Westward Ho…

16 February 2018 – You’d think I was already as west as it gets, but no! Not in Vancouver terms. Here we are in West Van this grey-shimmer morning, following a good chunk of the West Van Seawall.

It is a delightful 5.6 km ribbon of pathway, snaked between Burrard Inlet to the south and a still-active CN railway track to the north. Community gardens and luxuriant growth screen the tracks; we are free to enjoy the long views across the water, with Lion’s Gate Bridge to one side and those Coast Mountains to the other.

We see fish as well. Though not in the water…

A whole little gathering of these mosaics, a 1994 project (if I interpret signage correctly) of grade 6 Irwin Park students called “The Meaning of Peace Goes Beyond Words.”

More artwork as we walk along, some official — such as Bill Pechet’s outsized chairs — and some definitely spur of the moment. A predictable moment, any time you have quantities of rocks to hand.

We walk out one of the wooden piers, then blink at all those feathers at our feet. Some of them bloody. Our speculation is cut short by a middle-aged man leaning against the railing.

“I can tell you what happened,” he says.

Picture it: gull minding his own business in the waves; eagle on high, looking for breakfast.

“He just snatched up that gull, plucked it clean of feathers right here on the pier. And look!” Our informant points to the top of a very tall tree back from the water’s edge. “There he is! Digesting, I guess…”

Next pier along is Ambleside Pier. Long distance, I pay more attention to the near-by gull, posing for his moment of fame (I hope he’s watching for eagles), than to the human activity out on the pier.

A handful of men out on the pier, dropping their crabbing paraphernalia into the water. Each one of them, presumably, armed with his valid Tidal Waters Sports Fishing Licence. Large signs specify exactly what they may take, and how many, how often.

Heading back toward the car, I am again gob-smacked by happy palm trees, out there in a Canadian winter. This particular time, I am also pleased by their dance with the spidery bare-branch Something, right next door.

My friends indulge me. Other pedestrians stride by without a glance. I guess they are all used to palm trees.

But my friend slow down as much as I do, to eye the ducks. We’ve been fascinated throughout the walk by convoys of these boldly marked black & white ducks. They seem to cluster much more than other ducks I’m used to — sometimes bobbing head-down beneath the water one after another like an aquatic chorus line, or all swirling in one direction, or suddenly exploding in two opposite directions.

Or, as here, stretched in one long scribble across the silvery surface.

They make me think of the Bufflehead duck that I know (sort of know) from back east, simply because they are also black & white. My friends do a better online search later than I manage to do, and identify them.

Barrow’s Goldeneye!

Aren’t you glad you know that?

When Bears Go Bad…

14 February 2018

 

Rok Tok

11 February 2018 – Rocks can talk. And make magic. We discover the magic, rok by rok.

We’re partway along the Arbutus Greenway Corridor — an otherwise unprepossessing stretch one must add, between Nanton Rd. and Quilchena Park.

See what I mean?

But look again. See. See the long line of rainbow rocks. Thank the grade 2 students of York House School, and all the people who helped them.

We bend our heads, crouch to read.

The Corridor runs just east of Arbutus Street, repurposing a disused CPR line for some 8.5 kilometres or so …

from Fir St. & W 6th Av. near False Creek, to just south of W 7oth, near the Fraser River.

We start at the False Creek end, work our way south to W 70th, lingering in this stretch with the rocks.

 

Don’t see, or hear, a stellar jay. But when you do, oh, they are wonderful.

 

Imagine how much stronger a sense of community those children have, thanks to this project.

It’s reflected in their rocks.

Some add pictures …

 

or mix their languages, comfortably at ease …

and they all, rock by rock, move the rest of us to action.

Yes, nature is waiting for us. All around us. Farther south we come across another stretch of community gardens.

At first with silent sentinels …

but then with cheerful real-live gardeners, out removing winter mulch, preparing the soil, doing all those tidy-up-get-ready steps of early spring.

And we get an answer to the question posed earlier by one of the rocks.

The answer — the winter-time answer at least — is: Brussels sprouts and kale.

Silver & Light

9 February 2018 – We’re in Stanley Park, tracing its perimeter as we walk the Seawall. A cloudy day, the water a silvery sheen but, here and there, one moment or another, a piercing pinpoint of light & colour.

The incandescent yellow mound of the sulphur terminal, for example, as we approach Prospect Point. It is across Burrard Inlet on the shores of North Vancouver, not close, but look, it draws the eye.

Very close, the reflected arc of Lion’s Gate Bridge, a broken dark scribble on the shining water. Shining, too, rectangles of bright windows in a single focal point of sunshine through drifting clouds.

A backward glance as we round Prospect Point, and that sulphur pile still pulls the eye. (No need to keep the eye instead alert for roller-bladers — we pedestrians have a designated path of our own.)

More sunshine slanting through the clouds — another momentary focal point in the seascape. This time it’s a freighter laden with containers (I see containers & I think photographer Ed Burtynsky, every time), picked out bright against the water, clouds & backdrop mountain range.

We’re around the point of land, curving back eastward toward English Bay and False Creek. Now the sun offers more than a spotlight; it offers a whole sky.

But not quite yet! We must yet pass Siwash Rock, and walk into the sunshine around that next fold in the land. Still, there it will be — the freighter is the promise: no longer a single focal point of light, but part of a larger light-bright whole.

And so it is. We round that fold of land & walk into sunshine.

Past Third Beach, past Second Beach, past English Bay (with a sideways diversion to a café) … and onto a False Creek ferry.

Next stop, the purposeful (& successful) hunt for wind chimes to suspend from my upper balcony. Come to think of it, they too are “silver & light” (even if here silhouetted black).

I see them, and hear their mellow, deep bong, as I type these words.

Ready … Set …

5 February 2018 – And, already, the occasional “Go!” Nature is bursting out from the starting gate, here in Vancouver.

“The witch-hazels are in bloom,” says the ticket-taker, as we enter VanDusen Botanical Garden. “All over the place.”

Indeed they are.

Tawny golden tassels everywhere we look, taking pride of place even though we are in the Rhododendron Walk. Not a spectacular tree, once the leaves take over, but, oh, just look at those blooms.

So loveable. Perhaps because they are such an early harbinger of spring?

The rhodos are not going to take a back seat much longer. All around, big, healthy shrubs, laden with fat buds.

That lot, still closed. Others, much closer to open. This Rhododendron Ririei (Great Bell), for example:

And the smallest species we happen to notice, the Rhododendron ledebourii, in full bloom.

These last two examples are native to Russia’s Altai Mountains and to Mongolia respectively. That may explain their jump-start in Nature’s great spring race.

Then there are sights that have nothing to do with spring. They are just part of what makes Vancouver such a visually striking Rain City.

Moss on bare branches …

and Hart’s Tongue fern gleaming by a mossy rock, in the Fern Dell.

We pass the Maze, guarded from on high by its huge Monkey Puzzle tree …

and a great gnarl of tree boll in a copse.

Finally, as we cross the little zigzag bridge over Livingstone Lake, another mossy tree branch, this one hanging green-angled over its black reflection in the lake below.

Then it’s a peaceful downhill walk to Max’s Deli & Bakery at Oak St. & West 16th Avenue.

Where I have …

oh, go ahead, take a wild guess …

Of course.

Humans, Birds, Food

We already knew, didn’t we, not to feed wild birds? Or we are at least now willing to take the BC SPCA warning seriously?

I was sufficiently taken by that message on the Granville Island ferry dock to include it in my previous post.

What it doesn’t point out is that — along with protecting the birds from our food — we must sometimes protect our food from the birds.

Presumably the Vancouver Art Gallery café grew tired of patrons stomping back inside, muttering rude things about feathered thieves.

 

 

More Chairs. Still Staring…

31 January 2018 – Despite my Stares & Chairs post of January 13, I do not go looking for chairs.  I do not. I’ve become a moss-on-trees junkie, a crow junkie, yes … but no, not for chairs. They just keep turning up.

Even so, the first thing I stare at, this not-raining morning, has nothing to do with chairs.

Think toe-nails.

So that’s a good laugh, a silly moment to launch a walk that takes us out to Vanier Park, on the south shore of False Creek in Kitsilano.

Past the Maritime Museum, past the Museum of Vancouver, with kids and dogs and adults and bicycles and hiking boots all enjoying the day.

And then …

Sixteen chairs. Echoes, an art installation by Michael Goulet, part of the Vancouver Biennale of 2005-2007, reinstalled by Goulet here on the beach in 2010. (Note: not my photo. It’s from the Goulet page on the Biennale website.)

I could tell you more, but the signage next to the installation says it so much better…

We lean over chairs, each with its few words, in one official language or the other. This one is a bit of a stand-alone …

while these, somehow, seem to talk to each other.

Follow the arrows …

And we walk on.

And on, and then on some more. Onto Granville Island, among the offerings of the Granville Market. And finally, down to the Aquabus dock, for a ferry ride back home.

One last message, as we cross an outdoors eating/gathering space that leads to the wharf.

The gull hopes you can’t read.

 

 

Legs & A Twofer

27 January 2018 – It’s the grin that stops me. As if this Borealis knows it is one hot-damn velomobile.

It’s posed outside this bike shop because it is for sale, but I am impervious. I have leg power.

And those legs are about to carry me through a big rectangular loop that will deliver — or so the plan goes — a botanical twofer.

First up — and I do mean up, as I climb my way south on Cambie Street — is the delightful Bloedel Conservatory. It sits atop Queen Elizabeth Park, which is also the highest point in the City of Vancouver. But despite today’s brilliantly clear sky, I’m not ogling the mountains, I’m looking across the gardens to the Conservatory’s iconic dome.

Inside that dome, says the literature, more than 120 free-flying exotic birds, in a universe of some 500 exotic plants and flowers.

No mention of the koi, but they’re there too, darting about in the ecosystem’s clear-running streams.

Outside — and why have I never noticed this before? — a Henry Moore sculpture. It’s called Knife Edge, but for me, its lines are more flowing than edged, and beautifully reflect the lines of the dome and the mountain range that serve as its backdrop.

Giddy with sunshine, I walk west, heading for number two on my list, the VanDusen Botanical Garden.

Two bonus attractions along the way.

I indulge my fascination with the textures & tones of  tree bark, rich with moss and lichen.

 

A passing couple pause, try to figure out what I’m staring at, exchange a couple of tentative comments about the way some branches have been pruned … maybe? … and move on.

I move on too, and don’t stop again for a couple of blocks.

Then I discover Vancouver’s Nectar Trail. Well, first I discover the Insect Hotel — which, if you look closely, you will recognize as a repurposed telephone booth.

The idea is to provide additional habitat for pollinators, with naturalized, pollinator-friendly plantings and “hotels” for their long winter sleep. First stage of the trail: the stretch between the sister institutions, VanDusen and Bloedel.  First stop on the trail: right here in Oak Meadows Park.

No flowers visible, in mid-winter, but this cheerful wooden curtain, the work of local grade-8 students, brightens the day year-round.

(Honesty demands I add that the project links are years old, and some are non-operative. It is possible that the project never got beyond this first installation. I hope I’m wrong.)

On to the VanDusen. I love this place, any season, and it feels alive and growing, any season. Fountains jet their water high in the air; the spray turns into a pointillist painting as it falls back to the lake.

And mossy trees gleam emerald-edged in the afternoon sunshine.

Eventually I head for home. As happy as that grinning velomobile.

 

 

Light-Bright Night

25 January 2018 – I’m still playing with light, admiring the way it pops up at unexpected times, in unexpected places. Well… not all that unexpected really, if one stops to think about it, but really quite new to my own awareness. (Where have I been, all this time?) And all triggered by my finally noticing that rain brings with it enormous riches of colour and light.

Not that Light is consciously on my mind, as we open the doors of the Contemporary Art Gallery and leave the blue-indigo of late afternoon behind us.

But oh, we are showered with light.

We’ve come for this show: Brent Wadden‘s massive hand-weavings of wool, cotton & acrylic fibres, stretched over canvas and framed.

I line up, close to that same hanging (but scrupulously not touching!), sighting along the planes & textures of its surface.

Opposite wall, a line of vertical panels, in call-response with the massive horizontality that they face.

Dazzled, we return to the outside world, its blue-indigo now almost fully transformed to deep grey-black.

And … are again dazzled.

This is the work of Lyse Lemieux, the other artist currently on exhibit at the CAG. I like the concept: one artist exhibited within the space; the other, in great vinyl panels that wrap its façade.

We cock our heads, rock gently leg to leg, let all that light-bright night flood our senses.

Which perhaps explains why, as we head for the outing’s next objective (pizza), we become acutely aware of messages and images that shine in the night.

Like this one, right at our feet.

It has us in stitches. “Exit for what?” we ask each other, giggling. Deep down, we know perfectly well (or think we do…) that it is an exit for humans sent below to do Important Subterranean Things to keep the City both healthy & functioning. But we’d rather imagine urban-legend alligators & golems, and yes, I do have chase scenes from the 1949 classic, The Third Man, dancing in my head.

Well, it’s the City’s fault for not being clear. At least when B.C. Hydro wants to warn you off, they are downright graphic. “Electrical Hazard” shouts the hatch, with  lightening bolts for emphasis: “Keep Out.”

But then again, what’s the fun in that? Far more amusing to conjure up alligators and third men …

Or to enjoy the next sight that smacks us in the eye, its rain-slick brilliance shining in the street’s gaudy lights.

The first time I saw eyelash headlight wipers was on the Isle of Wight. Later, once, in Toronto. But these are the most flamboyant of all! And all the better for fluttering at us by night.

Almost at our pizza destination by now, but one more light-bright message stops us in our tracks.

First we giggle (more giggling, it’s a night of laughter). Then we begin discussing, at least half-seriously, what kind of life-philosophy is here on offer.

We are still discussing it as we pass the van, and a friendly (but amused) voice comments, “You like that, do you?”

Which leads to an explanation of the very limited, very precise, expectation behind the message.

It’s a reminder from the Provincial Air Emergency Program that, should you be unfortunate enough to be in a plane that has just crash-landed somewhere … you are to stay with the plane. Do not strike out on your own. As the nice man points out: “It’s easier for us to spot a plane, than the top of your head.”

We tuck away knowledge we hope we will never have to use, and then, in short order, also tuck away our pizza.

After that it’s boot-boot-boot through the lights of the night to the real purpose of this entire excursion: the 6:30 screening of The Walkers, a documentary hosted by VIFF as part of the City’s Push Festival. Ten years in the making, the film studies the life and impact of Taiwanese choreographer and dancer Lin Lee-chen, and her Legend Lin Dance Theatre.

Once we stop expecting it to unfold the way an occidental documentary usually unfolds, and instead relax into its own Taiwanese sensibility, we are mesmerized.

Afterwards, I walk back home, umbrella domed well down over my head, thinking how light-bright this night has been. And expecting nothing more from it.

Then, as I climb the gentle southbound curve of the Cambie Bridge, I am dazzled one more time.

Red/white; horizontal/vertical; construction/completion — an installation worthy of the Contemporary Art Gallery, I decide.

And I splosh on home.

Bard on the Brolly

19 January 2018 – The rain is heaving down. We are a slightly bedraggled group, waiting for Christ Church Cathedral to open its doors and admit us to this evening’s Early Music Vancouver performance.

The woman behind me is muttering dark thoughts about winter in Vancouver. The woman behind me lets her umbrella do the talking.

I am greatly amused. “Source?” I ask. “Shakespeare,” she answers. “Which bit?” I am about to ask, but the doors open and the moment is lost.

(Twelth Night, Act 5, Scene 1, the Fool’s song — I look it up later.)

 

Stares & Chairs

12 January 2018 – Out on a walk, you hope for some stare-worthy moments. But, chairs? Not unless your path takes you through furniture stores.

I am not walking through furniture stores, I am heading east from Cambie Bridge along False Creek. Chairs don’t come into it. Yet.

Staring, is what I’m doing.

At the ferries puttering back & forth; at the lone kayaker who has just glided past; at the “beehive” installation out there in the water; at the agreeably rough wooden structure nearer to land, which seems to fit so well into its nautical environment. And, yes, at the neon slogan picked out on its cross-beam.

Should I Be Worried? Truth is, despite all the issues the question teases into mind, I prefer — this bright, sunny day — not to worry. Not right now.

I prefer to cock an ear to the murder of crows in an adjacent tree, busy composing their latest Cawcophony Concerto.

Then I stop for another public-art slogan, just steps farther east than the first. This one has been around longer, so it’s familiar to me, but I always stop anyway. I like the message.

Let’s be thankful.

Something else to stare at, as I zig-zag through Hinge Park, this time courtesy of Nature: a winter palette of colour.

Intense green, tawny gold, wine-red. Boom boom boom.

I’m approaching Olympic Village Square now, with its tidy insets, pedestrian bridges, stone hard-scaping to enhance the natural setting.

And a blindingly white chair.

It’s a photo-shoot, the photographer as focused as her camera, her assistant at her shoulder. Other passers-by slow a moment, take it in, speed up again and move on.

Well, I think, it’s not the only white chair around here.

These chairs are always here, well used and a little the grubbier for it. Warmer weather, they support visitors — I’ve been one of them. Right now, their broad arms support only the photo-shoot notebooks.

Just before the Square, another inlet of water, with its tiered stones that always (inaccurately, I know) make me think of ancient Greek amphitheatres.

And what do I see? More white chairs!

Another photo-shoot. This time the photographer is male, he & his assistant svelte in black, both as carefully composed as the scene before their camera.

A latte-break in the Square, and I’m off again.

Do these qualify as chairs?

Somewhere to sit, but benches not chairs. Handsome, though, and cunningly staggered.

I turn away from the water, back toward town. No more chairs now, I think, but always something to stare at.

I’ve looked at this installation before, a cluster of “salt” mounds in tribute to the Vancouver Salt Co. Ltd. building (now restored as a pub) that they frame. But I haven’t looked at them from this angle, and I decide I like it better.

Then I’m really back in town, climbing the hill southward toward home. ‘Way up there, I walk past a favourite park — not just landscaping & benches & kiddie play stations, but also a whole set of bike repair tools. Carefully tethered, mind you, but right out there in public, for all to use.

And I see all that again, yes I do.

Plus one addition.

Of course. There had to be one last chair.

 

 

 

 

  • 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"

  • Recent Posts

  • Walk, Talk, Rock… B.C.-style

  • Post Categories

  • Archives

  • Blog Stats

    • 83,328 hits
  • Since 14 August 2014

    Flag Counter
  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,546 other followers

%d bloggers like this: