from il giardino to valpolicella

Awhile back I wrote a post about a documentary film— Il Giardino; I wrote how the essence of the film had stayed with me and continued to affect the way I looked at my own garden, especially in winter.

It was a post about gardens.

Who knew it would lead to drinking wine with poet and filmmaker, Karen Shenfeld, at her favourite hangout, Il Gatto Nero on College Street (in the heart of Il Giardino country)— Or that it would turn out to be a completely delightful afternoon, filled with good conversation and the discovery of several coincidences, not the least of which being a mutual friend in PEI.

I certainly never expected that, on the way back to my car, I’d be invited into the home of one of her neighbours to see a beautiful piece of folk art and hear the accompanying stories in a voice tinged not only with Portuguese, but with pride and warmth and welcome. 

Of course, all these things happened, I now realize, because Karen has the kind of wide open energy that draws people to her, and vice versa.

Something that struck me most about her posts on Open Book Toronto was the passion she has for her neighbourhood. She offers up the images, writing about the tree outside a window, a book store, art studio, restaurant, a hat shop that was once a tailor. But, as in her film, it’s never really about ‘the thing’— it’s always about ‘the people’.

I’m one of those writers that lean towards the reclusive at times, so the idea of driving into Toronto to meet, essentially, a stranger, to chat about who knows what, should have been uncomfortable.

For some reason I never thought of not going.

The best part of the day, beyond the conversation, the neighbourhood, the wine, was what I took with me when I left—I’ll call it the Il Giardino effect—a kind of energy that inspires, and isn’t soon forgotten.

And one that makes you realize the truth in the saying that there are no strangers, just people who haven’t yet met.

2 thoughts on “from il giardino to valpolicella

  1. Matilda,

    I honestly don’t know how to thank you for the beautiful tribute that you have paid to me and my work.

    Perhaps Google has alerted you about the comment that I posted yesterday on the Open Book site… I hope so.

    I will, for sure, have to come out to Whitby… if only to give us both more fodder for our blog writing.

    All my best,


    1. Hi Karen,

      Yes, I saw the OBT post (no thanks to Google alerts though!). Anyway, thanks for that. I know you’re back at your poetry, but hope you’ll post the occasional blog; I’ve become a regular reader on the site. Enjoying Emil Sher’s musings lately.

      Looking forward to Whitby. (Expect something other than the wonders of the ‘hood!)
      I’ll email you.

      take care,

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