More Quotes, Some Keys, a Ferry, & a Dragonfly

28 June 2017 – Isn’t it always the way? You’ve never heard of something, and then you do, and then it jumps on you from all sides.

I’d never heard of John Muir, Scottish-born poet & naturalist (1838-1914), until Sally sent me the quote that opened a recent (Art of Quote-Unquote) post. A couple of days later, I’m entering the VanDusen Botanical Garden with my friend Louise, and there, beautifully incised into the glass doorway, is another Muir quote: “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”

(Checking it later online, I discover another I like a lot: “Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” The dirt-path strategy for happiness?)

We’re not in this stunning botanical garden for doorway quotes. We have come to walk the grounds, to enjoy all the collections, all the “rooms,” from the serenely austere Stone Garden to the Meditation Garden, the Sino-Himalayan collections, the Elizabethan Maze and more.

And we do. Oh, we certainly do. But we also admire the works of art in the grounds.

Including a piano.

It’s not much of a functioning piano by now, just look at those keys. But with seagulls like that swooping around (the work of Ilya Viryachev), you don’t mind.

Louise explains that the city has had several years of placing pianos in public — a CityStudio project called “Keys to the Streets” — and I realize I have seen a few about.

With more to come!

The next day I’m walking again — and again in brilliant sunshine, take that soggy Toronto, these two cities seem to have swapped weather patterns. This time in a loop around False Creek. Frances & I head west along the south side, then north across the Burrard St. bridge, its elegant Art Deco lines signalling its 1930s construction.

I stop to admire the view, and pound a few more geographic factoids into my brain.

False Creek flows into English Bay, into Burrard Inlet, into the Strait of Georgia … That’s Bowen Island, beyond that Vancouver Island, beyond that the Pacific Ocean …

We head back east on the north side. At David Lam Park, we hop around the stepping stones that encircle Don Vaughan’s temple-like sculpture, “Marking High Tide and Waiting for Low Tide,” reading the inscription as we go.

Hop, hop …

Hop, hop …

It’s just one of numerous pieces of public art around False Creek, and I like it a lot.

Now for something else I like a lot: a trip on one of the cheerful little ferry boats that shuttle back & forth! I jump aboard at the Yaletown Dock, for a quick crossing to Spyglass Place, back on my side of the Creek.

Spyglass Place Dock is a whole art installation all by itself: comfy bear-chairs for contemplating the view, artwork underfoot and all around … and, look, a piano.

This one is working just fine, thank you, its keys highly responsive, the pianist enthusiastic, and the rest of us charmed.

I contemplate a dragonfly.

I remember another piano in my recent past — this one plain blue, but startling for all that.

It was attached to a bicycle, though nicely stationary at the time in Woodward’s Atrium, part of the Hard Rubber Orchestra‘s open rehearsal for its first summer-time “Spacious Music at the Atrium” concert.

The music was good, the acoustics terrific, I made note of future concert dates.

So, pianos firmly in mind, it’s no wonder I see another as I make my way back south on Cambie. This one is in a much less appealing environment — a shopping mall food court — but it’s also part of the City’s public pianos initiative.

And it is also being played. Where the toddler in Spyglass Place ran to, shall we say, personal random expression, this guy is definitely into stride.

I hum my way home.

Where, via email, I collect one more quote!


Thank you, Phyllis.  She was out Dundas St. West, in Toronto’s Junction area, and came across this bakery sidewalk signboard.

All right, everybody. Eat up.



Leave a comment


  1. We saw a painted piano, too, on the beach in Vancouver Island. Someone was playing it with skill and enthusiasm. What a joy! So, maybe it’s a British Columbia custom?

    • Other places in the world as well, including Toronto during the run-up to the recent Pan Am Games. Such a terrific idea.

  2. Blane Hogue

     /  28 June 2017

    So good that you are seeing Vancouver through fresh eyes, Penny.

  3. Beautiful photos and a lovely commentary, but my favourite quote of the day has to be the one Phyllis sent!

  4. Graça Dubery

     /  29 June 2017

    Hi Pen
    Thank you for the happy memories you bring back to me from visiting Vancouver.
    I know the False Creek area, and visited Van Dusen and other gardens. A glorious city.
    I live now in Lisbon Portugal and follow your walks and quotes.

  5. 🙂 Love that Don Vaughn sculpture.

  6. The pianos are great. NYC has a public art piano project each year for the month of June. I think it is 50 pianos, each one painted by a different artist and placed in a different location. I didn’t have a chance to seek them out this year, but I kept seeing other people’s Instagram and Facebook posts about them. I know that jazz artists showed up one day to play the one in Harlem, and Broadway performers are known to show up at various locations to play and sing as well. At the end of the month, the pianos are donated to various organizations to continue use them.

    • Well, moose and other animals have swept big cities as the adornment de l’année — pianos better by far, since they encourage interaction. And the painting is always good. I like the idea of donating them at the end of the season.

  7. Oh what a walk you take us on. So much that’s unexpected and quirky, and a ferry! I too am a fan of ferries. And of John Muir. I’ve known about him for a while thanks to Robert Macfarlane. You remind me to read him.

    • Now that I’ve learned the name (Muir), I trip over his quotes all the time. Glad you also love ferries — having lived on a couple of islands in my time, I adore them, the little ones I mean.

      • I lived in Sydney for three months for work and I became a ferry addict. I always seek them out when I’m travelling – they take you through the intestines of the city and they’re an opportunity to rest the feet.

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    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

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