May 2022 Guest Contibutors

Grow Fruit, Share Kindness

By Joanne Taylor

Mara Fattori is best described as passionate, emphatic, and a problem solver. When she noticed fruit from trees in her area going to waste last summer, she took it upon herself to reach out to the local pop-up Scarborough Food Bank on 2229 Kingston Road to ask if they would accept fruit from private growers. When they said yes, she took her then three-year-old in her wagon, and picked and collected fruit from trees belonging to her neighbours who were unable to use up all their fruit.

Her area expanded as she knocked on more doors to explain what she was doing. With a tremendous support from homeowners, her total was over 525 lbs of fruit, almost ninety-five percent of which went to the Food Bank for distribution to local families. In the coming summer months, her second year of picking fruit to share with the community, she hopes to add more trees to her route, to pick even more, and to donate even more.

Mara, along with her now four-year-old and utilizing a borrowed bicycle trailer, is hoping to connect with homeowners who are overburdened with fruit; either because they’re unable to use it all themselves, they’re unable to harvest it, or don’t want the fruit to go to waste. Mara does not use ladders, instead, she relies on poles with baskets. She picks, sorts, and clears up any rotten fruit for compost, while selecting the best to go to the Food Bank. Last season, she picked apples, grapes, pears, and hopes to add plums, peaches, and quince this year.

Her picking area is in South Scarborough, within a bikeable, walkable area from her house at Midland Avenue and Kingston Road. Reach out to Mara if you want your tree picked or for more information. 

*For those west of Birchmount, please contact directly, for which Mara volunteered for nine years.


Another Coronavirus Casualty

By Angela Auchincloss

The Osteoporosis Support and Information Group was established in the 1990s at the Scarborough Village Recreation Centre, 3600 Kingston Road, for the purpose of providing support and information for people who had Osteoporosis. The monthly meetings consisted of having speakers who specialized in Osteoporosis treatment such as medical doctors, dietitians, pharmacists, physiotherapists and exercise personnel. The people in the audience truly liked it when they were able to get answers to their many questions from the speaker specializing in his/her field. They also enjoyed socializing together at Coffee and Cookie Break, discussing their personal experiences. Our November meeting became a pre-Christmas potluck lunch with entertainment, Christmas songs, draws, and happy memories.

Throughout the years the meetings were advertised in the Bluffs Monitor and other local newspapers and our phone committee called all our members reminding them of the forthcoming meetings.
Sadly, our last meeting was in January, 2020 after which time the coronavirus took over and no more meetings were held. However, it was truly a lot of fun over the years. So, thanks to the leaders of the group and to the members who helped with organizing the meetings, the guest speakers who helped to educate the audience, Scarborough Village Recreation Centre for the warm and efficient welcome they always provided, Bluffs Monitor and all the other local papers for all their announcements and, especially, our members who supported the Osteoporosis Support and Information Group so faithfully over the years!

The co-leaders of the group from 1999 to 2014 were Eric and Margaret Niemela and from 2015 to 2022 were Angela Auchincloss and Helen Ward.


Book Review ~ Tuscan Daughter by Lisa Rochon

By Gail M. Murray

Author Lisa Rochon has set her debut novel during five epic years in Renaissance Florence (1500-1509). It opens with the return of two great artists and native sons: Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo di Buonarroti. Leonardo has been appointed to paint The Battle of Anghiari as well as an altar piece for Santissima Annunziata while twenty seven year-old Michelangelo has been commissioned by the monied Wool Guild to sculpt the biblical hero David from a huge piece of Carrara marble.

Leonardo, tall, noble, and nearing fifty with white hair and silver white beard is troubled by the loss of his youth, reputation, and status in Florence, while Michelangelo is gaining a reputation as a result of La Pieta in Rome. Raphael exclaims “Your sculpture of the young mother holding her dead son on her knees. My God, love and forgiveness are alive in that work.” (p124)

The two great artists are connected through the fictional protagonist, Beatrice, a thirteen year-old peasant girl, an aspiring artist, given to charcoal drawings of birds on city buildings. A victim of the simmering feud between Florence and Pisa, abandoned by her traumatized mother after her father is murdered by marauding Pisans; Beatrice makes the long journey barefoot from her hill town Settignano to sell olive oil in the dirt lanes behind the Duomo to the city’s artists.

Beatrice accompanies her neighbour and healer, Agnello, to attend the ailing Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo, whose portrait her silk merchant husband has arranged for da Vinci to paint. We know this will become his most celebrated work, Mona Lisa. Through Beatrice, the reader is given insight into these celebrated artists, their goals, rivalry, thought processes and insecurities. I was taken with the tender rendering of scenes between da Vinci and Lisa as he strives to know this complex, gracious woman grieving the loss of her baby daughter, observing her layered emotions, the wild spirit lurking deep within. “She was not pretty…. still there was something about this Lisa Gherardini. Something about the lilt in her chin, the pride in her shoulders. She personified greatness that did not end with the city but began with the earth.” (p199) He hopes to create something to outlast himself; little knowing this enigmatic portrait will be his immortality.

Previously a non-fiction writer of Up North: Where Canada’s Architecture Meets the Land and a Globe and Mail architecture critic and columnist from 2000-2013, Rochon’s leap to historical fiction is a triumph. Meticulously researched, Rochon’s captivating novel is rich in detail; we sense what it is to live in 16th century Florence. This is an engrossing novel for lovers of art, history, and all things Renaissance. We feel we know her well-developed characters. She has created a vivid portrait of time and place, revealing a human side to these master artists.