Tag Archives: conferences

Downtown from the Brickworks

2015 – Montreal, the Rideau, Stratford and more

Highlights of Our Year

In a year when I’ve been forced by a concussion (Easter Saturday; uneven pavements, a pitch into the metal door of the change room by the ice rink at Kew Gardens – not quite a hockey story) to avoid spending time at the computer, blogging has had to be largely shelved. Life has needed to be lived at a gentler pace and within tighter boundaries. At times, I’ll admit, this has felt constraining, frustrating even. But it has also been a powerful exercise in finding joy and fulfillment in small things, in the everyday; and 2015 has not been without its explorations and adventures.

Trilliums – Ontario’s Provincial Flower

Spring in Toronto is a case of ‘blink and you miss it’. This year I was able to live in intimate relationship with its unfurling, taking joy in the sunshine on my face and each new bud and bloom.


We were already committed to a trip to Montreal for Canada Day and WordCamp at the beginning of July. We spent five days enjoying wonderful food (especially at Toqué) and a necessarily gentle exploration of the old city (lovely, though we had to take refuge from a downpour in Notre Dame Basilica), Mont Royal, Le Musée des Beaux Arts, the Olympic stadium, the Botanical gardens and Biodome (Space for Life), and more. It was a little galling to be in town for the Jazz Festival and not to be able to more than cast a glance in its direction – just half an hour passing through the Place des Arts was almost more than I could cope with. Another year! One delightful discovery was ‘Dragon’s Beard Candy’ in Chinatown, a confection of sugar threads, peanuts, sesame and coconut, reputedly once made only for the emperors of China.

Photos of Montreal (Google Album) and Montreal, a Google Story


Thankfully we had already made the decision that we needed ‘cottage time’ this summer, opting for a tiny cottage right on the water at Newboro in the Rideau Lakes, about an hour north of Kingston.

Waking, watching through our bedroom window a heron on our dock; lazing in a hammock strung between trees; easing into the water to paddle amongst innumerable islands, idly observing fish and frogs, osprey and loons, cottages and cabins; a fabulous country market in a C19th schoolhouse – fresh-from-the-field corn, dripping with butter; canals, locks and mill-houses, then wild, rocky vistas; and always water to catch and transform the ever-changing light. Is it any wonder that this is more or less the area in which we hope to make our home?
Photos of our ‘Summer on the Rideau’ (Google Album)


The one post I did manage to write reflected a magical wilderness weekend at Wintergreen – a truly joyous experience. (See also Wintergreen Studios – a piece of heaven at the edge of wilderness – a Google Story for more photos!)


For Paul’s birthday, we chose theatre at Stratford (Ontario). Considered comparable with the London or Broadway stage, Stratford Festival encompasses four distinct stages  and many different styles.  We saw ‘Possible Worlds’, partially performed in a pool of water (odd but effective), an absorbing rumination on alternate dimensions and social constructs. On Sunday, after luxuriating at Elm Hurst Spa, we abandoned wet waterfall walking in favour of a cream tea!


Thanksgiving saw a glorious combination of early colour and unseasonable summer temperatures (75 F/ 24C); not wanting to travel too far, we basked in the golden glow at Toronto Zoo, which is set in rolling parkland. Focused as I was on giving thanks, I was particularly wonder-struck by the rich diversity of animal life.
Photos of Thanksgiving at Toronto Zoo (Google Album)

Gina & Paul at Toronto Zoo, Thanksgiving
Gina & Paul at Toronto Zoo, Thanksgiving


Fall continued mild, with particularly rich tones, sunny days – even a mild, dry night for Halloween! We had a fine dusting of snow in November, but, so far, December has continued balmy, though we continue in the belief that winter will come . . .

2015 has undoubtedly been challenging. But, despite this, looking back I am grateful for the riches of these and other experiences and the new gifts of insight it has brought. Roll on 2016!

(You can click on any photo on the page to see it at a larger size, and flip through all the others in the same gallery too!)


Passionate aging.

(CARP Conference 2)

Passion is a word I hear often in Canada. It was genuinely awe inspiring to feel an un-abating  wave of passion from speakers in their 60s and 70s as they talked about their lives and work.
Tod Machover
Image via Wikipedia
Tod Machover projects the energy of a much younger man. ‘Wired composer’ that he is, his most recent opera, Death and the Powers, addresses issues of mortality amid an animated stage, musical chandelier and a chorus of robots.
He has also made the composition and scoring of music accessible as never before  with his Hyperscore, encouraging a deeply creative and exciting relationship with music. Seeing a young man, Dan Ellesy, who is profoundly affected by cerebral palsy, performing his own music on stage using this software moved me to tears. (I would urge you to catch this performance as part of a TED Talk by Tod Machover – it is at around 13 minutes into the talk, all of which is fascinating!)
This links into another area of Tod’s work, Music, Mind and Health, a project in partnership with MIT that is exploring and developing musical activities to measure and respond to a variety of medical conditions and enhance lifelong mental and physical acuity.
Similarly, Charles Pachter, one of Canada’s leading contemporary artists, seems possessed of a youthful irreverence and zest. The whole audience sat enthralled as he significantly over-ran his time slot with a presentation of his life (so far) in images. Many of his paintings are dominated by the moose, the queen of the north, which in childhood became inter-twined with the confusing existence of a Queen with dominion over Canada but who does not live here. Nearing 70, this witty, challenging man shows no signs of renouncing this strand of irreverence or of stopping questioning the social order.
I have, as yet, little knowledge of Canadian actors – we do not watch much television and have as yet to fully embrace the wonderfully rich theatre culture here. If Eric Peterson’s virtuoso performance as Crankius Farticus (his own term for himself) is anything to go by, we have much to look forward to! I was snorting with laughter at his pitch of a TV series based around a Zoomer superhero. (For those who don’t know, a Zoomer is a ‘Boomer with zip’, a term that people seem either to love or loathe!)
William Friedman offered a rather different awareness. This intelligent, thoughtful lawyer found the need in his fifties to reshape aspects of his life. Perhaps surprisingly, this took the form of competitive bodybuilding and led to his son Bryan’s film, The Bodybuilder and I (Best Canadian Feature Documentary 2007). The transformation of his body (and, believe me, there are few men of 60 plus who can boast abs like his!) seems also to have re-shaped his relationships and sense of himself . The film was at one stage described to him as being about how much his son hated him –  and has led to the odd  inappropriate smile from a judge unable to banish the image of the bodybuilder in posing pouch. I have to admit to some difficulty reconciling the reflective speaker with the polished poser, yet the fundamental message of continuing to embrace life and self-exploration with passion and in whatever way is right for you was inescapably positive and valid.

The decline of the male and rise of the female

This is a brief compilation of some of the ideas from the first day of ideaCity 2010 around the changing place of men and women in our culture, from a number of different viewpoints.

Continue reading The decline of the male and rise of the female

Idea City 2010

IdeaCity is an awesome three day event, bringing together an assortment of thinkers and entertainers from the broadest spectrum of backgrounds imaginable.

I’m not sure I’ll every afford to be there as an attendee (door price was $4000 this year), but I grabbed the opportunity to volunteer this year. I was fortunate enough to be put on ‘usher’ duty on the afternoon/evening shift. This meant that I got myself in for the morning sessions each day (8:45) as a member of the audience. Then, from 1:30 until anywhere between 8 and 9pm, I was on duty but able to give at least part of my attention to the stage. Each night, there was then a party, which was open to volunteers as well as to attendees and speakers.