Sunday, May 8, 2011

Home Away From Home--Guest Contribution from Barry

Periods away from home are often times for trying new things, and so here I am doing my first blog post ever!   Is Facebook or Twitter in my future?    I doubt it.

Toronto and CN Tower, seen from Harbourfront

At Future Bakery, on Bloor West in the Annex

Cherry blossoms draw a Mother's Day crowd in High Park

By first going to Toronto, Marilyn's sabbatical/my leave of absence from work is off to a start akin to eating "comfort food".    Indeed Toronto has become a home away from home that we have visited regularly (2-4 times a year) ever since Emily went to the U of T as a first-year university student in 2001.   (In Canada, one does not go to college as a freshman and live in a dorm; instead one attends university as a first-year student and lives "in residence".)   Many of our recent visits here have been at a leisurely pace, with time spent reading The Globe and Mail instead of the NYT, visiting favorite spots such as Future Bakery or that neat ceramics store on Harbord, and gradually expanding our knowledge of Toronto's many neighborhoods and parks through walks, bike rides, or streetcar journeys.   With one of the most diverse populations of any world city, the food here is not bad either (except for, strangely, pizza).

This visit was particularly well-timed because these six days in May swept in Emily's birthday (May 3), her wedding shower (yesterday),  and Mother's Day today--on a beautiful early spring day here, with the cherry trees in full bloom in High Park drawing big crowds to enjoy the sight.   We also had a little time for a one-night B&B getaway to Prince Edward County one hundred miles east of here on Lake Ontario.

The death of Osama bin Laden this past week has prompted many reflections.   Being in Canada, I would offer that among the ugly legacies of al Qaeda and the trillions spent and many lives lost to combat it is the "hardening" of the US/Canada border, with increased wait times, more questions being asked and passports (or passport cards) now being required to cross it.   With travel between the US and Canada being more difficult,  the two societies, I think, have been drifting apart for the past ten years, which is sort of sad.  Another change is that ten years ago the loonie was 65 cents and now it's over a buck.   As for us, however, we will always keep coming back to Canada.

Church of the Redeemer, midtown Toronto
Our church "home away from home" for most of the past ten years has been Church of the Redeemer at the busy intersection of Bloor and Avenue Road in midtown Toronto near the Royal Ontario Museum and the U of T.  Redeemer Church is a remarkable place that almost closed down twenty or so years ago but has since come back to life ministering to an urban population, many with ties to the university and gay/lesbian communities.   The service there is a little different, with the congregation gathered in concentric circles around the altar during the eucharist.   Its rector (called an "incumbent" here), the Reverend Andrew Asbil, has played a big role in Redeemer's comeback and is one of my favorite preachers.

Christ Church Deer Park, Toronto
Today, however, we attended Christ Church Deer Park near Yonge and St Clair in Emily's neighborhood.   It's the urban church where she and John will be married on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend this year.   We've been there for service several times now and it, too, seems like a lively place. Christ Church Deer Park is well known locally for its biweekly jazz vespers.

In our travels in Canada over the years, the Anglican churches we have attended have not always appeared vibrant, but, happily, these two are.

Tomorrow we will be leaving our home away from home and will hope to feel at home in more distant and unfamiliar places.

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