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.

 

 

 

Truth in Advertising

8 November 2017 – An unexpected delight at the Surrey Art Gallery.

Though Frances & I take a quick look at one of the current exhibits, Ground Signals, we are not here to visit the Gallery. We are about to hop on the bus for a Gallery-sponsored tour of selected art studios back in Vancouver.

Which we do.

Which you will get to do as well, in my next post…

Very, Very Vancouver

5 November 2017 – (Twice is my limit. You will not be subjected to “very-very-very.”)

Yesterday evening I’m out in my Serious Weather puffy down parka — the one I thought I’d never wear in balmy old Vancouver — thinking, “Ummmm… it’s cold.” We’re in minus-digits territory on the thermometer.

But, as I stand there in Cathedral Square, hopping gently from foot to foot, I am also thinking, “It’s very beautiful, in a ghostly sort of way.”

A frosty full moon (lower middle of image) glows through the Gingko biloba trees, still golden with late-fall leaves …

and the pond fountains shoot jets of icy light into the air.

 

Appropriate that I find this a ghostly sort of beauty: our small group is waiting for the start of this evening’s “Lost Souls of Gastown” walking tour. (Thanks here to my companion Jim — honorary family, in a complicated way — who came up with the idea.)

It is an excellent tour, using the prism of one (fictional) woman’s experiences to bring a human dimension to key early events — the felling of trees to carve out a raw new frontier town, the coming of the railway, the great fire of 1886, smallpox outbreaks, the Klondike gold rush, and unsolved murders.

I am all the more impressed by my engagement with this story because … I don’t much like Gastown. Like many urban historic areas elsewhere, it became very seedy indeed before being restored and repackaged as a major entertainment & tourist attraction. To my eye, it is now more faux than fact, its embellishments more stage prop than real.

The celebrated Gastown Steam Clock, for example, for all its vintage appearance, was built and installed in the late 1990s. Still, I am charmed to learn that its steam is real — it serves as an essential vent for steam pipes running beneath the streets.

And it looks absolutely wonderful, gloriously atmospheric, in the evening’s misty chill.

Yes, those “period” globe lights are as recent as the Steam Clock. But that one last globe light, in the upper left, touching the roof of the white building? That’s real. It’s our full moon.

The moon stays with us throughout the tour, right down to the last moments in a back alley that runs between restaurant service doors and the railway tracks. It is joined by an equally real owl. He sits patiently on a tree branch overhead, waiting for us to disappear so he can get back to raiding the dumpsters and, perhaps, swoop down on the rat that shot past our feet as we clustered for the final instalment in this saga of 19th-c. lost souls.

Sunday morning brings a whole new magic: bright sunshine & plus-zero temperatures. We bounce down to False Creek for a walk, how could we not?

Into Hinge Park. The ducks are as happy with the day as the passing humans, swimming around or — like Mr. Mallard here — stretching a wing into the (comparative) warmth of the day.

I look across the stream, drawn as I always am by the Rusty Submarine. Drawn also, this time, by its reflection in the stream.

Look closely on the left, you’ll see two adults about to enter it and walk through.

A moment later, I enter from the other end.

And instantly turn into a 4-year-old. First I jump up & down — ra-ta-ta-boom-boom!!! It resonates wonderfully. I giggle.

Then I peer up through one of the sub’s overhead periscopes.

And then more walking, right down to the Village Dock at False Creek’s east end; after that a ferry ride back to Spyglass Dock, my Cambie-Street dock.

I pause a moment under the Cambie bridge supports to enjoy again something I always admire, the John McBridge Community Garden snugged up right there next to the bridge.

It’s just one of many in this city, some (as here) run by a neighbourhood association, some by the City itself, all of them planted out in trim boxes and therefore independent of what lies beneath.

Then I spin about, face the other way, and do a double-take.

I’ve not seen this before! But I admire it already.

And if you are thinking to yourself, “Hmmm, well, my goodness, that’s sure looks a piano bench, a drummer’s throne & a musician’s chair, up there on that bright red stand” … you’d be right.

Is this not wonderful? The City has taken away all the painted pianos for the winter, but here we are with an art installation — 3-Piece Band, by Elisa Yan and Elia Kirby — that wants you to sit right down, you busker you, and make music.

But, of course (cf. those rules of etiquette), you must play nicely with the other children. Wait your turn. And if there is someone waiting for their own turn after you, don’t play for more than an hour.

This final image is arguably redundant. I have already shown you 3-Piece Band. Here it is again. Please guess why.

Right! Because there’s a cycling pedalling by in the background.

Last night & today, from Steam Clock to cyclist, it is all very, very Vancouver.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Very Vancouver

4 November 2017 – Trucking on down West Broadway I am, and there it is. A Very Vancouver moment.

A bike. With prayer flags.

I should add… That was two days ago.

Yesterday it snowed. But the snow is all up there, atop the Coast Mountains, not down here on city streets (though visible from here).

Down here the palm trees still wave their fronds, as they do year-round.

Meanwhile skiers are ecstatic, digging out their gear, and non-skiers are scrabbling around, trying to find their gloves & scarves.

And umbrellas.

 

BOOO!!! (2017 version)

31 October 2017 – Yah yah, there’s your ghosties & goblies & long-leggedy beasties, and your pirates & witches & skeletons & spiders …

But it’s all so last-century, y’know?

Time for some here-&-now horror.

Like …

a fluorescent green Hazmat suit.

Loose Behaviour

29 October 2017 – No no, not that kind of loose behaviour.

This kind.

Frances & I are also “on the loose,” no door between us and our freedom to zigzag our way from Commercial Drive (“The Drive”)  & E. Broadway all the way north through East Van up to CRAB Park on Burrard Inlet.

One tempting shop after another, on The Drive. Greengrocers for example, their goods piled high in sidewalk bins.

Another puppy, a different puppy, & not on the loose. He sits politely in his owner’s bike basket, eyeing the plum tomatoes…

while construction workers juggle coffee mugs, consider the acorn squash. Verdict still out.

Grouchy Guy doesn’t like cauliflower…

and the café next door hopes to fatten the tip jar with a seasonal pun.

You do see strange things, along with the more or less expected. But, yes, upon reflection, the back end of a car is a perfectly reasonable shape for an awning…

though perhaps it’d do better if not so tattered.

And look, a giraffe!

No explanation on the billboard. He’s just there. But he does remind us that we’ll see more giraffes later on. (As indeed we do.)

Who cares about giraffes? Here’s Jimi Hendrix.

“He used to live here,” says native Vancouverite Frances. She’s right, and her comment reminds me that our mutual great friend Sally was high school best-friends with Jimi’s cousin Diane.

They were teens when he returned one last time in 1968, for the only live performance by the Jimi Hendrix Experience in this city. Sally was one of the group of friends and family who went back to his Aunt Pearl’s place afterwards for a long night of talking and visiting.

(I search online later, of course I do, and discover there is a Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley Shrine, yes with a capital “S”, at 432 Homer St. There is also an account of that 1968 performance, including an — shall we say, unofficial? — recording.)

On we go.

Languid eyes on this storage yard mural turn northward toward the mountains …

while more eyes on another mural follow street traffic instead. They don’t notice — or perhaps just aren’t impressed by — the  very odd shape poking out at the far right end of their building.

But we notice. And discover a Beetle-beetle.

Then a bumper-sticker catches my eye, mostly because I have yet to visit this city, and really want to get there some day.

I invite all Portlanders, or anyone with an opinion, to provide editorial comment.

And then, here we are at Burrard Inlet. And here are the giraffes. Long orange necks stretched over shipping containers in the marine terminal right next to CRAB Park.

We swivel our heads from giraffes (on the right) to the sweeping curve of CRAB Park (on the left). One man basks in the warm sunshine, happy on his rock…

Another, equally happy, choses to bask on a log closer to the water, while his dog narrows his eyes and calculates the molecular structure of sand crystals.

We watch one more ‘copter descend to the busy helipad …

and split up to head for home.

 

Stone Another Crow!

Some of you commented on my fascination with crows (see previous post); Guernseyman Chris went you all one better, sending me — all the way from Guernsey, mind — this image of the island’s very own contribution to the lore.

I did ask, is “Croze” island slang for somebody/something? Nope. Just the sheer fun of phonetic spelling.

Stone the Crows!

26 October 2017 – It’s an old folk-expression of dismay or surprise, say somewhat vague online sources, but I’ll go with it.

Since moving to Vancouver I have been surprised by the number of crows in the city, and by the number of crow references in signage and artwork.

 

I spotted this one a few days ago while out walking with Frances in the city’s downtown East Side. The sign points the way to a drop-in treatment clinic for drug addicts. To my mind, it positions the crow as a symbol of strength and hope.

But then, I’ve fallen in love with the crow (genus Corvus, of the Passerine family). I love their spirit, their energy, their sleek minimalist beauty.

Imagine my delight when dear friends offered me this plate, purchased on their recent Alaskan cruise.

 

It depicts a raven, not a crow, but the raven is a larger member of the same genus, and I love them both. (Memories of my years travelling Arctic hamlets, and the whopping huge ravens I’d see up there.)

No wonder I purchased a crow fridge magnet at the Vancouver Art Gallery!

It makes number three in a trio that speaks to my heart — the other two being artist Michael Snow’s Walking Woman figure, and an Icelandic stamp. First I walked myself to an Icelandic adventure; now I have walked myself to Vancouver.

Hello, Mr. Crow.

I see them just like this, on utility wires.

And I see crow imagery all over town. I thought the references benign — affectionate, even. I thought Vancouver loved its crows.

Then I entered “crows vancouver” in a search engine, and …

Well, stone the crows! I was surprised by what I found.

Headlines shouted at me:

  • Murder mystery: the reason 6,000 crows flock to Burnaby [adjacent municipality] every night” …
  • Stalked and dive-bombed: Increase in Vancouver crow attacks” … “
  • Vancouver, beware” …
  • Spike in crow attacks in Vancouver’s west end” …
  • Crow attack season in Vancouver” …

Ahhhh, you get the idea.

I discover there is an interactive website, Crowtrax, where you can post an attack to the area map. In early spring 2017, it looked like this, with grey flags marking 2016 attacks and red flags for the first few months of 2017.

Good grief.

I learn that the crow/raven place in mythology goes back millennia, and is largely negative. I find two versions of an old folk rhyme, each building to the same dire final line.

Here’s the longer version, with thanks to Mind Space Apocalypse, right here on Word Press.

“One Crow for sorrow,
Two Crows for mirth;
Three Crows for a wedding,
Four Crows for a birth;
Five Crows for silver,
Six Crows for gold;
Seven Crows for a secret, not to be told;
Eight Crows for heaven,
Nine Crows for hell;
And ten Crows for the devils own self.”

But crow/raven have their defenders. That Mind Space Apocalypse post includes their position in First Nations mythology as the Trickster, with all it implies of intelligence and ingenuity.

An article on native-languages.com says crows are often viewed as omens of good luck in First Nations cultures, and are a clan animal for some as well.

Thoughtco.com writes about “The magic of crows and ravens.”

And Derek Matthews (chair, Vancouver Avian Research Centre), interviewed by dailyhive.com on 16 April 2017, says: “Crows have very human like personalities and just like us, they protect their young. If we protect our kids, we’re called heroes, and if they do it, they are called villains.”

Bottom line: in the spring nesting season, leave crows alone.

Enjoy their images in artwork instead.

For example, cuddling up to a clown, in this wall mural detail near Commercial Drive and East 1st Avenue.

Or these crows dancing with butterflies, on Hawks Avenue near Powell Street.

Or these crows guarding the doorway in an exuberant mural on Commercial Drive north of East 1st.

I like to think of crows guarding that doorway — intelligent, inquisitive, alert, curious and fearless.

Hurray for crows!

 

Coffee Brake

18 October 2017 – Well, if they can talk about their Brake-fast menu, I can talk about my coffee brake…

I am in the Tandem Bike Café, having splish-sploshed my way around town for assorted reasons, and in the mood to reward myself for not whining — even to myself — about the rain.

See? Very wet.

Not the driving but relatively brief downpour I wrote about earlier, but the steady, determined kind of rain that you know can keep going for … oh … a week or so. As indeed is predicted.

But I am learning to be a Vancouverite. I am wearing my new Sorel rainboots, picked up at the local MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op), and a rainproof jacket, and wielding a spacious umbrella.

At the moment I am wielding a steaming latte instead, peering over its froth to both sides of this shop’s dual identity.

Left rear = bike repair & sales. Right rear = rest of the café seating.

Click-thunk, go the sound effects, as a steady stream of customers come through the door.

“Hi Nicole, my usual…” says one young man, adding he has plenty of time because he has just missed his bus.

Next a woman who keeps her eyes focused on the front window as she orders a lemon loaf. Then, obviously thinking, Well, that’s a bit rude, explains: “Sorry, I’m watching for the bus…”

I’m seated by that front window, next to the goodies display case, so I hear all the chat.

So does the gnome.

Summer he props open the front door; rainy season, he stands guard with the space heater.

The legs behind him belong to the customer picking up his coffee & cinnamon bun order. And lingering, because Nicole & Sonia behind the counter are reading him excerpts from a book of short stories. “This guy just dropped it off, free,” says one of them. “His mother wrote it and he’s handing out copies. And look — this story, we’re supposed to fill in the blanks.”

So the three of them bend their heads to the challenge.

The next click-thunk announces a bike-repair customer, plus malfunctioning bike. He veers left, not right. The consultation begins.

I’m just gathering my belongings — stash my phone where rain can’t reach it, zip my jacket to the top, retrieve the umbrella — when yet another customer starts debating the characteristics of this particular rainfall. I listen. Of course I do! Vancouverites discuss rain like the connoisseurs they are, and I need to learn this stuff.

“I know it’s going on all week,” he says. “That’s normal! It’s just normal Vancouver rain.”

I look out the window before I head off. This is what normal rain looks like, I tell myself.

Where’s Lemon-Loaf Lady? The next bus has just arrived.

 

 

 

  • 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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