Sun. Flower

4 December 2022 – Well… there is sun. Today, yes there is.

But, flower?

I balance on the ice-slick Scotia St. sidewalk, and anthropomorphize like mad.

Two stalks. Remnants of the rampant bright leaves and companion seed head of a big old summer sunflower — not in anybody’s garden, but right here at sidewalk’s edge.

Oh good grief, look at it now.

“I am a sunflower,” I hear it growl. “It is now winter.”

“Barely any sun. What do you expect?”

I salute its defiant, bedraggled survivor-splendour, and walk on.

“To explore…”

1 December 2022 – “To explore,” says Stephanie Rosenbloom in her book Alone Time, “we need only put one foot in front of the other.” And the best part of that is… you and your feet, you can do whatever you want! You can stop your feet, reverse them, loop around, hesitate, scratch your head, get lost in thought. Your feet don’t care, and you don’t need to find a parking space.

All of which links with an observation in my very own About comments for this blog, and with my theme for this post.

In About, I explain that until August 2012 this blog concerned training for and completing an Arthritis Society charity trek in Iceland, and then, as of August 2012, I walk on. “With my feet, and in my mind as well.”

In two recent walks, I was struck by how my feet explored very limited physical spaces, while my mind spun through decades of time and a whole world of continents.

The Alley, Manitoba south of West 5th

I’m walking east in the alley, almost at Manitoba. My eye snags on this turquoise/yellow reflection, a bright flag in an otherwise entirely boring window in an equally boring building.

And here’s the source, the mural on the side wall of that building on the left. I like everything about it, from the mural itself to the hydro poles and their play of shadows, and the far view of one of my favourite VMF (Vancouver Mural Festival) murals right across the street.

Close-up to admire the new mural…

and then I peek around the corner, to discover it’s on our friend, the snazzy new 2131 Manitoba building (cf. Taking the 5th) with snazzy new tenants like AbCellular Biologics.

No attribution for their mural, which I find disappointing, but there is attribution for the 2019 VMF mural across the street.

It’s the work of Beijing-born, Vancouver-based artist William Liao. I think his website’s use of the phrase “fine arts” is entirely justified — both for what you can see online, and for this haunting face.

Tender, traditional, very fine-arts, yet entirely at home in its alley context.

I backtrack to the west side of Manitoba and south to the corner of West 6th, for one last look at the “2131” mural through the security fencing for yet another of the new builds transforming this neighbourhood.

This hole in the ground will become the new home of Ekistics, I learn.

And that, my friends, stays my feet and launches my mind.

Ekistics is a multi-disciplinary design and consulting studio, specializing in “sustainable planning, architecture, landscape architecture and land development” — and who can argue with that? I’m all in favour.

I just think this Vancouver firm, founded in 1992, might at least give a passing nod to the pioneering work of Greek architect and urban planner C.A. Doxiades, who first coined the word “ekistics” and laid out the elements of its science and study in an October 1970 article in Science magazine. Doxiades, who was active in the Greek underground during World War II and helped lead the country’s reconstruction post-war, went on to found a firm of engineers, architects and urban planners that in time had offices on five continents and projects in more than 40 countries.

I was interested in these things, in the 1970s, and followed his work for a while. This Vancouver team owes him some respect…

The Plaza, Cambie south of West Broadway

Another day, and different weather: a snow-heavy sky about to dump all over us.

I’m just south of the Skytrain station on Broadway, about to cut south-east toward home, and find my feet slowing down. Perhaps in sympathy with all these feet.

Walking Figures, they are called, the cast-iron last survivors of a group created in Poland by Magdalena Abakanowicz and erected here as part of one of our Vancouver Biennale exhibitions.

I circle them, look at the hollowed back views marching toward the transit station as cranky gulls wheel through the grubby sky.

And I walk my own feet the other way, up the “Welcome to City Hall” (top riser) steps just beyond.

Walk-walk, admiring as I always do the architecture of this building: a Depression-era project, opened in 1936, and visually somewhere in that transition from the vertical, highly ornamented lines of Art Deco to the simpler and more horizontal lines of Moderne. Admiring also, that in our recent civic election that saw a major shift of voter sympathies, all the defeated candidates conceded quickly and gracefully. (I am only appalled that I have to be grateful for behaviour I used to take for granted.)

My feet stop at this rock, one of the City’s millennium-project incised rocks still to be found in landmark locations. Annoyingly, I can’t decipher the name or later find it online, but as I stand there, feet stilled, the words set my mind walking.

My mind and my mental ear as well. Spread the image, try to catch more words, but here’s the gist of it. It’s all about everyday sounds we no longer hear, and they are picked out in the equivalent of bold face: clickety-clack (push lawnmower), cock-a-doodle-do (rooster), clip-clop (delivery wagon horses), ah-on-gah (early car horns), whack! (the smack of a wooden frame screen door). I particularly like that whack!, it shoots my mind back to Dorval Island and our cottage there of the 1940s & 50s. That is exactly the sound.

It is still in my ear as my feet move on, just a little, carrying me across the winter-desolate plaza whose empty picnic tables bear witness to the weather. (Where are the mountains? They should be out there… All hidden.)

My busy feet scamper off the far side of the plaza and then stop me before this plaque, set my eyes reading and my mind again hard at work. This plaza bears a name. It’s a name for us all to honour.

I had never heard of Helena Gutteridge! Food for continued thought, as my feet pick up the pace, urge me back home in time to beat the snow.

Which, that evening…

comes thumping down.

3 Things About P-D Rain

22 November 2022 – There are surely many more things to know about seriously pissing-down rain, but here is your starter’s kit of three.

1 – In Nature

The Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus) still deserves its nickname.

2 – In Shops

The doorway umbrella stand is chock-full.

3 – In Pedestrians

Here you have to take my word for it. As we cross paths on the sidewalk — splish-splosh in our wellie-boots, zipped up in our Seriously Waterproof Coats — we wrinkle our noses at each other in amusement.

“Isn’t this the silliest weather ever?” our noses ask each other, and we beam agreement as we walk on by.

Taking the 5th

15 November 2022 – Not “the 5th” as in a self-shielding legal manoeuvre in a US courtroom. Instead, “the 5th” as in bouncing down Vancouver’s West 5th Avenue, wide open to the cultural/commercial fizz erupting on all sides.

Fizz indeed. I’m in the Quebec-to-Alberta stretch running through Mount Pleasant, known (well, in real-estate circles) as “Vancouver’s most desirable mixed-used neighbourhood.”

I am all in favour of mixed-use, aka diversity; I grow either nervous or bored when faced with homogeneity. No fear of that around here! While this cityscape has lost any trace of the millennia-old indigenous use of the land, it bears remaining evidence of early working-class settlers, who used their muscle-power either in their own small enterprises or in service of the industrial needs of the CPR. You still see a few auto-body shops, for e.g., but by now the transition from strong arms to strong brains is well underway.

Emphasis on creative/digital brain power.. all wrapped up in green. Proclaiming eco-sensitivity along with floor space. (Cf. my recent Into The City post.)

This brand new “slats” building between Quebec & Ontario…

offers “a superior location” and boasts its high ratings for walking/transit/biking criteria.

→An aside to explain the cross streets: I’m in a stretch named for the provinces in Confederation at the time of naming. They are slightly out of geographical order and include a territory, but let’s not quibble.

At the intersection of 5th and Ontario, older & newer versions of creativity shimmer at each other from every corner.

North-east corner = PureBread café, one of a handful of Vancouver & Squamish outlets for an artisanal bakery based in Whistler; north-west corner = Catalyze Solutions, a real estate project planning firm; south-west corner = Martha Sturdy Studios. It is the home furnishings/decor outlet for this octogenarian artist/ceramist/jeweller/sculptor who is still active, and whose works have been featured everywhere from Italian Vogue to Architectural Digest.

The aesthetic rust sensibility of her studio…

ricochets midway down the next block, to nature’s own rust on this chain. It locks the courtyard gate beside the heritage brick home of Image Engine (“world-class visual effects for film”).

More nature near the corner of 5th & Manitoba, this time yellow flowers that survived the snow and are still perky as all-get-out.

They sit in front of another artisanal bakery, Terra Breads. Together, they play compare/contrast with high-tech parking and the shiny-new neon-green “2131” building kitty-corner.

Completed last year, says the online promo, it provides office and light industrial space for a number of tenants, including AbCellular Biologics.

All very fancy and brainy and new… but with older art styles as the streetscape context.

Right across the street, this 2019 Vancouver Mural Festival wall…

back on 5th and just west of Manitoba, some grotty-old, unapologetic-old, roof-top graffiti…

and a tad farther west again, two doorways plastered with stickers.

I am not a stickers fan. Don’t get it. Grumble, grumble. But I read these, and… oh all right… some are mildly bemusing. “Scrub out racism not stickers” says one; “dump your porn addicted boyfriend” urges another; and another proclaims “timbit taliban,” which I suspect would confuse the Taliban as much as Tim Hortons.

More mixed-use, as I make my way from Manitoba to Columbia: Maison d’Etre Design Build (surely the world’s best bilingual marketing pun, but I wish they’d kept the accents), and two beauty-devoted outlets, focused respectively on hair salon supplies, and high-end residential flooring.

Almost at Columbia, I’m stopped flat by the elegant, but enigmatic, signage on an otherwise entirely anonymous building:

It only makes sense much later, when some online scuffling around shows me this used to be a Canadian Tire customer pick-up centre.

5th & Columbia is like a case study in past-present-future.

The south-west corner lot is for sale, with this tidy but older home surely doomed. (Note the home immediately beyond — beautifully painted, its owners raking leaves and very much not for sale.)

Facing the for-sale, an already-sold: something new rising up from the ground on the north-west corner, bearing the name Renditions Developments and promising “a new chapter.”

Beyond that, continuing west on 5th, wonderful names for what I fondly hope are wonderfully creative little boutiques — Rad Power Bikes; Hot Sauce Digital Marketing; Adventure Technology; Black & White Zebra. (And somewhere in here, I forget exactly where, the offices for the newspaper Vancouver Is Awesome.)

Corner of 5th & Alberta, a very empty, very space-y, space, announcing “This must be the space.” Tenants yet to arrive.

Kitty-corner, a space already full of tenants: Beaumont Studios — outdoor courtyard; indoor venues available for events; and an artists’ collective of rental studios.

I cross over, walk along the mural, contemplate the humanoid at the end.

Pop-eyed in amazement, as seems fitting, and with hands raised either in horror at recent developments…

or to warm them at the flame of all this new creative energy.

Take your pick.

Surprise!

8 November 2022 — So there we all were, we downtown Vancouverites, tucked up in our little beds and minding our own business… and this morning we wake up to snow.

Surprise!

We should not have been surprised. We were warned. Yesterday, we woke up to proof that winter had arrived — the freezing level was again drawing its sharp horizontal line right across the Coast Range Mountains. Bright above; dark below.

“Freezing level,” as in, the altitude at which the temperature is currently 0 C, causing precipitation to land as rain below the line, and as snow above.

But surprised we are anyway, because we always are.

This bicycle, for example, did not take cover in time.

And most of the city’s deciduous trees & shrubs are equally surprised, since they haven’t yet had time to shed their leaves.

It makes for magical combinations, as a friend & I discover in a mid-day visit to the VanDusen Botanical Garden. There wasn’t that much snow to start with, and by now some has melted, but despite blazing sunshine the air is still crisp, and snow still lingers.

Peer over the walkway edge into a gully and, look, dark pebbles gleam snow-free but the ground plants are entirely white and even the conifers play white-against-green.

West side of the Cypress Pond pedestrian bridge — star of my deosil walk — where a distant Red Maple blazes bright, but is outshone by the moss in the nearby Cypress. This is such a neon-green smack in the eye that I almost miss the traces of snow, still smudging some of the branches.

Neon green moss? I don’t know how neon neon can be, until we walk farther west, toward Heron Lake. A bush shines red, over there beyond the snowy grass by the lake, but I am transfixed by the neon green outline of the mossy tree branches right in front of me by the path.

(Sorry, I can’t account for that turquoise flash in the tree trunk.)

Finally, just as we’re about to head indoors to warm up, proof that gold can be just as punchy as red or moss green — especially when all wrapped up in white, for contrast.

We stroke the Larch’s silky needles, and go find ourselves some hot chocolate inside.

Deosil, Around the Pond

30 October 2022 – I have neither pond nor this extraordinary word “deosil” in mind as I pick my way through the Woodland Garden, one of the areas within Vancouver’s VanDusen Botanical Garden.

Instead, I am looking for a very specific image — the visual echo of one of my recent stacked-stone photos in Stanley Park.

This is the photo I have in mind.

There they are, a stone couple stop their rock, looking out across English Bay to the far freighters.

And here I now am in the VanDusen woods, where — yes!– I find what I am seeking….

a red cedar couple atop their knoll, looking out across Livingstone Lake to the Visitor Centre.

Different scale, different material, and a known sculptor, but there’s my visual echo, and I am happy.

I circle the installation before moving on.

It’s one of my favourites: Confidence, 2012, by Michael Dennis. (Among his other works, one I show you frequently: the eponymous Dude, aka Reclining Figure, in Dude Chilling Park.)

I decide to go walk around the Cypress Pond, partly because it’s near-by and mostly because I just plain like it a lot. Quickest way there is back through the Woodland Garden, where nature’s dramatic fall colour contrasts punch me in the eye…

before I emerge onto the path just south of the pond.

If we think of the pond as hat-shaped, its crown to the north…

I’m now at the lower right, eastern edge of the brim.

Purely on whim, I decide to walk clockwise, water to my right, rather than my usual counter-clockwise.

“Widdershins!” I think happily to myself. Such a ridiculously wonderful word and now I can actually use it. “I am walking widdershins….” Oh, um, oops. Which way ’round is that? So, later, I look it up and, thanks to the Waning Moon website for southern-hemisphere “lovers of Earth’s mysteries,” I discover the etymology and definition, not just of widdershins, but of deosil as well.

Deosil! In all my decades of life, I had never heard that word. Now I not only know the word, I am able to tell you that, in choosing to walk with the pond to my right, I am walking deosil, not widdershins. The persistence of language! From their Scottish Gaelic/Middle Irish/Lowland Scottish/Germanic origins, through their centuries of misspellings and re-spellings — they are still with us today, two ancient words to distinguish right-turning from left-turning.

All that book larnin’ comes later. Meanwhile, back here at pond’s edge, I soon forget fancy language, and just start my loop.

There’s the pedestrian bridge to the north, as I set off from the pond’s south-east corner.

I follow that southern edge, and then make a right turn onto a trail cutting north through the woods on the pond’s west side. It offers me more dramatic fall contrast of colours, this time in a Lebanese Cedar.

Talk about colour-blocking! I walk close…

and then really close…

and finally back off, back to my trail.

Nobody is sitting on the little bench just south of the bridge, not in today’s chill, and no turtles are sunning themselves on the rocks either.

About to step onto the bridge, I pause to enjoy the reverse view, west to east, and the way drooping tree branches frame the view (Sweet Gum on the left, Bald Cypress on the right).

Droplets from the morning showers still glisten in the Cypress needles, and a Red Maple beckons from the far side.

Off the bridge now, into the Eastern North America woods to the east of the pond, with more bright blaze from some Red Maples.

Completing my deosil loop, I’m back where I began. I give the pond one last glance…

and head indoors.

I’ll approach the café either deosil or widdershins, and who cares? Either way, there will be a latte at the end of the loop.


And then…

25 October 2022 – And then… at last…

it begins to rain.

It beats a soft tattoo on the hood of my Seriously Waterproof Coat, and it makes gleaming magic of the every-day.

Fallen leaves…

garden rocks…

a stretch of sidewalk…

with puddle lakes & dancing raindrop circles…

a water fountain…

with its own dancing raindrops, real and painted…

chair circles in Dude Chilling Park, usually occupied & invisible, now empty & visible & admirable, a reminder of all the conversations, all the neighbourhood connections, that they (literally) support…

and the Dude himself…

who hosts us all.

Still Life

23 October 2022 – Near Third Beach, English Bay, Stanley Park.

“Mini-Miracles”

17 October 2022 — These cranky days, even a mini-miracle is a major miracle and I’ll say thank you and hold it tight. Viewed that way, my walk centred around the St. George Community Library is to be celebrated.

My plan: drop off three books as donations to the “St. George Community Library” — in quotes, because if you now expect bricks & mortar, you are out of luck. As a 2012 Globe and Mail article explains, it’s a couple of planks street-side on East 10th near St. George, here in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, with a bit of tarp over top and the invitation to lend or borrow, give or receive.

I’ve received more than once, time to give.

En route, I angle through Dude Chilling Park, where I notice the leaves now flaring red…

and the tents down the pathway between the park and the adjacent school, proclaiming that the local farmers’ market is in session.

I visit the market, and find myself mesmerized by the pavement beneath my feet. It is brightly painted, a reminder that normally this cut-through serves schoolchildren. I stand there, giggling at some of the juxtapositions between permanent paint and temporary market signage.

There’s the hopscotch tucked behind today’s sorbet bars…

the chubby hand grabbing for those wonderfully multilingual eggs…

the blue-cap guy roaring approval for “absolutely NO pesticides” in the squash…

and all those teeth eager to sink into local frozen berries.

Mind you, some signage is temporary, and purpose-written for today’s visitors.

Off I go. I have books to donate.

On up to East 10th, left-turn east onto East 10th & on past St. George.. But before I get to the library shelving, I stop at the corner display. I think of it as the Gratitude Display, not that it has that official name, but there it always is, prompting us to be grateful for something seasonal and providing the materials needed to write up our response & peg it to the line.

With Thanksgiving just past and Hallowe’en almost here, the theme is obvious and the message silhouettes are pumpkin-shaped. The lines are bowed with suggestions; here is my favourite.

And so, enjoying the concept of mini-miracles, I walk on.

First to donate my books (a mini-miracle right there, that this two-plank “library” still thrives, at least a decade after its founding); then to visit the curious garden a few doors farther down the street.

Another noun deserving quote marks: this “garden” consists of a tub balanced on the nude legs/hips lower half of a mannequin, filled with assorted succulents and a collection of tiny naked plastic babies escaping from one container or another, the container varying with whatever whim currently strikes the gardener’s fancy.

I look to see what’s current.

Turquoise peasant clogs, is what. I think this is quite wonderful in a totally goofy “either you love it or you think it’s stupid” way. I also love the conker — the gleaming horse chestnut, still fresh and mahogany-bright, and so very seasonal.

I walk on, my mind now snagged on conkers and the game little boys played with them early in the last century (as recounted to me by my father). The game may be old memory, but the sound effects are right this minute: conkers are thudding down all around me from the trees towering over my head.

My mind moves on, from conkers back to that concept of mini-miracles. Thus encouraged to see them, I do see them, and I define them broadly.

For example, in the joke of these Monkey Puzzle branches tickling the armpits of a bungalow at East 10th & Prince Albert…

in the open embrace of this vintage home, all verandahs and balcony, at Prince Albert & East 19th…

and, right across the street, just past the volunteer-tended traffic circle garden (suffering the ban on watering), in the striking silhouette of St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church.

As I stand farther up Prince Albert, admiring the side view of the cross on the building and the cupola on the garage…

I can hear a congregation singing a hymn. Not in St. Nicholas, where children are now playing outside the church, but through the open doors of the Chinese Tabernacle Baptist Church one street farther south.

Another mini-miracle I’m happy to add to my day: peaceful diversity is always good news.

So I am perfectly content as I carry on south for a while, then finally loop my way back west-ish and north-ish. A short pause in Robson Park, with more autumnal conkers literally at my feet…

and I walk on home.

ShadowLand

13 October 2022 – A land I walk, one half-hour this sunny afternoon, along the south-east end of False Creek.

There is ShadowGate, on my street-side right…

ShadowWall, across the water beyond Hinge Park…

ShadowChairs, clustered close to Olympic Village…

ShadowGrid, west of the chairs…

ShadowBridge, east of the chairs…

and finally…

well, of course…

ShadowMe.

  • 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

    • 114,058 hits
  • Since 14 August 2014

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

    Join 1,983 other subscribers
%d bloggers like this: