Category Archives: Being Immigrants

Pinch me . . .

I suppose it is a bit like the early stages of a love affair.  Even after 21 months in Canada, I seem still to experience so many ‘pinch me’ moments!

In the city, often they come in response to the rich cultural mix . . .

A recent evening with friends Luc and Yuri at the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario); Abstract Expressionist New York (much familiar, smattered with new discoveries, curated inspirationally); modern Inuit art (how I wanted to be able to run my hands over the carvings!); and the sung response of a First Nations open throat singer to Henry Moore (truly awesome and deeply moving) as part of the Juno Tour of Canadian Art; Luc and Paul chasing each other round the angular display cases, taking strangely distorted portraits refracted by the prismatic points of connection; then Dim Sum in China Town – truly a feast for heart, body and soul!

Our second Beaches Jazz Festival – I’m still blown away by the accessibility of so much wonderful and varied music freely available; by teenagers having a ball jumping around to the music that may date back more than half a century and by those who have lived more than half a century soaking up the new musical permutations offered up by young musicians; by small children utterly confident and safe amid the crowd; by a magical rock violinist, Dr Draw, who, I swear, channels the passion of Paganini; by this sensational street party that sums up summer in the city Toronto style; by dancing to a stomping version of Dancing in the Street on Queen Street.

When we can tear ourselves away from the revelry, there are quieter moments of awe. . .

Brilliant March sunshine belying the icy chill as we climb sand dunes in Prince Edward County – the curious juxtaposition of sun, sand and the ice sculptures that jewel the shore.
        Ice Alligator?
Clambering from our kayaks as the sun sinks past the horizon on Georgian Bay, having been dive bombed by Terns (anticipated, not scary) on a protrusion of the Canadian Shield that serves as a nesting colony for terns and a swimming stop for paddlers. On this occasion, these included a dog kitted out in his own PFD (Personal Flotation Device) who decided to join Paul in his kayak whilst his mistress swam in deep water.


A few days ago, at the start of a much needed break; the glassy calm of the sunny evening that follows a storm, out on the Rideau just above Kingston; jewelled fairies filling the air around our canoe (palest to midnight blue, rich red, fluorescent green) and swallowtails – and still, still water reflecting a light show up onto the green canopy above; returning to the dock, we are welcomed by a fat, furry water rat (but not a beaver!)

Now we are holed up in a rustic cottage in Quebec; 30 minutes or so north of Ottawa, yet, once you are off the major roads, very ‘backwoods’. There is nothing to do but sit and read on the dock and soak up the sunshine, rocked by the wake of passing boats and lulled by the occasional eerie call of the Loon or the honk of Canada geese as they rise.  Once in a while we venture off the end of the dock into the deep, clear (and surprisingly warm) water of Lac St Pierre or onto it in kayak or rowboat. The Canadian Cottage experience definitely has much the same capacity as the less developed Greek islands for recharging the body and soothing the soul!

I feel so very privileged to have been given this opportunity to re-connect with life through a lens of newness and immediacy. I hope I continue to say ‘pinch me’ for many years to come!


(Written when in Quebec, 1st week of August 2011)

Ode to Winter

I love winter!

It seems to amuse people no end that I go in to work on a day like today exclaiming at what a beautiful day it is; -18, with wind-chill taking it to more like –25, but gloriously bright and sunny. What’s the problem, as long as you dress for it? There is something extraordinarily comforting and, in a strange way, sensual about downy coats and soft-furred hats.

Toronto Winter 2011 (29 of 35) Ice blue Toronto Winter 2011 (34 of 35) Swan and harbour ice Toronto Winter 2011 (30 of 35) Toronto harbour

I love the brightness of snow-light – Paul looked out of the window as he shut the blinds the other night and commented that, with the street and Christmas lights reflecting off the snow, it was almost as bright as a dark English day. In sunshine, it is dazzling.

I love the sharpness of the air against my face, a dry cold that invigorates and makes me feel very alive. When the temperature rises to near freezing I am reminded of the damp, English cold that I so disliked and wish for the mercury to fall again!

I love snow, in all its forms; diamond dust-devils that dance, dipping and diving and swirling; the powdered ice that skin-scours my face as the fast train speeds through the station; the feathers, floating freely, unhurriedly wafting; mesmeric mosquito motes that float on seemingly still air; crystalline glitter, dusting the days with magic.

Whether it swirls or hangs on the air, there is a meditative quality about falling snow that combines with the other-worldliness of the light and the deadening of sound to create something mystical – if you stop long enough to notice it.

Snow has its own special sounds, too; I knew it could crunch, perhaps even that it might creak as it slid from a roof, but I didn’t know that sometimes it squeaks scrunchily underfoot. And then there’s the inimitable sound of  skates shearing ice . . .

As we enter February, I am anticipating with some sense of loss the closure of the outdoor rinks at the end of the month. My evening walk from the station has already shifted from darkness to light. There is a part of me that wants to hold onto winter (better keep that to myself!), whilst another part of me awaits the new excitement of spring planting, the langourous beach-days of high summer, the richly painted landscapes of fall . . .

Beaches Winter 2011 (20 of 21) Glen Stewart Ravine - 5 minutes walk from where we live Toronto Winter 2011 (19 of 35) Toronto from the west Toronto Winter 2011 (1 of 35) Looking out from our house at snow-forts in the park

And then it will be winter again.

(For more photos of Toronto in winter, see our Winter gallery – the best way to view these is to click into an image and then find the arrow at the right-hand side that allows you to proceed through the collection. Currently we are having problems re-setting the thumbnails!)

Recent highlights and milestones

What a wonderful roller-coaster ride! New experiences come thick and fast and I often don’t get around to blogging – the living is more important! So hear is a summary of recent  highlights:

  • Nuit Blanche – an amazing Toronto-wide all-night street party based around weird and wonderful happenings (see my other blog, Passage to Joy, for our impressions).
Nuit Blanche - Smile
Nuit Blanche - Smile
  • Our first Thanksgiving – we were very busy working on our garden and deck, but still managed to celebrate with a walk amidst the fall foliage (very much part of the custom here) and the traditional turkey (sweet potatoes with maple syrup, topped with candied pecans will definitely be adopted for future years), followed by pumpkin pie (we prefer butter tarts, another Canadian sweet treat). In Canada, Thanksgiving is earlier than in the US (beginning of October) and relates very closely to harvest festival.

Back garden Landscaping - the framework for a back garden for next year Back garden Landscaping - the framework for a back garden for next year - Paul did a fantastic job with the deck and arbor entrance way!

  • Our ‘Canniversary’ – one whole year in Canada (and only two more before we can apply to become citizens). We celebrated with a party for over 30 of our friends. Even though it was October, we were able to sit outside on our newly completed deck and begin to have a sense of our back yard as the garden it will become.
  • Halloween Canadian style – although we were here last year, we were still in B&B accommodation and didn’t really experience Halloween. Ours is a young neighbourhood, so it swarmed with small and not so small people in strange costumes, not all of them scary (a football field stands out!).  We hung out with our neighbours at the front of our house, enjoying the spectacle and dispensing candy (ours ran out way too soon – we’ll know better next year, though one young friend spent $120 and still didn’t have enough!). Joining in the spirit, Paul fashioned an expert Jack O’Lantern whilst I delved into the traditions of Samhain to create an incarnation of the blue faced crone for our door.

Blue-faced Crone Halloween 2010 - based on Samhain traditions, I created the mask to represent one manifestation of the crone connected to cutting away those things you no longer need. Blue-faced Crone Halloween 2010 - based on Samhain traditions, I created the mask to represent one manifestation of the crone connected to cutting away those things you no longer need. Jack O'Lantern Halloween 2010 - Jack O'Lantern

  • CARP (Canadian Association of Retired Persons) Conference & Zoomer Show – I volunteered for both of these as a way of developing links within the field of re-visioning aging (Paul joined me at the Zoomer Show). I was given the key role of presenter liaison at the Conference and a similar role on the activity stage at the conference (I will be writing these up shortly!). The events are produced by the same organization as IdeaCity and the conference in particular was similarly inspirational.
  • This week, our first frosts of this winter; the grey-green of the grass lit up by the blaze of fall trees in the hazy morning glow took my breath away!

Coming soon . . .

  • Winter – in an El Nino year, rumor has it that we may be in for a particularly cold and snowy winter. The first flurries are expected in Toronto tonight. We are very glad we had arranged for our snow-tires to go onto our car this week and are looking forward to getting our skates on . . . ! I wonder how we will feel by April?

Canada Day 2010 (1st July)

We celebrated our second Canada Day in Canada as landed immigrants yesterday! (Yes, I know we didn’t move here till October, but we were here this time last year on our prospecting visit and to go through the formal landing process). It definitely felt like a milestone.

Continue reading Canada Day 2010 (1st July)

Why Canada? (A quote from ideaCity)

Canadian novelist and cultural commentator Douglas Coupland was at a restaurant on Queen Street East a few weeks ago. He was invited to answer the question “what is the sexiest thing about Canada?”

His response was

That we have a future!

Although Canadians often seem quite critical of themselves and their country, living in Toronto I genuinely do have a very strong sense of a country with a future!