At Play

24 January 2021 – I had planned a different title. With the previous post in mind, I was going to call this More Light, Some Hoarfrost, & Another Crow. But then all that verbiage just seemed excessive.

Plus, the more I thought about the walks, the more the whole experience seemed to be all about play. Being playful with the light and the hoarfrost and the crow. Homo ludens and all that. But — and with due respect to this 1938 philosophical analysis of the importance of play to culture and society — we don’t need theory to convince us that playfulness is really helpful in times of stress. (Like, umm, right now.) Playing is fun, and fun is good.

On top of all that, Vancouver has just had a string of spectacularly bright days, motivating all nature, human beings included, to get out there and play. (Today it’s again oozing rain, but we’ll stick with the present historical tense, and celebrate recent sunshine.)

Out there, at play! For example, the person who picked up a big stick and scrolled this design all along the water’s edge, just below the Stanley Park sea wall between Second and Third Beach.

Also at play, one day later, these Barrow’s goldeneye ducks.

And now you will squint & mutter there are no ducks in the photo.

Well, there are, but you’ll have to expand the photo with your fingers, just there to the left of the tree trunk above the grass, where a white dot might have caught your attention… Got them? Good. They and a lot of other ducks (not to mention a whole flotilla of Canada Geese) were having a wonderful time, out there in the sparkling waters of False Creek, just east of the Cambie Bridge.

I took the photo, not for the ducks (because I didn’t see them either, not until later) but for the rich red gleam of the tree trunk, and the shining water beyond. I certainly felt larky and playful, so why not the ducks?

If you’re willing to play along (ooooo, I couldn’t resist), join me in discovering that the water itself is at play. With the help of ferry-boat ripples.

See? Boring old straight-line towers, turned upside-down and Gaudí-worthy in the reflections.

And then there’s the hoarfrost. Play with it.

Give it a palm-print …

or weave between lines of silver-tipped grasses as you walk Himy Syed‘s labyrinth opposite Hinge Park …

or blink at a very small leaf you’d otherwise not even notice, but here it is, shining up at you, playing compare/contrast with you, all glitter this edge and matt ochre that

or just silently applaud the versatility of clever old hoarfrost, which not only micro-touches one side of tiny leaves, but macro-rolls the full length of great long benches in Olympic Village.

Ah but then, alas, you can’t play with the hoarfrost any more. Not because it’s gone away, but because your focus has just been shattered.

And pretty near your eardrum along with it.

A crow! ‘Way up there, but making his opinion known.

Loudly.

A Moment, & Another Moment

21 January 2021 – One was colour, the other was light.

Colour!!

Heading home yesterday, I opt for West 10th since it’s a quiet residential street, and then, right there between Columbia and Manitoba …

I laugh out loud. Not exactly San Francisco’s fabled Painted Ladies, or as elaborate as ones I can think of in Toronto’s Cabbagetown … but there are similarities. These, too, are Victorian/Edwardian style wooden houses, built in the first decade or so of the 20th century, now restored and painted in bold colours to enhance the architecture. What’s extra here, I discover when I dig a bit, is that the Davis family not only received a Heritage Canada award for this streetscape but created decent rental housing in the process.

I don’t know all this at the time. I’m just enjoying the colour and the street-friendly, community-friendly extras that add to the pleasure. For example, the red Muskoka chair and the wheelbarrow of greenery (L & R, above) positioned by the sidewalk, to expand the charm right out into public space.

I cross the street. More details, equally colourful. A metal container (was it once a garbage can? surely not…), full of winter-hardy red/greenery …

a deep-ochre feline container for more winter ornamentals …

and, not to be outdone, a stylish canine container for yet more bright foliage …

on a bicycle.

Cat, dog, who cares? Make way for the lumberjack-plaid buck.

Immediately east of this run of houses is one that is clearly not part of the group. So, yes, definitely less colourful, but it is equally of the era and equally committed to improving the streetscape.

Albeit with a different sensibility.

I particularly like the stand-off between train and ‘gator. Though that T-rex atop another train engine almost gets my vote.

Light!!

Again heading for home, but this time via the Cambie Bridge and north side of False Creek. Unlike yesterday, today is all glitter & brilliance. I lean on the bridge and start noticing how morning light plays off, plays with, everything it touches. I begin to appreciate the literal truth of the words “sunshine” and sunlit.”

The rail beneath my elbows, the churn behind that Aquabus ferry headed for the Olympic Village dock, the ripples fanning out to either side …

and then, the curve of the Seawall, and two shining benches.

It’s hopelessly anthropomorphic, and I know it and I don’t care, and maybe you won’t care either, if I confess that, to me, those benches are positively basking in the sunny warmth. It takes me a moment to spot that each is just the eastern end of a trio of benches, companionably curved toward each other.

I want sunshine drama? Razzle-dazzle flashing light? Fine. There’s this moment, as I start down the off-ramp from the bridge…

I sit for a moment on one of those benches I had noticed from the bridge. And yes, it’s just as sunny-warm as I had imagined. Happy sounds are all around me — first some mother/toddler conversation, then dog-owner/puppy conversation, with mother & dog-owner both expert at deciphering what comes back at them, and everybody having a good time.

I walk on, still fascinated by the light. It just lasers down the pathway, hard shadows here, glitter there, and, ‘way down there, just in front of that mirrored marina building, the Blue Cabin — rocking gently on the ripples and, like those benches, basking in the sunshine.

As are these rocks, this side of the grove of trees next to the Blue Cabin.

And now for basking chairs!

Fabulous, big, come-sit-in-me blue & red chairs. They, and more, are tucked into the community park right at the end of False Creek. They’re empty, but the park isn’t — just out of frame, two teenagers are playing a furious game of table tennis in one direction, while in the other, a whole squad of (supervised) small children is playing some complicated game that involves kicking coloured balls around and Squealing Very Loudly with each kick.

I sink into that blue chair, prop up my feet on the log.

Sitting there, I realize that I’m almost at the end of a False Creek walk and I haven’t yet brought crows into the story. Which I usually do.

So now I will.

See? Crows on my toes!

Framed in sunlight.

Wired for Walking

11 January 2021 – I’m out walking again, with the same motivation that drove And Also. Medical & political turbulence aren’t going away any time soon, so let’s balance those realities with other realities — moments of delight, charm, generosity, fun, engagement.

French author Marcel Proust knew about concurrent realities when he observed that the voyage of discovery lay in having new eyes, not in seeking new landscapes. (The quote is on my home page. I’ve loved it ever since I saw it on a wall at the Art Gallery of Ontario, and I no longer remember why it was there. Though, arguably, it’s one of those anchor thoughts that need no further justification.)

One hundred-plus years later, neuroscience has caught up with Proust. Psychologist & author Rick Hanson (e.g. Buddha’s Brain, Hardwired for Happiness) points out: “Neurons that fire together wire together. Mental states become neural traits. Day after day, your mind is building your brain. This is what scientists call experience-dependent neuroplasticity…” Also: “When you tilt toward the good, you’re not denying or resisting the bad. You’re simply acknowledging, enjoying and using the good. You’re acknowledging the whole truth, all the tiles of the mosaic of life…”

So, hey, claim your favourite authority — from Buddha to Marcel Proust to experience-dependent neuroplasticity — but feel no guilt about also noticing what is delightful.

I have myself a truly delightful, absolutely guilt-free, and (for me) quite lengthy walk. I take lots of photos. I select a bunch for this post.

And decide to use only two.

Go find your own delightful moments — the ones that speak to you, for your own reasons, in your own environment. We’re each on our own voyage of discovery, each selecting our own moments that will select the neurons to fire together & wire together.

Two photos, I promised you.

And they’re all about wires!

Last few blocks in the homeward stretch, I am more intent on plod-plod than see-see.

And then I see — just peripherally, but the sight ambushes my eye, snags me, halts my feet. There, on that ground-floor balcony ledge, next to that winter-mossy tree.

I trespass, move in close.

She is perfect. She is exuberant, strong, literally wired for joy & walking & discovery & everything wonderful, and, in the multiplicity of her colours, totally inclusive. I shamelessly stole Michael Snow’s Walking Woman sculpture series for my blog title, but I’m now adding her as another avatar, another inspiration.

(Guys, you can claim her too. Just do a mental photo-shop, and substitute your dangly bits for her dangly bits.)

And here we are. Our very own Wired for Walking avatar, just when we need one.

And Also

7 January 2020 – Step back, I tell myself; take a break. Step back from newscasts tracking the political unrest rocking one country, whose ripples will eventually and somehow affect every country. Mentally step back from all that and physically step out the door. Take a walk, nowhere special, but with a different focus.

Notice other realities. Not instead of that big-headline reality; just … also.

A tree stump, for example. Not left there to nurture new life, but it’s turned into a nurse-log anyway.

A Chai Wagon, trucked back home after a day of serving customers downtown.

Baby buds on a front-yard shrub, already swelling with spring blossoms.

A nook next to the Sahalli Community Garden, created by its members and available to anyone who’d like to sit and relax for a moment.

I sit and relax. I start to notice the ornaments. Pottery toadstools and a metal insect, wings half-open, behind the companion chair …

glass coasters, piled on the log table between the chairs …

and one of the red overhead lanterns, swinging with the breeze. (Only later do I realize I’ve also caught a dark bird, slicing through the sky just beneath the lantern.)

Down by South China Creek Park, there’s a free exercise station for anyone who’d like to use it …

and a newly created play area for kiddies, very much in use.

None of this is important. It’s just what I happen to see, on this particular walk, at this time, on this day. It does not replace or discount the political reality rightly commanding headlines.

But it does remind me of all the other realities that also make up our world — every moment, everywhere, all entangled and endlessly re-creating what Leonard Cohen so wonderfully described as the “chaos of existence.”

I like that sense of larger context.

The Charm of the Unexpected

4 January 2020 – Given the city I’m in, I expect rain: I don’t get any. Given the city streets I plan to walk, I do not expect a bunny trail: I get one.

You see? It’s a walk full of the unexpected. None of it spectacular, I hasten to add, but each moment showing someone’s personality and engagement with the street and the community. I discover one little oh-look-at-that after another. I am charmed.

Bunny trail comes late in the walk, but the discoveries do start with a “B” as I cross East 16th and continue south on Ontario Street.

B-for-Buddha. (Or so I, in ignorance, think. I’ll be grateful to be corrected.) Very peaceful, not very large and calling no particular attention to itself, tucked among the fallen leaves & tufted grasses in someone’s street-corner garden.

Another block, another sculpture. Also among fallen leaves in someone’s garden, but there the resemblance ends.

From peaceful Buddha, to pugnacious crow.

Then, in a little corner parkette, community notices and a book exchange. Splendid idea; not-so-splendid protection from the elements.

From across the street, I watch an elderly couple study the collection (much larger than the bit I’ve shown) and select two to carry away with them. Books can be dried, after all, and a few ripples in the pages are really neither here nor there.

Another block, another pleasure: my first 2021 sighting of a street-side child’s swing.

Half a block farther south again, and my first 2021 sighting of spring bulbs poking up from the ground.

(This is the kind of image that Vancouverites love to send to snow-bound eastern friends, January-March. I promise you that it is invariably done with a smirk, and, having received such photos while in Toronto, I vowed never to send any once I lived here. Oops. Maybe I just did…)

Moving right along!

And in this walk I do move right along, farther south and farther west for a while and then I curlicue my way eastward again and find myself on James Street somewhere south of East 28th. By now I am ready to start heading north for home, so I walk on down James.

And find myself in a cul-de-sac.

And discover … the Bunny Trail.

Capital letters, City Parks Dept. plaque, paved path through the grass, and all.

Could there be a more wonderful way to escape a cul-de-sac? I wait for a woman coming westward with toddler & Labradoodle to clear the path, spend a few moments scratching the ‘Doodle behind his ears (his leash at full extension) and then take the path eastward.

And discover, if not flesh & blood bunnies on the Trail, a few pebble bunnies, tucked in among the tree roots.

Out the other end of the Trail, and pop, just like that, I’m at East 27th & Quebec. Where I see this quietly beautiful row of 1912 early-Craftsman houses, the Shirley Houses.

I’m able to identify them for you because I’m able to read signs.

I turn around and, smack on the opposite corner, see this interesting-looking little apartment building. Some degree of vintage, surely?

Neither then nor later can I find out anything about it, but I don’t really care. I just zero in on the corner juxtaposition of Art Deco (probably?) tile work with a very contemporary poster.

A passing couple exclaim in delight. We agree, from safe distance, that Dr. Henry’s words have become our provincial mantra and deserve their place on this highly unofficial version of the B.C. coat of arms. Then on they go and on I go — and then Quebec Street seems to disappear on me, so I find myself walking east on East 24th.

Where I bump into another offering of the unexpected. You might call it, the last in a bumper crop of the unexpected.

Well, anyway, a bumper.

Canine wisdom, to guide us through the year.

And It Rains

1 January 2021 – Rain smacks onto Scotia St. and courses on down the slope, tracing the route followed for millennia by Brewery Creek, now sealed away beneath the pavement. I am out in seriously waterproof gear, ready to take on the day.

As always, I slow my steps by the totem pole that soars up this side of the Native Education Centre at East 5th.

The work of master carver Norman Tait of the Nishga First Nation, this totem is a tribute to all indigenous peoples, past, present and future, and bears the title “Wil Sayt Bakwhlgat,” or “place where people gather.”

I look into the oval alcove, as I always do … then step closer, cock my head, peer inside.

Yes, it’s just a rock, but I pause, for I have seen tributes tucked into this alcove before now. If there is intention to this placement, I wish it well. (If not, I like the rock anyway. — shape, colour, and shine.)

The rain and I carry on downhill to East 1st, where my brain — supposedly running the show — waits to see which way my feet decide to go. My feet turn left, my brain raises no objection, so I’m headed for False Creek.

Goodness, it is so wet! Temperate rainforest strutting its stuff. No takers for any of these rental bikes …

just occasional pedestrians, like that woman keeping pace with her aging German shepherd.

In contrast I pick up my own pace, and then start to giggle. Here I am pitching attitude at rain drops! (Yah, well, just keep heaving it down! I can — literally — take you in stride!)

Self-praise has me barrelling right along, a little more west & a little more north, and then here I am, curving ’round Science World at the end of False Creek. Down here at the sea wall, I’m not the only person pitching attitude at the rain: lots of people are out for a bit of January 1st exercise — adults, kids, cyclists & runners, with a pretty even division between the pro- and anti-umbrella camps.

I lurk under the Science World canopy on the west side for a bit, where I eye the sail boats and that clever heron who has neatly tucked away his neck, presumably to keep it dry.

There he sits, patiently waiting out the storm.

We all know how that feels!

Happy new year.

If Moss Could Talk…

27 December 2020 – Well, moss can talk.

It can say …

I 💚 you!

In emerald green, of course. (And twice over, just to show off.)

Oh, Calm Down

19 December 2020 — They have barely started distributing vaccine.

So just calm down.

Cool your jets.

Hold your horses.

(Mutter your own favourite cliché.)

In other words …

Be patient.

Maybe by Valentine’s Day?

Fazes, Flatz & Catz

9 December 2020 – I am zed-obsessed, you will have just noticed, and it’s all because my feet turn right instead of left and send me on a tour of Zedland. (As in, South Flatz-with-a-zed.)

But before the Flatz, a face. (I’m back to proper spelling. Aren’t you glad? A little cute goes a long way.)

This image is just where it should be, in an alley betwixt garbage bin & hydro pole, and I like it a lot. Partly for the message (“It’s okay / to let things / feel a little / bit easier”), mostly for the line strength and enigmatic stare. The power of this graphic brings to mind the face by Toronto street artist Anser that became a city icon.

See what I mean? Not the same, but reminiscent.

I see the face again as I enter an alley down between East 2nd & East 1st, right where my feet turn me right instead of left — unexpectedly toward Emily Carr University and away from my intended visit to False Creek. Eyes even more powerful this time, framed by that rusty railing. (The artist signs as DATA, and I can find nothing helpful online.)

On East 1st now… and yet more faces! Each one presumably giving you a reason to drink Red Truck Beer.

And now, closing in on Emily Carr University of Art + Design, I hit the Zed.

South Flatz will be an entirely legit and valuable campus of high-tech buildings close to Emily Carr. The branding, however, meant to establish creative, street-smart creds for the development, has drawn heavy sarcasm online: “spelled with a ‘z’ because it’s cool!” snipes one review; “so hip it hurts!” I have to confess, my own lip curls at the sight.

But my humour is restored when, in the midst of that glossy line-up of images, I spot Sir Wilfrid Laurier Cat.

What do you mean, you don’t see any resemblance to our country’s 7th prime minister? Look at the collar.

Another cat, but this one more Parking Lot than Parliament Hill. He’s on a service pole in the parking lots stretching on east from Emily Carr. Train tracks to the other side and, here, trucks and tents associated with location shooting for a new documentary film: Managing the Pandemic Risk. (Sigh.)

Also in the parking lot, more faces and — perhaps — another cat. Faces on the back of that colourful van, showing the eponymous Two Nice Guys ready to move your belongings; Perhaps Cat scrawled on that white van right-forefront.

And on I go, as far as Clark Drive, and then south (uphill, pant-pant) until I turn west again on East 10th.

Where I meet two more cats.

In a manner of speaking. Black cat high; gold cat low; neither deigning to acknowledge the other or passers-by. Well, they can’t, can they, because they’re not real. But the behaviour is real …

And just when I think I’m fresh out of cats, and into Starry Trees instead …

I get another cat. In among the branches. White polar bear on the left, more vivid, but red cat nicely visible as he prowls above that star.

Above them all, tucked in the crotch of the tree, a fairy door and a heart with the first phrase of Dr. Henry’s mantra.

“Be kind.”

Nothing to do with faces or cats or Flatz or the letter zed — but always appropriate.

Back to Nature

7 December 2020 – In these strange times, when everything from monarch butterflies to grizzly bears is teaching us distance …

why not let Nature also teach us punctuation?

Trees, for example.

If we just pay enough attention, they will demonstrate for us the full stop …

suspension points …

the exclamation mark …

parentheses …

and even…

yes, and even …

the colon!

The other possibility, of course, is that I have entirely too much time on my hands.

  • WALKING… & SEEING

    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

    "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" -- Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

    "A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities" -- Rebecca Solnit, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking"

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