Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A ramble through Rouge Park

Rouge River (a view from the riverside trail, a footpath used by Aboriginal people and early European settlers for centuries)

Through a screen of bulrushes, we found this tranquil pond at the base of the cedar trail

My thinker under the trees :-)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Memories of an enchanting summer at Salerno

This summer has been so wonderful in large part because of Anita and Ron who have welcomed me every weekend to their cottage at Salerno Lake. There have been so many blissful hours: of swimming and feasting, silence and laughter; of sitting with a mug of coffee and watching the morning mist settle like a golden dust on the lake; of listening to Bach and getting into passionate discussions about politics and religion; of drinking endless glasses of red wine and watching the moon cast a golden ribbon of light across the water; listening to the haunting cry of a loon parting the night; and yes of skinny dipping at midnight by the glow of the stars and sprinting to warm ourselves by the fire ;-) !!

Here are a few pictures:

A misty morning on Salerno

Ok if you zoom in, you'll be able to see him on the right, my loon.

The boathouse (where I like to sleep).

Salerno with the breath of evening on its waters.

The World's Smallest Bookstore

Isn't it just adorable? In this little cabin on the highway between Kinmount and Salerno Lake, is this wonderful bookstore that calls itself The World's Smallest Bookstore -- no bigger than the size of a small room, it has an unbelievable collection of books -- many of my favorites of classical and contemporary Canadian and world literature with a smattering of non-fiction, from Eliott and Thoreau to Mistry and Laurence (and hardcover too) for only $3! On the way out you can pick up a cute sheet entitled '!!!Why I love Books!!!' It reads as follows:

1) Books are silent.

2) Books do not require hydro.

3) Books do not interrupt

4) Books open easily -- no switches or remotes

5) Books can be shut up easily anytime

6) Books cannot be offended

7) Books do not talk back

8) Books do not demand T.L.C. -- but get it anyway.

9) Books do not require food or water

10) Books will not feel neglected

11) Books will not send you on a guilt trip if you lose interest or ignore them

12) Books never require medical attention

13) Books do not have commercials

14) A book does not go into a snit if you look at another book

15) A book won't mind if you are reading more than book at a time.

I can add so many more lines to this sheet, and those of you who have seen our place know that we at least get dibs on being the second smallest bookstore in the world. Of late Shami and I have been dreaming about opening our own bookstore one day...Can you think of a better job? Stocking a store with books you love, reading, and sharing that love with others that come through the door...:-)

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Yesterday Shami and I went to watch Amal, a new Canadian-Indian film, about a rickshaw driver in New Delhi. It is a story about a dying man of wealth who seeks to find one goodman in Delhi (for those of you who are from Delhi, you'll know that people in Delhi - from politicians to rickshaw drivers - are notorious for finding innovative ways of ripping you off, though for many, it is wholly justified considering their economic plight). He finds Amal Kumar, a rickshaw driver whom he believes embodies the integrity and goodness he has not witnessed elsewhere in all the riches of the world. He decides on a last whim to leave his entire inheritance to Amal. Though the story is in some ways clicheed and predictable, it brought me to tears. I think this is because it has a wonderful way of touching on the fact that the poor are often the wealthiest among us, in the spirit, generosity and hope they show in the face of the trying and unjust hand fate has dealt them. It reminded me so much of my dear times in Banaras, of the children and women I met in the slums, of their courage, warmth, and generosity of spirit. I don't want to romanticize poverty, yet I believe there is something in measuring your wealth in the people you know and love, in whittling away the pretensions that sometimes come with privilege and living life with humility and graciousness, in treasuring the simple joys of life - whether it be sitting and drinking a chai on the ghat, or watching a diya cast on silent waters.

Music -- the other side of silence

In the old city hall in Stratford, we heard this:

It is a musical piece entitled, 'Spem in Alium', composed by Tallis, and sung by 40-member strong choir. Around this simple wooden hall was an installation created by Janet Cardiff that featured forty speakers set in a circle, one for each voice in the choir ... it is ten minutes long but you can hear the voices, forty of them, each one beautiful on its own, but collectively they weave a tapestry of light and music, a cathedral of sound, that seems to carry to the heavens, and for those ten minutes you can almost feel your feet lift off the ground. I don't think I will ever forget the smile on the woman's face across from me, the one wearing a flowered dress or the way the old man in shorts clasped his hands as though he were praying.... and then the silence that follows the music is somehow flawless, the silence that is the other side of music, its shadow. Shami once said that he thinks the greatest music is silence, and that the function of music is to teach you to listen to I felt I could hear silence.

Janet Cardiff said she wanted people to ‘climb inside’ the music, to connect with the separate voices. She wanted to examine the way sound could sculpt a space and the way the audience could choose a path through this physical yet virtual space.

The original Latin title translates as My hope has always and only been in You, God of Israel, an apt title somehow for it conveys the devotion and love in this music, the way you can stand in a humble hall for a few minutes on any given day, and for those few minutes glimpse heaven....

ps To see what the installation physically looked like when it was featured at the MoMA in New York, see the following link:

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Rene Magritte and the Visualization of Thought


"What one must paint is the image of resemblance — if thought is to become visible in the world." (Rene Magritte)


"On The Threshold of Liberty"
Rene Magritte, 1937


What do you see? What does it mean to be on the threshold of liberty?

Will one realize 'liberty' by exploding the panel of representations and experiencing the sky, a forest, etc. for itself, unmediated by their representations? But if art can be nothing more than representation, can it ever lead to the actualization of liberty?

Or since the cannon is pointing to the left side of the house, could it suggest that liberty as represented by the elements of nature (i.e. the sky, forest, wood, and a woman) are somehow endangered?

I found it fascinating to view the painting at first without the title and then with it -- Would one begin to think about liberty without the explicit guidance of the painter in the form of the title? Can thought therefore be made visible without the help of the word? The title places constraints on the imagination and in turn on our interpretation of the painting, for it is hard not to think of the painting as it relates to the title. Is Magritte helping the viewer understand the painting or is he deconstructing the use of image and word in conjunction with one another? Is he leading us astray by giving the painting that very title, because he knows of the natural precedence that is given to the word over the image?

Any thoughts?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Chillies and Revolution: Glimpses of Kensington on a May afternoon

"The stone that the builder refused, will always be the head cornerstone.”
(Ernesto Che Guevara)


[Child pointing to the wall]: "Hey, that's Jesus!"

Black woman [to Shami]: Salaam alekum.
Black woman [to me]: Are you Muslim?
Black woman [to Shami]: No, she's not Muslim. She'd wear a hijab.
Black woman [to me]: You Hindu?
Me: No
Black woman: Who do you believe in? What God will take you to heaven?
Me: All of them.
Black woman: No, you can't do that. [Pointing to Shami] You pick one man don't you? You have to pick one leader too, someone who will show you the way. Whose your leader?
Me: Gandhi
Black woman: Mahatma Gandhi?
Me: smile
Black woman: Do you pray to him?


"You have to be someone" (Bob Marley)


Kensington Market is a veritable melange of grunge, pot, resistance, and spice; where derelict walls bear brazen graffiti and the revolutionary spirits of Che Guevara and Bob Marley still linger; where rickshaws festooned with plastic carnations stand in front of chic French bistros; and the smell of fresh baked empanadas, ground espresso, jerk chicken, and organic chocolate collide; where on warm afternoons the gritty accents of the young mingle with smoky Latino vocals and the rum-laced musings of wise men from Barbados. If you are lucky enough, a peek into a shopper's jute bag can yield surprising wonders: vanilla beans from Madagascar, bracelets made of Icelandic whale bone, dried chillies from Peru, a take-away menu from the Hungarian Thai, a wedge of Swiss Emmenthal, tapioca from Trinidad, couscous from Israel, a rasta hat, and a pamphlet on becoming a Trotyskian revolutionary...


"At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality." (Ernesto Che Guevara)

Some Kensington Keywords: counterculture; synagogues; hippies; immigrants; graffiti; grunge; resistance; revolution; pot; eclecticism; falafels; multilingual street signs; organic produce; La palette; rickshaws; eco-cars; funky doors; vintage clothes; the Hungarian Thai; Roach'O'Rama; Ali Baba's House of spices; Cobs Bread; The European Butcher; Big Fat Burrito; pedestrian Sundays; African drum beats; Zimmermans Freshmart; Last Temptations; I Deal Coffee; Urban Herbivore.


"In this bright future, you can't forget your past." (Bob Marley)