Like a Chrysanthemum Blossoming in Late Fall

Amy Tian (+Video)


A mother from China comes to Canada so her daughter can attend middle school here. Preparing to explore Canada’s gorgeous landscapes, she buys a pair of Ecco hiking shoes. Then her dream of adventure is shattered by COVID-19. She explores her backyard instead. Her new shoes witness the transformation of a blank space into a beautiful garden as well as her journey of self-discovery.


On an autumn afternoon, through the backyard window, I saw colourful chrysanthemums in full bloom, climbing roses with cluster blossoms, and big mophead hydrangeas keeping their shape. The beautiful garden was evocative of my life in Canada.

Four years ago, I came from China to accompany my daughter who was studying in middle school in Canada. One month after arriving, I passed my driver’s test and got my licence on my fiftieth birthday. As a reward, I wanted to get myself a gift. 

As I was captivated by the awe-inspiring scenery of Canada and eager to explore it, I picked a pair of Ecco hiking shoes. They were black, crafted from leather, water-repellent, supportive, comfortable, and energy-returning with every step. Having put them on, I was full of confidence to explore my new world.  

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 virus broke out. During the pandemic, travel was shut down, museums were closed, social gatherings were limited, and people were isolated at home. My dream of exploring Canada’s stunning landscapes was shattered. Fortunately, my backyard suggested there might be a place where I could meet nature halfway. Putting on my new hiking shoes, I propped up raspberries and my spirits in my backyard. 

As a new gardener, I never expected there would be so many things that needed to be learned. Where does the sun fall in the garden? How long is it there for? Which plants do well there? How often should they be watered? How often should they be fertilized? What is a weed and what is a plant? To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow. Hunkering down, starting with a zero level of gardening experience, I built a beautiful garden within two years. Crocuses, hyacinths, tulips, and allium welcome the arrival of spring. Timeless and elegant, roses bloom from May to December. Hydrangeas look fantastic in the frosty garden in winter with their flowers kept in shape. This pair of hiking shoes witnessed how my backyard turned from a blank space to a vibrant flower bed.

Thanks to Canadians who rolled up their sleeves and got vaccinated, finally, COVID-19 measures eased, and we returned to normal life. In this pair of hiking shoes, I followed a new path. I explored the dreamed-of Rocky Mountains, viewed stunning Niagara Falls, visited Canada’s fabulous capital Ottawa, and travelled to the marvelous metropolis of Montreal. I took part in a running group. Jogging for one hour every weekend became a routine of my Canadian life. Occasionally, spotting Canada geese swimming and bathing in the pond nearby the trail was a big bonus. 

My passion for learning has bloomed since I established my garden. I registered for an in-person English course, participated in the Shoe Project, joined an English conversation circle, and made a lot of friends from different countries. I am attracted by each country’s traditions, culture, and history. 

I often recall the notable Chinese philosopher Confucius’ saying: “At fifteen, my heart was set on learning; at fifty, I knew the mandate of heaven.” In Canada, I feel like I’m fifteen again. My heart is set on learning everything in this diverse, multicultural, and immigrant country. 

I noticed that my Ecco hiking shoes were made in China and sold in Canada. Are they hinting at my destiny? A seed from China, planted in Canada, I will bloom in my fifties like a chrysanthemum blossoms in late fall. 

Amy Tian is from Shanghai, China. She arrived in Canada in 2018 to accompany her daughter who was starting middle school here. Now in her fifties, Amy is curious about the world and eager to learn everything—including gardening and hiking. In the process, she is making new friends and setting new goals. 

Watch the Performance

More Stories from Windsor 2023