Portraits of Trees

What more to say? A gallery of tree portraits taken mostly in Japan (a few from Kingston, Ontario). All of these pictures were taken with an Olympus: either e-p1, e-p3, or e-p5 (what can I say? I like the Olympus Pen cameras!), with a Lumix 20mm, or m.Zuiko 25 or 45, all prime natch…

Niagara Falls-6

Niagara Falls, from the Canadian side

A classic bit of slapstick from Abbott and Costello…

Until recently at least, three places stand out in Canada for Japanese visitors: Banff, Niagara Falls, and PEI (Anne of Green Gables still carries weight here). Last summer I took R. to Banff; this summer we made it to Niagara Falls. Read the rest of this entry »


Georgian Bay Odyssey

Kayaking the timeless “sweetwater sea”

Around me a pod of kayakers lies beached in their sleeping bags as the drama of moon and stars and clouds plays out overhead, and I wonder what this ever-changing weather has in store for us. Part-way into a week-long trip hopping among Georgian Bay’s 30000 islands, lying on an exposed piece of pink granite, water to the horizon in front and behind, I can’t for the life of me think what day it is.

Kayaks carry us into a world measured in geologic time as we pass rocks older than dinosaurs. We wake with the sun and linger over breakfast. When the wind whistles in the trees or lightning flashes along the waterlogged horizon, we dash for shore and squat on our life jackets. When the sun shines, we play in the water like kevlar-skin seals.

We invented time to describe experience. Everything has a beginning, a middle, and an end. In class, my students read Robert Frost’s poem “Nature’s First Green Is Gold” as an allegory of the seasons as stages in life: spring is childhood, the shortest and best. Summer and autumn follow, and all too soon so do the short, dark days of winter.

We measure everything this way: holidays, careers, relationships, lifespans. This sense of inevitability makes it hard to get older, with summer over just as we start to enjoy it. All we have to look forward to, we imagine, is the long, hard winter lying in wait for us. But the flux of weather under the stars and on the water reminds me that the world constantly changes, and so do we. There is no real beginning or end. Rain gives way to sun; wind and clouds are replaced with a preternatural calm — followed by a line squall blowing in from somewhere else, over the horizon.


Photo walks in summer and winter around University of Toronto’s (UofT’s) St. George Campus

University College, University of Toronto

Even now, despite all the new buildings along St. George and other parts of the downtown campus, and the twenty years (!) that’s passed since I graduated (BA Distinction, English, if you wanna know), the UofT campus still draws me into its orbit whenever I visit T.O.. Never mind that they paved Philosopher’s Walk; ignore the astroturf being laid for the 2015 PanAm games. The campus still feels like some secret garden in the midst of Toronto’s condo boom, one heckuva green space in the heart of the city, with acres of (real) grass and tree-lined paths and Hogwarts-style buildings.

On a more personal note, uni played an important role in the ongoing adventure of my life, and I always re-connect with my younger self as I walk past the houses and colleges and libraries where I spent much of my twenties – before this continuing adventure of life took me to Montreal for grad school, and Japan for a teaching career )and not a little writing and photography).

“Made it, Ma! Top of the world!”


I recently put together a slideshow of pictures from around campus, mainly Hart House, and University, Victoria, and Trinity Colleges, where I spent much of my time.

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Toronto Cityscape

Toronto Cityscape

A month(!) of photo walks in Toronto.

Amazing how quickly we can slip into a routine. Every day I’d wake early and leave the place I stayed in Davenport Village, before 7 am, to enjoy the last gasps of night’s cool air before the day got all hotted up by the sun. I followed familiar songlines along Davenport, Along Dupont, down streets I used to live on (Salem Avenue), until I arrived at the Starbucks at Christie and Dupont (my new favourite for decor, and for opening at 6 am!) for the first rest stop of the day. Then I would continue on to The Annex for breakfast, then to the reference Library at Bloor and Yonge to do a little prep for the new school year or some writing/research, or just to eavesdrop on the ESL students studying or just killing time between classes. The Starbucks at Bloor and Yonge, just past the Tim Hortons out the library doors, counts as my second-favourite coffee shop hangout this trip. Read the rest of this entry »


Toronto has changed a lot in the 46 years since we moved here, especially (the lack of) affordable housing.

Back in 1968 when we emigrated to Canada from the US, Toronto was a very different place from the big, bustling, cosmopolitan, and multicultural city it is today. As my Ma — a Chicago girl born and bred — likes to tell it, the first Sunday she went “downtown” (to the current site of the Eaton Centre and Dundas Square) “it was so empty you could roll a bowling ball down the sidewalk without hitting anyone. When I finally found someone to ask where “downtown” was, she just looked at me and said “This IS downtown!” (thanks for the anecdote, Ma!).

Even if T.O. Hadn’t introduced Sunday shopping back in the early 90’s, downtown now would still be nothing like downtown then. Condos continue to be thrown up faster than beavers build dams in flood season, so there’s a lot more people on the streets now than then. Immigration has also changed dramatically since then, as Edward Relph’s website, an online companion to his new book Toronto Transforms, maps out. Finally, and this is probably old news to most of us by now, Toronto’s housing costs continue to boom and boom and boom: according to this Toronto Real Estate Board website, in 1967 almost 12,500 houses were sold in the city for an average price of $24,000; in 2012 it was almost 86,000 houses at an average price of nearly $500,000 (still well behind Vancouver, Canada’s most expensive city).

Dawn in Davenport Village, Toronto. The neighbourhood is still a little raw: birdsong and electrical hum.


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