Monday, August 20, 2007

Not the south of France. But you can feel the warmth anyway.

My friend Michael Redhill has started a blog, On the Via Domitia, charting his family's adventures in the south of France. So far they have been entirely positive, dominated by extraordinary food, generous people, and affable lizards. Were I to try something analogous here, in my own backyard, what would I write about? The acrobatic squirrel who sways back and forth on the giant sunflower head while chomping around it, like a kid on a swing negotiating a melting ice cream sandwich? The brilliant yellow of the goldfinches, who also like to feed upside down? The overabundance of "Roma" tomatoes on every vine, ripening faster than I can cook or eat them? The indefatigable "Roxanne" cranesbill geraniums, in bloom for eight weeks and still going strong? The way the basil releases waves of scent whenever I water it?

I love my garden. I love that everybody on my street loves their gardens (the Roma tomatoes were a gift from my next door neighbour Diana, and the cranesbill geraniums were planted next to "moonbeam" coreopsis because that combination worked so well at Christie's house across the street). I've lived in Toronto since 1977 but only recently have I begun to feel at home here, largely because of this neighbourhood. When you walk down the street everyone says Hi and invites you onto their porch for coffee or wine; the lovely old couple at the corner store gets a New York Times just for my husband and lets the kids buy candy on credit; we look after each others dogs.

Toronto is often described as a city of neighbourhoods. Therein lies its charm. It is, in a microcosm, what Canada is in macrocosm: a loose confederation rather than a staunch republic. Its outlines are hazy-- who can tell exactly where the Annex ends and Seaton Village begins, or what the difference is between Riverdale and Danforth Village? And does anyone care except real estate agents?

And yes, I'm from Montreal. Call me a traitor if you will, but I like it here. C'est pas pire.

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