Eagles in Winter

15 December 2017 – We are on the Squamish River, between Vancouver & Whistler, in Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park. We’re here for wintering eagles, not for salmon.

The salmon deserve their sculpture, and our respect. Without the prolific chum (Onc orhynchuus keta) run each year, and the resulting salmon carcasses, Bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) would not congregate here each winter.

But the chum do run, and the carcasses do accumulate. This riparian area therefore offers the eagles one of North America’s best wintertime habitats — and offers humans one of North America’s most significant locations for viewing them, December-March.

Frances and Sally, Vancouverites both, know the area, know what it offers, and I am only too happy to benefit from their knowledge and enthusiasm.

Even the naked eye spots Bald eagles in all directions — in trees, swooping over the water, on sand & gravel bars in the river.

We read the information boards, including the four points of Eagle Viewing Ethics.

We stand there, amazed by the river tumbling to the Pacific Ocean between mountain ranges, by the mountains, by the habitat and, of course, by the eagles.

Sally has the better camera, one capable of seeing more than naked eyes — or phone cameras — can possible capture.

An eagle swoops in over the bar. Click!

He has lots of company. Click!

Later we follow the riverside path, mindful of Eagle Viewing Ethics, carefully staying on the path, trespassing neither on the sand bars to our left nor on Squamish Nation property to our right.

Eagles perch freely in these trees, apparently unfussed by the parade of human gawkers. Close enough, now, for any kind of camera.

Here a speckled juvenile (or so someone tells me) and an adult …

and there a majestic adult all on his own, glorying in his white head, visual counterpoint to Sally’s red toque.

After the park, on to some feeding of our own.

Frances, with insider knowledge, guides us to Fergie’s Café, a local gem tucked away on the neighbouring Cheakamus River. A “locally sourced, innovative menu,” I later read somewhere, and it’s true — everything from red meat to vegan, made right there, by a serious (but not solemn) chef.

Oh, yum.

Afterwards, we lollygag for a bit on the banks of the Cheakamus.

More eagles.

Yes, those two dots on that tree branch = eagles. My camera, so you have to take my word for it.

But that’s not really why I’m using this photo. I’m using it because it’s just so back-country Canadian: rushing river, rock, coniferous & deciduous trees, sturdy little workhorse bridge, mountains.

I’ve stood in the equivalent of this spot so many times, in so many places, across the country & across the decades.

It still takes my breath away, stings my eyes.

We finally drive out, ready to head back to the city — but make one last stop just outside Squamish itself, down bouncy rutted roads to another viewpoint, right on the river.

Mid-afternoon sun warms the rock, glints off Diamond Head’s snowcap in the background.

And then we go join Hwy 99, and drive home.

 

 

Little Cat Feet

10 December 2017 – We’ve been having a week of fog, of fog swirling in and out, of fog playing with altitude & longitude & latitude.

It makes me remember the fogs of my long-ago winter in Lima, Perú, also on the Pacific coast.

And it makes me remember Fog — the Carl Sandberg poem taught us in an even longer-ago grade school English class.

The fog comes

on little cat feet.

It sits looking

over harbour and city

on silent haunches

and then moves on.

 

Light & Shadow

6 December 2017 – You look at this image, and you say to yourself, “Why, that’s a 19th-c. landau carriage rejigged as a camera obscura!

And you are right. Millennial Time Machine, it is called, created by Rodney Graham in 2003. It is just one of the works of art visible on the UBC campus, showcased in an outdoor art tour under the auspices of UBC’s Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery — number 16 in the online tour guide.

The Tuesday Walking Society (Vancouver Division) is enjoying this brilliantly sunny day, the bold shadows it creates,  & the works of art. We don’t take the official tour; we’re hoofing around on our own.

“Look!” I cry, as we wheel ’round a corner and see a dramatic twined sculpture in the mid-distance. “It looks just like a tuning fork!”

I say it as a joke — but, clever-boots me, that really is the title.

Tuning Fork, 1968, by Gerhard Class (number 2 in the Belkin brochure), is located right outside the main entrance to the UBC Music Building. Well, of course it is.

Our extremely wandering path eventually takes us through the UBC Rose Garden. Nary a rose to be seen, in early December, the bushes are all cut neatly back for winter. But there is still some colour, some seasonal substitute plantings …

“Cabbages!” I say, this time not as a joke since — veteran of Toronto’s Cabbagetown — I think I know an autumnal ornamental cabbage when I see one.

“Kale…” says Frances, who is closer to the display than I am, and kale they are. And very handsome too, glowing in the midday sun.

We zigzag into another enclosure, the pond and forecourt of the University Centre.  I start to laugh. What else can you do, faced with a boat balanced on the tip of its nose?

It’s made of Carrera marble, is Glen Lewis’ 1987 Classical Toy Boat (number 12), and, though now in shade, it outshines the sun. I am mesmerized.

Later I read about its travels: first installed outside the Powerpoint Gallery in Toronto’s Harbourfront, later purchased by the Belkin and installed here.

The write-up invites you to think of it as magically defying gravity. I only realize later that one could perhaps view it tragically, as a sinking boat — but, no, somehow that interpretation never occurs. It is so obviously a happy little toy boat, having a good time.

Down the steps, across the road: Frances & I plan a lunch stop in the Museum of Anthropology. But first, a pre-stop stop, to admire Joe Becker’s Transformation sculpture in a small pool right at the MOA  entrance.

I could describe it for you, but Becker’s own words are so much better:

Even with water turned off (presumably for the season), it is still a powerful, sinuous work of art. And how the roe gleams!

Lunch as planned, and then a quick trip around the exterior of the building itself, one of architect Arthur Erickson‘s masterpieces.

As always, the great linear dynamics catch my attention, and my breath. They please from every angle.

Viewed through the trees, here at the entrance …

or along the side toward the back, with tree shadows dancing on the columns.

Erickson’s inspiration, surely, was the traditional lines of the Haida double mortuary pole. There is a magnificent example in the groupings of poles and buildings behind the Museum — this one designed by Bill Reid and then carved by Reid and Douglas Cranmer, 1960-61.

You look from it to the powerful rear façade of the MOA itself.

Yes. They belong together. They belong on this land, and to this land.

 

Street Sights

1 December 2017 – Well, there’s the pavement, of course.

But the pavement has plenty of companions, to keep it from feeling all lonely & dull.

Ground-hugging toadstools (genus Ventilationii), for example ..

and up-thrust daisies (same genus) …

crows on wires (real & faux) …

and leapin’ lemurs …

a kaleidoscope moose …

and a high-flying toro …

a beating heart …

a cryptic message from the heavens …

and the gentle protection, we hope …

of a guiding spirit right here in the neighbourhood.

 

Night Light

26 November 2017 – I pause for a moment, as I cross the Cambie Street bridge in the gathering dusk.

I enjoy all those lights blazing out over False Creek, powered by BC Hydro, but that’s not what really snags my attention.

I am captivated by the still-vivid maple tree, just as forceful a presence in the twilight, and powered solely by Mother Nature.

Just Listen

22 November 2017 – I don’t often obey a wall, but this one is unusually authoritative.

I am walking along E 8th Avenue, approaching Ontario Street, minding my own business … and, there it is. A very busy wall.

Very busy, and very bossy as well.

Jeez, okay, I’m listening.

And reading. Lots to read.

Including one rather dire poem/prediction …

along with lots of upbeat proclamations as well.

In a scientific/metaphysical sort of way.

(Though perhaps not expanding for people who want to park their cars on this congested street…)

Enough about the universe. What about Precious Me?

And not only with each other. My cells are also in agreement with your cells and those of some unknown, but presumably welcome, third party.

But wait! We are more than a bunch of cells in agreement!

Goodness. The only suitable response would seem to be …

I walk on, thinking I have perhaps been underestimating the inventiveness & sheer fun of Vancouver street art.

 

 

“It’s Only Rain…”

18 November 2017 – I was every so slightly whimpering, kinda/sorta suggesting that we might take transit to the art gallery, because … look at the weather.

To which my born-&-bred Vancouver friend replied: “It’s only rain.”

So we walked. Of course we did. I am leaning to be a Vancouver Weather Warrior.

And, to that end, I walked to & from another appointment a few days later. In mostly-rain, with shafts of sunlight in between. I am beginning to understand that, along with the right clothing, you need the right attitude.

As in: it’s only rain.

If you take the rain as a given and focus on everything else instead, there is lots to enjoy.

For example, the rusty fall tones of the Hakonechloa macra “Aureola” (Golden Variegated Hakone, to its friends).

I can toss off this astounding bit of scientific knowledge only because I bought one of these plants for my own balcony, and therefore have the label.

After that, as I prance along through the Fairview neighbourhood just south of False Creek, I am woefully vague about what I am seeing — though fully appreciative of all the tones & textures on offer.

Birch against cedar hedge (I can get at least that far!) …

and 3 types of hedge playing against each other, horizontal & vertical …

and that pretty bush whose leaves start pink & turn green (Japanese pieris? have I got that right?) …

and holly & vivid red stuff …

and a nose-poke into those holly berries, in one of the sunshine moments …

and some floppy contrast, once again in gentle rain …

and more floppy contrast, this time some of it variegated …

and rain drops perched high & round on glossy leaves …

and — FINALLY — something I recognize.

An Orca whale. In an alley. On a garage.

I knew that. I really did. He didn’t have to tell me.

Really-Rain

16 November 2017 – Sometimes, there is no “almost” about the rain. It is really rain.

But if you’re out in it anyway — which, I am learning, is the appropriate response — it delivers its own kind of nifty moments.

There is Red on Grey, for example …

and Water on Water …

and finally, from the Cambie Bridge in the gathering dusk, Lights Through Water on Water.

After that, it’s all about Umbrella Choreography, through which we, its many creators, constantly adapt the Dance of the Crowded Sidewalk to our collective numbers, skills, and patience.

Almost-Rain

13 November 2017 – Almost-rain puts a pearly grey sheen in the air, sets it shimmering & dancing with everything below.

But at first I am thinking defensively, not collaboratively. I am thinking, “How do I inject some colour into all this grey?”

So I nip into a corner store & buy this $1 pair of stretchy gloves …

which I waggle at my amused companions as we board the bus. “Whoaaa…” says one. “I want a pair.”

We’re headed for the VanDusen Botanical Gardens, the magnet being the weekend “Artists for the Environment” exhibition and fundraiser. The art exhibit, videos & other presentations are almost exclusively indoors, but in fact we spent most of our time wandering the grounds.

Discovering the shimmer, the bright dance, of almost-rain.

I risk wet knees to get close, admire the interplay.

But it is one of my sharp-eyed friends who spots — from his full height — a tiny silver soldier figure, tucked among pine needles at the tree base.

More knees-to-ground.

Later, circling the VanDusen’s Stone Garden, we cock our heads at the sheen on vertical slabs, the wet leaves plastered in random origami folds against the rock by wind & rain.

We creep up on the bright red maple leaf — real? painted?

Painted.

And perfect, I think; the perfect complement to Nature’s own work of art on the rest of the slab.

Later, another complement — and compliment — to Nature’s works of art: Earth Art 2012 “Transformation Plant.”  Two rings of upright stones, wedged closely in position with tightly packed cut wood & smaller stones.

The installation is the work of New Zealand sculptor Chris Booth, who has done kinetic environmental sculptures all over the world, this one in collaboration with Musqueam elders & advisers, the indigenous people of this place.

Prompted by the title, we look for the “transformation plant.”

And there it is, right in the centre, a juvenile western red cedar that, 5 years on, is still barely taller than the encircling rings of stone.

Ah. But.

Think kinetic. Think decades from now.

That sprig, wrote Booth in his project diary,

would flourish over the years into a beautiful tree as the stone slabs (‘petals’) slowly opened up like a flower because of the fungi breaking down the stacked wood, recycling it into humus.

I’m still thinking about the dance of Nature, the ways humans dance with (and against) Nature, as we take the boardwalk across the Cypress Pond, to head for home.

More shimmer.

I’m into it now.

“The Owl and the Pussy-Cat…”

9 November 2017 – Chant along with me:

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat went to sea

In a beautiful pea green boat…”

I am not in a pea green boat.

I am in the former mattress factory at 1000 Parker Street, but I am as deliriously enchanted with my surroundings as any fan of Edward Lear could ever hope to be with his nonsense verse.

And, right here at 1000 Parker, there is an owl.

We are on the Surrey Art Gallery bus tour I mentioned last post, the day-long visit to clusters of artists’ studios in two Vancouver locations.

1000 Parker Street, I learn, is a Vancouver treasure, one of those rare examples of a major property developer/manager — in this case, the Beedie Development Group — that decides to dedicate one of its properties to the needs of its city’s artists.

Result: some 110 studios & 227 artists over four floors of a rambling wooden structure that began life in 1896 as the Restmore Manufacturing Company (and has been a few other things along the way).

I begin to think the hallways house almost as many artistic delights as the studios. There was that owl and, look, here’s a painted piano. With fall pumpkins.

The artists we visit speak coherently and engagingly about their lives, their preoccupations, their creative explorations. We’re a sort of dress rehearsal for the 20th annual Eastside Culture Crawl  (November 16-19), when this building, and its residents, will be a key attraction.

As always — at least, for me — it’s the asides, the little sidebars to the main story, that bring the artists most compellingly to life.

Visual artist Tiko Kerr, for example, works in the studio space once occupied by Jack Shadbolt (1909-1998). Assorted materials belonging to that renowned painter had been left behind, including a whole array of paint brushes. Kerr grouped some together, prepped them, and repurposed them as his “canvas” for a tribute painting that now hangs on a studio wall.

Later, when Judson Beaumont, woodworker/founder of Straight Line Designs (“We make quirk work”), explains that an early influence was the 1988 film, Who Framed Roger Rabbit

his beautifully executed, totally functional — and entirely loopy — designs make perfect sense.

His studio is on the top floor. He leads us out a doorway onto a little deck, talking about the work they do, answering questions, out there in the fresh air.

I sight down the old wooden walls to the railway tracks below,  a reminder of this building’s — this whole area’s — industrial/manufacturing past.

Frances nudges me, points straight down between two arms of the building. “Ooooooo,” I breathe. A continuous frieze of street art.

I want to see it! Inside is fine, it’s informative & stimulating … but I want to go outside, circle the building, see everything up close.

And I get to do just that.

Most tour members climb back in the bus for the return trip to Surrey; one other woman & I are staying in town. Jud Beaumont offers us the circle tour of the walls.

He laughs when I read out the company name lined up with his over a doorway. “Survival kits,” he repeats. “But they’re gone.”

I stare down a long building wall, realize I am as taken by the lines, colours & textures of the old building itself, as I am by the new — and ephemeral — artwork that is now part of it.

It becomes one stunning package, a dialogue of component parts that gives energy to the whole.

“The fire department inspector must have hysterics every time he visits,” I say. Beaumont is suddenly serious. “We are completely up to code. In everything.”

Then he breaks out in more laughter. “But I tend not to show potential clients any shots of the outside of the building,” he adds. “It might worry them.”

I’m not worried, I am having the time of my life, scooting from one visual treat to the next. Look at this doorway!

And this gold-sprayed mannequin tucked in a niche!

And Mr. Periscope Rabbit!

And the austere beauty of precisely aligned windows.

I am swept by sudden memory of the wall of north-facing windows on the Group of 7 Studio in the Rosedale Valley Ravine, in Toronto.

Except that Group of 7 building does not have any backchat from a line-up of chartreuse what-nots.

Or the scrutiny of laser-beam eyes in a smirking white face.

Well, it had to turn up, didn’t it?

We started with an owl. Of course there’ll be a pussy-cat.

I prance down the cul-de-sac, for a closer look.

Then I thank Beaumont for his street-art tour, say good-bye to my tour companion, and walk the 8 kilometres home, west through Strathcona, across Main Street, along False Creek, and up the hill.

So much fun.

 

 

 

  • 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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