Thursday, 17 April 2014

Is there a real Gatepost Park? Toronto as depicted in YA fiction

Rusholme Street House, Toronto
I made an amazing discovery today. A space that I imagined in a book, an imagined space that never existed, left a magical imprint on a park bench. Which likely doesn't make much sense, so okay, I'll start at the beginning. I've written three books in the Lost Gargoyle series, which are all set in Toronto. Some of the descriptions in all three books are very real: the CN Tower, the Rogers Centre, the CNE grounds, the Riverdale Farm and Necropolis, all are true and actual places in Toronto. The magical action between the main characters and their gargoyle friends takes place in these real settings. Some of the places described in the series are also sort of real, like Christopher Canning's house in  The Gargoyle at the Gates, which is based on a house in my neighbourhood. The real house (on Rusholme Street) near me has a wraparound porch and turret bedroom, and looks to me like the kind of house that probably once housed a large happy family like Christopher's. However, there are some spaces in the story which aren't real, like Gatepost Park, for instance. Unfortunately, Gatepost Park doesn't exist, which is sad because it would be beautiful, with a wrought iron fence, a seahorse fountain, and gorgeous gargoyles at the gate posts. I've looked through the city and elsewhere and as far as I can tell, the park exists only in my imagination (if you ever find it, or something close, please let me know!). 
Bench in Leslie Grove park: the gargoyles in my book
plant an apple tree in Gatepost Park
BUT, Gatepost Park is very loosely based on a once unloved park on Queen Street East, called Leslie Grove Park. I lived in Leslieville for several years in the 80s and used to walk through this little neglected space and think how much it needed someone to care for it. Well, like imagined Gatepost Park in my story, someone clearly does care for Leslie Grove Park these days, and now it's transformed. Look what someone painted on a bench there: "Green grass, green hanging leaves, whispering in the gentle breeze, a treasure hidden beneath the trees, a fallen apple."
This is lovely enough, but guess what the gargoyles plant in imaginary Gatepost Park? An apple tree. I have no memory of seeing this bench when I lived there, although it may be deeply buried in my subconscious, just as I have no way of knowing if the creator of the Leslie Grove bench has any knowledge of my gargoyles. But apples, however inspired, made their poetic appearance in the real world and in my fiction.  Pure magic!

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