City Girl

When I tell people that I was born and raised in Toronto the response is more often than not the same. And it goes like this:

Long pause.

Head cocked to the side, “really?! From TO RON TO?”.

I often use the word “incredulous” to describe the reaction. From what I can gather this response is usually born out of the belief that no one is really from this city, everyone moves here. Though sadly I know it also rooted in the wonderment that I would choose to stay.

I do not think Toronto is the centre of Canada or the world. In fact, the thought has never crossed my mind. I’m sad and sorry every time I hear people talk about this notion. Quite simply, Toronto is my home. As such, I intend to love it.

There are many things that I love: I can eat dim sum for breakfast, a burger and fries for lunch and curry for supper; I can walk along the beach and yes, even swim in the water; I can take a subway, streetcar or bus; I can take a ferry to one of three islands; I can hear great music or see beautiful theatre pretty much whenever I’m able…

Much of what I love though is really not about the amenities. I live in a great neighbourhood where I know my neighbours. When I manage to lock myself out of the house (cough) I can call a number of families who have a spare key. I can walk through Parkdale and stop to talk with people I know on every block. While caring for the PNC plot in the community garden a fellow gardener/stranger offered to water our herbs and tomatoes whenever she noticed it might be getting a little dry. I have friends who live rough outside and friends who live in large old Toronto homes. I can wander the downtown core or have a picnic in a park.

Yesterday I walked out of a grocery store in the pouring rain with a large cardboard box of food. The bottom of the box went out. 12 cans of beans rolled every which way, a jar of balsamic vinegar smashed while a shard of its glass sliced open a bag of milk. What a mess. Suddenly eight people surrounded me to help. The store manager came out and replaced the damaged food- for free. An elderly gentleman walked up and said, “a lot of people sure came to your rescue!”. This is the stuff that naysayers say never happens in the city.

I know that Toronto is far from perfect. Not everyone is polite. It can get dirty. There is violence. Those are all very human conditions that exist everywhere, including in my own heart. As a result, I intend to remain here in order to seek the peace and prosperity of the city.

I’m staying put. Just call me a Torontonian.

Lily, Artist

“Lily” is a woman who doesn’t know her own birthday, though upon estimation is likely in her fifties. While she has lived a number of decades, Lily is very child-like. She longs for direction and needs help making what for most adults would be straightforward decisions. Right from the beginning of PNC’s community arts project, Lily was present. She even arrived on time, a feat uncommon to her. Lily would sit and paint, always asking for feedback about whether or not her “art was good”. She sought instruction, eagerly wanting to become more and more of an artist. Over time it was easy to see how Lily’s art was developing. Her work, though unmistakably Lily-like, matured.

When we announced that PNC would participate in an Art Auction with The Gateway, Lily immediately wanted to participate. She was excited about showing her art and possibly even selling it. The day before the auction I gave Lily a map and TTC tokens to get to the event. She was decidedly unsure about her ability to get there on her own. We went over and over the route (which involved only one streetcar and a short walk). To my amazement, Lily arrived early, flush with anxiety and pride. She positioned herself at a table and sat through the entire evening. I was thrilled at the end to be able to tell Lily that one of her pieces sold. With a huge smile on her face she simply said, “did I do good? I think I did good! Am I an artist?”

Yes Lily, you did good. And most definitely, you are an artist.


I love peaches. It’s true. I look forward to when the fruit is in season, large, ripe and dripping-ly good. Having just spent a week listening to a speaker (and friend) talk about mindfulness, I find myself slowing down enough to really appreciate the peaches I am gobbling up. It is all too often that I eat so quickly that I actually don’t taste the food. When I realize this I often think, “what a shame”. A peach is a seemingly simple thing that actually is a beautiful gift.

I was struck by the truth of this yesterday at the PNC drop-in. We received a large box of peaches as a donation. Though they weren’t all in great shape, some volunteers pared off the bruises, salvaged what they could and cut the remaining fruit into slices. I watched people fill their cups, each exclaiming how amazing it was to get to even eat peaches. One gentleman seemed to savour every.single.piece. I found myself resolving to not take the basket of peaches in my fridge at home for granted.

And so, last night I ate two peaches. Rather, last night I savoured two peaches. I held them in the palm of my hand, felt the fuzziness of their skin, smelled the sweetness and tried to think about every bite. I had to wipe the juice off my chin.

I hope, that as peach season draws to a close, I will carry this mindful approach to eating into the fall.

Apples here I come.