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Sunday report

I needed today to pull myself out of the winter doldrums – the world is colourless, white blanketing everything, and so much cold and slush and months to go. So I walked to one of my favourite places in Toronto, especially in winter – the Conservatory in Allen Gardens. It’s a beautiful Victorian wedding cake of a building, made of glass with glass cupolas, and inside is warm and bright and full of greenery.

An extra treat – when I arrived, Curtis Evoy was giving a tour. Curtis used to sculpt the gardens at Riverdale Farm; the man is an artist of plant life, now in charge of the Conservatory. I tagged along and learned a great deal. The beautiful names of the cacti, for example: Queen of the Night, Devil’s Backbone, the Mistletoe Cactus, Dragonfruit, the fabulous Barrel Cactus which is an endangered species because people steal them from the desert to put in their gardens. The Barrel Cactus, he told us, is a “compass cactus” – it always faces south. And sure enough, they all were.
Then we went through to the other, cooler side, where the cyclamen and the Jerusalem cherries, the camelias and the datura are blooming, and the spring blooms are almost ready, tulips, lilies, daffs, jonquils, hyacinth. He pointed out the Ponderosa lemon tree with its lemons bigger than baseballs, and the kumquat tree and the “carnivorous pitcher plant.” In what must be the Valentine section, we saw the scarlet passion flower and the enchanting orchids in their own special little room. “They imitate female insects,” he said, “to ensure polination by male insects.”
The tour I attached myself to was the Toronto chapter of the Highly Sensitive Persons Group. Some members, I learned, are highly sensitive to physical stimulus – sound and smell particularly – and others to social stimulus and interactions. “We’re intuitive,” the leader said. Funny – I think of myself as pretty damn sensitive, and most of my friends too – but not this much, I guess. Not enough for a special tour of the Conservatory.
Then home, refreshed, through the white snow and slush, to a party down the street. Jean-Marc and Richard have recently refurbished their home, so we were inspecting the new paint and floors and de-cluttered space – beautiful – but also, because Richard is a monarchist, toasting Queen Elizabeth’s 60 years on the throne. Tomorrow, I think, is the actual day she ascended. Brava, old girl. I asked Richard about the wedding coming up, and he said it’s groundbreaking. No one in the monarchy has ever, in the history of the world, married someone they met at school.
These are groundbreaking times, my friends.
And then home to – it’s Sunday at 3 so you know what – to listen to Eleanor and to cook for the week. Today she was talking to Richard Ford, who in pictures looks stern and serious with a long sharp face, and who is the opposite in person, obviously, from his voice on the radio – warm, expansive, funny. It’s a marvellous interview; I’m going to listen again on the podcast and I urge you to do the same.
He finished by quoting another writer: “The way we miss our lives is life.”
“Don’t miss it,” he said. “Pay attention. Pay attention to what you’re doing right now, or else you’ll miss it.”
Right now, the patter patter of the keys, the sound of me sharing my life with you, O strange group of highly sensitive people who follow my progress through life. I’m watching dusk descend on the garden, the snow slowly turning a glowing blue. I’m drinking a glass of hearty Portuguese red. There are 5 essays to edit for tomorrow’s class sitting in front of me, and an innovative new red pen with an eraser. The crabby cat is awake, for once. No, that brief moment of consciousness is over. She’s asleep again.
This beautiful life, with Queens of the Night and actual queens of many kinds, all of us figuring out how to thrive and be beautiful and useful – what could be better? How could we be luckier than to be breathing? It’s worth paying attention, even in February.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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