Seen / Unseen, with Echoes

16 October 2016 – Truth-in-advertising moment, I’m back in Toronto, but with one last Vancouver post to publish — one last tribute.

Sally & I hit a couple of her favourite north-shore parks. First up, the Maplewood Conservation Area, a bird sanctuary owned by the District of North Vancouver & managed by its Parks Department, but operated by the Wild Bird Trust of British Columbia.

Before any trails, before even the welcoming notice board, there is a large pond. It’s open on one side to the parking lot, overhung by forest on the other. “Come,” says Sally, tugging my arm. “Look!”

I expect bird life, something exotic, I hope.

Not bird life, but still pretty exotic.

Ken Lum, "from shangri-la to shangri-la," 2010


Three shanties, a 2010 sculptural installation by artist Ken Lum, models of three of the many squatters’ shanties that lined the mudflats here during the first half of the 20th century. Left to right, today’s echo of the one-time homes of Malcolm Lowry (who completed Under the Volcano while living here 1940-1954), artist Tom Burrows, & Dr. Paul Spong (who later led Greenpeace’s Save the Whales campaign).

On down to Maplewood Flats. The shanties long gone, no echo (for outsiders) of the political & physical turmoil that brought that era to a close. Just the north-shore waters of the Burrard Inlet, now a protected ecosystem.

Maplewood Flats, Burrard Inlet

We have already read the notice-board October Survey of the birds spotted to date.

bird list to date, Maplewood Conservation Area

Impressive! And frustrating, since we see none of them (beyond the usual gulls).

Something else we don’t see as we move about, an omission for which we are grateful:

trail-side, Msplewood Conservation rea

From Maplewood to Cates Park.

A gate suggests it is now more than an ever-so-Anglo “Cates Park.”

Cates Park / Whey-ah-Wichen

And it is.

This is Cates Park / Whey-ah-Wichen, its management being guided by the 2001 protocol & cultural agreement between the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation & the District of North Vancouver.

We see all around us an even broader “cultural agreement” — the great diversity of ages & ethnic origins happily sharing the space. A group picnic behind us, with grandpa (I assume) playing the accordion; dog-walkers & frisbee-players to one side of us; and on the beach below, a lively toddler with her supportive parents, tackling & conquering a physical challenge.

The unoccupied lifeguard stand is irresistible. Daddy stands protectively close, but lets her clamber up on her own.

first climb the ladder ...

Success. “I’m queen of the castle!” she crows. Mummy & daddy applaud & record the moment.

then pose for mummy & daddy...

Daddy asks permission to join her. She deliberates. Then grants permission.

then graciously share the stage with daddy

“Daddy’s the king!” One little foot shoots straight forward, in utter delight at how wonderful this all is.

Sal & I are still smiling as we finally head off, wandering a path that will wind us down to beach level. But first, the peace, the calm beauty, of the trees. And the resonance, the echo, of the trail name: Malcolm Lowry Trail.

on the Malcolm Lowry Trail

Then the beach. We’ve pulled on our jackets, but the late-afternoon sun still warms our faces & the rocks beneath us.

water level, Cates Park

We prowl a little farther, catch a glimpse of the docks of wealthy private homes just beyond the park boundary.

private docks, adjacent to Cates Park

Back to the car on a different trail through the same woods, granting us another glimpse of another world, this one very tiny & tucked in among tree roots.

geo-cache in Cates Park

Seen, the miniature, physical world; unseen, the geo-cache app that leads players to this spot.

And now I sit in a sunny/cloudy Toronto morning, and Vancouver itself is the echo. A delightful echo.


Leave a comment


  1. What fun to see this, and the Pemberton post as well.

    See you next month, Penny.


  2. Glad you enjoyed Vancouver – great to see that so many different birds have been seen in that park.

  3. This post reminds me too much of a special place near home in Australia. Which however lacks those beautiful shanties in the first shot. You have a knack for framing your photos of the lake: the tree which highlights late light on the mountains; the rocks and the baring branches; the First Nations panel; and the log with the rope. A lovely stroll for me on Monday morning.


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    "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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