Yesterday was brunch-and-concert day on Toronto Island, at St. Andrew-by-the-Lake Church. It’s another world, only a ten-minute ferry ride from downtown.
As I walked from the docks, I heard a familiar sound. I’m used to the scrape of skates on ice during telecasts of Hockey Night In Canada. Go you Maple Leafs! But this was classic. Up ahead, a hockey game was breaking out on the channel between islands. I stopped and marvelled. So deep in Canada’s roots, doing stuff outdoors. I thought of David Francey’s song:
The music from the skating rink
Drifts across the town
The stars of heaven high above
Forever looking down
I stand here looking upward,
And I’m listening to the sound
Of the village in the lonely heart of winter
Here were ten women flowing on their blades, some very skilled, a few not so. There was one grey hair and several teens. Plus ten smiles. For goals, they had laid two six-foot beams on the ice. If you wanted to score, you couldn’t raise the puck. And no bodychecking. I stared some more. It was so simple and so beautiful.
On to the church. Pews were turned around and tables placed between. I sat with local folks, steeped in the history of the Ward’s Island and Algonquin Island communities. An Algonquiner praised her land as “The Heights”, clearly superior to the Ward’s accommodation. Jabs in the ribs and more happy faces.
And then … tofu with a sweet-and-sour sauce, bok choy, exotic mushrooms, a nest of rice noodles, and cucumber. Not to mention a dark cake drizzled with vanilla icing. Waydago, chef.
We talked about island life. Coming soon is a huge bonfire on Ward’s beach, reducing the island’s Christmas trees to ash. I mentioned the meditation retreat I’m about to go on. Beside me sat a fellow with a speech impediment. I felt a stereotype bubble up as I struggled to understand him. But then I got the hang of his lingo and we were off to the races. He had many wise things to say.
Amply satisfied, we switched the pews to theatre style. Three gentlemen began their enthrallment of us the audience. Violin, cello, piano. Mozart, Brahms, Tchaikovsky. Oh my. Melodies soared. Harmonies filled the tones. Brilliant runs and calm lacings of notes.
Directly in front of me sat a young woman with curly red hair stretching to the middle of her back. I exhaled, a few times. She was so pretty. I longed to run my fingers through her tresses. Showing admirable restraint, however, I returned again and again to the music.
The alignment of bodies ahead meant that I rarely saw a full performer’s head during the performance. Occasionally just the violinist’s eyes were seen through the gap, and they were usually closed. Sometimes an upbow rose above the crowd, or a shoulder gave way to an ear. I decided to let it be, rather than twisting myself to see more. I thought of how, in one telling, the moment is perfect as it presents itself. I thought that the folks behind me would have to adjust if I made sudden moves. And that hair was just so divine.
Thank you, Toronto Island
and more especially the people who call it home
I’ll be back