in many parts of the world where Christmas is celebrated. St. James Cathedral, in Toronto, for example, has a seasonal display of crèches from around the world.  In its 20th year, this year’s display includes crèches from Estonia, Finland, Russia, China, Thailand, India, and many other countries.

When I visited Les Santons de Charlevoix I could not resist buying a Crèche Québécois. I display it from the first week of Advent until Epiphany – often referred to as The Feast of the Three Kings – celebrated 12 days after Christmas. I add my Portuguese crèche figurines of clay to the mix and take great delight in combining a French-Canadian tradition with that of my Portuguese heritage.

In a small fishing village, Pugwash, in Nova Scotia, the Seagull Pewter company, makes beautifully handcrafted Nativities out of pewter. My partner, Stephen, who collects pewter, has one of their exquisitely beautiful Nativity Tryptic which he purchased over three years with money his Grandma would give him for Christmas. It is one of his prized possessions, as this crèche is a tangible link to the memory of a grandmother he adored.

Of all the symbols and ornamentation of Christmas, it is the crèche, or presépio in Portuguese, that brings me the most comfort as I remember Christmases of the past.

Feliz Natal!

Les Santons de Charlevoix shop display

Les Santons de Charlevoix shop display

My Crèche Québécois with Azorean figurines on either side

Christmas card, Silhouette Nativity 2019

The Nativity : Watercolours by Borje Svensson, adapted from the eighteenth-century Neapolitan Christmas crèche at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. A three-dimensional pop-up book published by Kestrel Books, London, 1981

Christmas card, pop-up three-dimensional crèche, 2019

Seagull Pewter Nativity: In memory of Grace McLean

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A Baltic Journey: Sweden


Malmö, Sweden

While the Queen Elizabeth docked in Denmark, we decided to go into Sweden for a short visit. I felt guilty, riding on the bus that took us away from beautiful Copenhagen, especially when our bus tour guide pointed out Queen Margrethe II of Denmark exiting a black limousine for the official opening of the Danish Parliament. We should have visited longer in this magnificent city.

But ultimately it was worthwhile to cross the long Øresund Bridge  from Copenhagen to the lovely Swedish city of Malmö. We also visited the magnificent Lund Cathedral where we watched the astronomical clock (The Horologium mirabile Lundense) come alive at 3 o’clock with medieval figures rotating from inside the clock while the organ played Good Christian Men Rejoice.  It was pure magic to experience this fifteenth-century clock!

Our Baltic Journey came to an end in Denmark. The following two days were spent at sea on the way back to Southampton, followed by the flight home to Toronto.

What I brought back with me, more than the lasting good memories of the places I visited, was a new understanding of the meaning of “home” and “belonging.”  Yes, Toronto is my home, above all. Yes, the Azores call to me often enough and when I am there, I also feel a strong connection to the land and the sea. Yes, I feel it, too, when I am in mainland Portugal, but I have also had strong feelings of belonging in other places in the world, especially when I see a hint of something familiar: the landscape of Estonia reminded me of Northern Ontario trees and lakes; the predominantly yellow architecture of St. Petersburg reminded me of Lisbon; and the cobblestones of Tallinn and Malmö reminded me of Ponta Delgada.

The grace and wonder of travelling is that we can find a sense of belonging wherever we go, even when we are far from the place we most identify as home.

Bronze Sculpture water fountain in front of Town Hall, Malmö: details

Sankt Petri Kyrka (St. Peter’s Church), Malmö

Optimistorkestern (Optimist Orchestra) marching band led by a drum majorette is public art at its most whimsical.

Cobblestone: Malmö or Ponta Delgada?

Town Square, Malmö

Lund University grounds with Cathedral Towers in the background

Lund University

Lund Cathedral

Skyddsmantelmadonnanl, sculpture by Lena Lervik 2015

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A Baltic Journey: Denmark

Copenhagen, Denmark

What I remember most fondly about Copenhagen is the rushing sound of hundreds of bicycles going by in the streets. The exhilarating feeling of being part of a vibrant city was never as intense as I walked the streets of Copenhagen.

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A Baltic Journey: Latvia

Riga, Latvia

Riga is a beautiful city to visit. We managed to enjoy a guided tour of its abundant Art Nouveau architecture, which graces many of its streets like an outdoor museum (a comparison I read about in a Portuguese edition of a guidebook I bought in Riga, entitled, Riga: Arte Nova).

Vanšu Bridge (Vanšu tilts), Daugava river

Art Nouveau architecture

Freedom Monument (Brīvības piemineklis)

Cat House

Memorial to Latvian Rifflemen (Latviešu strēlnieku piemineklis)

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