I seem often to hear people questioning the attraction of Nuit Blanche.
For me there are two main strands.
One is a kind of sensory re-awakening. Each year there are many weird and wonderful happenings and just one or two pieces that really engage me at a deeper level, staying with me. But the overall impact heightens my experience of the everyday – leaves in water, light and shadow penetrating our home courtesy of a street light as we open the front door to a darkened room. It reminds me to see, to hear, to notice.
The other is the incredible openness of the crowd – a glorious diversity united in an ability to connect with childlike delight.
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).
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.
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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.
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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?
Although we still have the most glorious mild, sunny days, the winter festivals have begun! Our highlights this week have included:
A highly intellectual Meetup for Paul at Ryerson University about the Semantic Web (no, I’m not entirely sure I understand what this means!) [Tuesday]
For me, a free concert by the Canadian Children’s Opera Company at the Four Seasons Centre, home of the Canadian Opera Company. This encompassed winter and Christmas music in at least half a dozen languages across a wide spectrum of styles sung by children of all races. The auditorium used for the free concert series has a wall of glass, with views out across the city. I particularly loved a Huron Carol, sung in English, French and Huron, as well as a poem written by a member of the company and read by a professional actor. This was entitled Celebration and reflected a celebration of Christmas that crosses cultural and religious boundaries – the writer was Jewish. A lovely start to the season, and very moving. [Wednesday]
The free public opening (with nibbles & atmosphere!) of the latest exhibition at the Harbourfront Centre. The two exhibitions I have now seen here have both expanded my sense of what it is to be Canadian and challenged my perceptions in so many stimulating ways! This exhibition was playful at the same time as psychologically and intellectually challenging, particularly Hinterlands, which resonated very personally with an acknowledgement over the last week of a disorientating lack of grounding or clear boundaries inevitable in the hinterland that follows immigration. [Friday]
“If I am on the periphery, then where is the centre? . . .Otherness becomes a kind of wilderness that can’t be entirely mapped or understood. So the question becomes one of negotiating this distance, acknowledging separateness regardless of location. The idea of a center or margin is one of belonging, rooted in a notion of place.” (Sky Glabush)
Illuminite, part of the City of Toronto’s Winter Magic festival, held in neon-bright Dundas Square – I couldn’t help feeling that this was a very pagan winter fire ritual! (The video-clip below very roughly crashes together a few of the highlights) [Saturday]
The 105th Annual Santa Claus Parade – Since 1905, the Toronto Santa Claus parade has made its way through the streets of downtown Toronto. Today, The Santa Claus Parade is the longest running children’s parade in the world and one of the largest. After a free breakfast in Dundas square, we took up position on the parade route just opposite the Royal Ontario Museum, where the parade turns south from Bloor – an excellent vantage point. A tartan clad pipe band makes a sudden switch from a traditional Scottish air to a manic Mexican free for all and back to a highland fling; a shower of candy canes; children with saucer eyes; cheerleaders and clowns; fantasy floats; and finally, the big man himself, flanked by the first Mounties we have seen! [Sunday] – as well as the small selection below, there are more photos in the Events gallery!
All this alongside measuring up and planning for our new home, researching our furnishing needs and buying a bed and bedside tables, a sofa, the smaller kitchen appliances, and the seemingly endless tail of settling our UK affairs!