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NOTES from TORONTO

January 2020

One of my worries about coming back to Toronto from Leamington was that the charm of the city of Toronto would not allow me to go back to the quiet farming town. Toronto is a bustling multicultural metropolis with a big and small town charm. A large agricultural community lives in the region of Prince Edward County. Picton is one those Ontario towns meant to meander. Kingston, a historic city and Canada’s original capital is one hour away.  Niagara Falls, a town also one hour away is grand, brazen and chintzy. Niagara-On-the-lake is charming elegant and tasteful and boasts its annual Shaw Theatre festival. All around Toronto, the area is known and famous for its wineries and vineyards, milk and dairy farms, cattle and cow farms, beaches, forests and cycling/walking trails. Surrounded by exquisitely gentrified heritage homes, gardens and art museums, Toronto is a charming city with a bit of rural, a bit of urban and a whole lot of medieval charm, rich in history and with an abundance of inclusiveness. Its plants are diverse, its beaches are diverse, its lakes and ponds are diverse, its history is diverse, its weather and climate are diverse, from cruel winters, to kind springs, to caring summers and beautiful falls. And best of all – its people are diverse. Art and Alcohol, restaurants and bars, museums and gardens, forests and hills, lakes and ponds, all seem to live harmoniously in this city, co-exiting peacefully.  Another way for a City to be….

The quiet often fascinates me here on the far fading green edge of the city. The green is all gone, and trees are bare, at this time of the year. This is so different from the farming community of Leamington, Ontario, where farm machinery, farm trucks and speeding cars on their way to the US cut sharply through a bigger emptiness. At night after sunset, at the edge of the city, the silence is like a thick blanket, a few sounds still slice through, some of them urban, some of them haunting. The horn of the Canadian Railway locomotive wails and weaves around homes that stay along its track and to homes that continue far beyond the rail track. In summer, woodland caribou deer and moose appear and gather in groups and bark incantations into the night like an accompanying melody to the moving train sounds. All of this makes the wooded area on the edge of the city seem deeper than it is. A groundhog snuffled outside my bedroom window for many nights creating a noise that resembled the sounds you hear at the edge of the city. A few nights I decided to leave my back door open and slightly ajar. The groundhogs started to come in and help themselves to the food left for Paddle, my neighbour’s cat. Paddle is not going to like this, I thought. And one night, I arrived home from the bar where my friend Jan and Jack were hanging out, I saw a bunch of groundhogs sleeping near the kitchen sink. I was making coffee and I realized that sharing my home with these lovely animals was not a bad thing to do. I assembled some food and placed it in a bowl as a midnight snack for the groundhogs. Although I was surprised that the hedgehogs decided to habituate with humans, it was more interesting to see how these animals responded to some tender loving care – I guess this is just Another Way to Be Human.

We went to see a ravine in the middle of the city and nearby the ravine there was a cemetery. The cemetery is wild and beautiful with cherry blossom trees all over. When they bloom, the whites add to the paleness of death lurking all around. It was built in the 1700’s with corpses overflowing to the extent that body parts were often pushed back above the surface. We saw many rabbits and a lone ginger-haired boy. I noticed a cloth cap that had been left hanging on one of the graves. A church sits nearby the cemetery. In the 1700s, people were worried that overflowing was affecting the water supply, since most church pumps were located next to cemeteries. The water from the church was always described by the priest as the pure essence of churchyard. I wonder if this was so, back then. The water is no longer pumped up by the church – it is now piped in, by the city. Nothing to worry about now.

It’s a quiet and mild city at the edge, noisy, busy, and buzzing at the downtown core, although I perhaps didn’t realise how so diametrically opposite the edge and the core are. I like the edge more and my wife likes the core. The edge has woods, forests and ravines, peace and joy as the flora blooms, turns orange and then fades and falls. It is a theatre out there with changing scenarios. The city at the downtown core is like a large inquisitive dog through an event, with a blaring radio attached to the dog’s collar. “I am charmed by this dog’s enthusiasm but why don’t its owners turn the radio down?” What I didn’t realise was that the radio didn’t have a volume switch, just one marked “ON” and another marked “OFF”. So you see the city never sleeps at the core and can’t be switched off. It’s permanently on 24-7. The radio on the dog is never turned down and the city can’t be turned off. So the buzz is all day, all night. A city that never sleeps. I like the peace and joy more. It brings out the inner self, quiet is good. When one turns off the outside, the inside lights up and you discover new inner friends you never knew existed. I would be a different writer and a different person, if I had never moved into Toronto. Many years in the Toronto city gave me a whole different set of colors to work with. I can’t imagine living in any other city and where or who I would be without this city. I notice the ravines, the 1800s architecture, and the steel and modern glittering towers staring at each other, each with a pride and each with its own glory. The good part is they co-exist meaningfully and purposefully. I notice the woods and forests around the edge of the city as much as sky scrapping towers at the core. I notice the ancient churches that sit amongst all of this, very peacefully and very proudly. I notice the church silently but strongly saying or implying, we are in the community, we are ancient but relevant. We are different but we make a difference. It is this magic charm of the city that sings out a tune from the 80’s and maybe from the 1800’s along with tunes from 2020 and maybe beyond. The strong bonds of yesterday and today heralding the tomorrow is what makes this city so lovable. Another way to see this.  We are Torono, the 6ix or the big T.

I’d forgotten that people place more importance on cars in some parts of the city than where I was living before. Some of them view them not as an extension of their personality as the personality itself. Body and engine size are tied in with who they believe they are or who they want to be. Some of them rev their engines and race you at the lights, never suspecting that you never signed up for the car race. They make a risky move with no signalling, to gain one position in the que and will race you to the next stop light. At times I wonder what prize awaits them at the end of the journey. My car is willing, but doesn’t join in and probably never will. This is also part of the city, the young need to live too and I say why not let them have a bit of fun, this is their city as much as mine. And I love the thought of this that we can share the road, you at 100 and me at 60, that’s okay, they are two different realities and both exist and co-exist. It’s the denial of one and the allowing of another that creates the dissonance. While you play the drums, let me play my flute and let the city enjoy both of us.

My new non-fiction book –   “A Higher Conversation” is in the pre-print mode, getting ready to be published.

I am also writing another book- a Sci-Fi fiction. Check out my book cover on my website and read a sneak preview……