Sea Spray

My brother is extraordinarily patient with my weird ideas. Or, perhaps it is better to say that he is always happy to go along with them. When I got my new camera a few years ago as a graduation gift I was searching out all sorts of places we could go within driving distance that […]

Bloor Street West

torontophoto

It’s been over a year since I was last in Toronto, which is a strange feeling. It’s one of my favourite cities in the world (in spite of some of its less attractive qualities) and I always feel at home there. I was born in the Wellesley Hospital, which I don’t think is around anymore.

I took that photo last February when I flew in to visit my friends from university. It was a dismal part of the year but that day was clear and nice. All the photos I took on that holiday were in black and white, I have no idea why I decided to do that. It turned the whole trip monochrome in my memory. It was a wonderful time, though. I miss those friends so much.

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Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens, Nova Scotia

annapolis

We arrived at the gardens in between rain showers on the tail end of our road trip last summer. Being in the car had started feeling less likeĀ an adventure and more like a means to an end, so it was time to get out and see something green to feel refreshed.

I had been to the gardens years before, when I was a toddler and my parents had a house a few towns over. It was another one of those places, like I’ve written before, that was below the surface of my memory, floating somewhere in the back of my mind with other childhood recollections.

I was determined to take some beautiful shots of flowers, as my new camera lent itself particularly well to the task and all the plants in the yard at home were exhausted by my crouching around them and trying new angles to photograph. There were gardens with vegetables and herbs that were beautiful to see but I hadn’t figured out how to capture them yet. I retreated to the rose gardens.

Taking photos of large flowers is always satisfying – the way the vibrant colours come across so clearly, the crisp focus of a stationary target, and the angle of the bloom giving it the aesthetic of a portrait. I made my way down the rows of roses but hadn’t found the ideal flower yet. It wasn’t until we had navigated the rest of the gardens and came across ponds and bridges that I saw the big sleepy hibiscus flowers being swarmed by fat bees. That’s where I found that shot up above. It’s one of my favourites and transports me back to standing on the bridge in the summer-warm valley.

I love loving by the ocean, there’s no doubt about that. I’ve spent my time in a fair number of port cities and coastal towns. But there is something about the valley that I have always loved. Maybe it’s how the hills curl up on either side and the sun baking down is like a giant womb. I don’t want to disturb you with that image; rather, all the best summer fruits come from the valley. I was just a baby when I lived there. It’s like crawling back inside a kangaroo pouch, for me.

Airplanes and Rainstorms

airplane

I flew for the first time when I was eleven. Well – okay, technically I flew as an infant. But it didn’t matter to me until I was eleven. My brother and I were sent off to our aunt and uncle’s house in Ontario, and we were given Unaccompanied Minor tags to wear. We got to ride on one of the airport cars outside of the gate to where we would be picked up.

I didn’t know my aunt or uncle or cousins. I was certainly aware of them, and had seen them before, probably, but they were strangers, and I remember being afraid. Nothing else comes to mind about that visit. But that isn’t what I wanted to talk about in this post, anyways.

I was afraid of flying and a few years later I was being shipped to relatives in the opposite direction – Newfoundland. Most summers we were sent there and I grew to resent it over the years, as I was a fairly solitary kid and having to spend so much time with relatives was draining. So I was on an airplane going to Stephenville, afraid of the plane and wishing I was back at home. I couldn’t have been more than twelve or thirteen.

The plane flew low over the tabletop mountains. One of my aunts lives in the valley, and from her kitchen windows you can see the mountains right outside. I thought about her house and pressed my face to the window to watch the mountains and wondered if I could see anything familiar.

It was late afternoon, and the sun was setting behind us in the west. I remember how golden yellow it looked, and it made the mountains glow. The clouds were above us, and they were grey and blue, threatening rain. I don’t think the sight is one I am likely to see again anytime soon, but rain was falling in clusters across the mountaintops, like a dozen shower heads descended from above to pour on small circles of earth. They sparkled in the evening light. Between the rain showers the sky was clear, and the horizon seemed a thousand miles away.

That trip is one of many that have combined in my memory, unable to be distinguished from one summer to the next. Everything was always the same, every time we visited. The only mark of time passing was my grandparents getting older – each summer there was a new assistive device in the house, then a new care worker. Now they no longer live in that house. My grandpa died last summer. The book of those summers of my life has very much been closed and shelved, the pages all stuck together.

I do not know that I appreciated those summers enough, but I was young and kids aren’t supposed to be appreciative. I think about flying over those mountains more than I think about the weeks down on the ground among them. In my mind thatĀ time was always in half rain and half sunshine. I learned that the sun sets on all things. Sometimes, I suppose, they are made more beautiful for it.

February in Guelph

hallway

Last year I went to Guelph for spring break. I had only been away for a year, since I graduated, but it was strange to have been away that long as I considered it a transient home for several years before that.

February is not a nice place to be anywhere. I might have enjoyed February in Plymouth, but I can’t recall it distinctly. It was still cold, at least. But February in Guelph is a sullen month because the campus is filled with concrete and brick. Extensive planting and landscaping makes it radiant in the summer and fall. Big trees and vines climbing up buildings help you forget about how drab it is in February.

I spent a lot of time in that hallway in the photo. Nearly all the classes I took in undergrad were in that building. I’ve studied for Latin exams on those benches and haphazardly pulled together Art History papers there too. I walked down that hall after changing my major from Theatre to Classics. I cried there after exams – out of joy, mostly. Relief. It’s an emotional place for me even though it looks so empty.

Outside the windows there was a courtyard with grass and trees where guide dogs in training would meet for playdates. Students would line up along the windows to watch half a dozen labrador retrievers run around together, letting off stress after having to sit through classes quietly. The worst part of the year was when the lab puppies were issued, and there was hardly a single class I took that didn’t have a small puppy sitting under a chair, learning how to behave. It was also the best time of the year. I often wonder at the success rate of the guide dog program at Guelph. I don’t know if all the attention they garnered from students would do them any favours.

February has ended here and it doesn’t look like Guelph did. St. John’s is aware of how dismal it is in the winter and the buildings are painted in bright colours in defiance of the winter gloom. It doesn’t always work. But I look out my window over the city, and it’s dark and the lights are twinkling yellow across the neighbourhood below my house. If I tried I could picture myself somewhere else, with the same view in the dark. Cities all look the same at night.