Wired for Walking

11 January 2021 – I’m out walking again, with the same motivation that drove And Also. Medical & political turbulence aren’t going away any time soon, so let’s balance those realities with other realities — moments of delight, charm, generosity, fun, engagement.

French author Marcel Proust knew about concurrent realities when he observed that the voyage of discovery lay in having new eyes, not in seeking new landscapes. (The quote is on my home page. I’ve loved it ever since I saw it on a wall at the Art Gallery of Ontario, and I no longer remember why it was there. Though, arguably, it’s one of those anchor thoughts that need no further justification.)

One hundred-plus years later, neuroscience has caught up with Proust. Psychologist & author Rick Hanson (e.g. Buddha’s Brain, Hardwired for Happiness) points out: “Neurons that fire together wire together. Mental states become neural traits. Day after day, your mind is building your brain. This is what scientists call experience-dependent neuroplasticity…” Also: “When you tilt toward the good, you’re not denying or resisting the bad. You’re simply acknowledging, enjoying and using the good. You’re acknowledging the whole truth, all the tiles of the mosaic of life…”

So, hey, claim your favourite authority — from Buddha to Marcel Proust to experience-dependent neuroplasticity — but feel no guilt about also noticing what is delightful.

I have myself a truly delightful, absolutely guilt-free, and (for me) quite lengthy walk. I take lots of photos. I select a bunch for this post.

And decide to use only two.

Go find your own delightful moments — the ones that speak to you, for your own reasons, in your own environment. We’re each on our own voyage of discovery, each selecting our own moments that will select the neurons to fire together & wire together.

Two photos, I promised you.

And they’re all about wires!

Last few blocks in the homeward stretch, I am more intent on plod-plod than see-see.

And then I see — just peripherally, but the sight ambushes my eye, snags me, halts my feet. There, on that ground-floor balcony ledge, next to that winter-mossy tree.

I trespass, move in close.

She is perfect. She is exuberant, strong, literally wired for joy & walking & discovery & everything wonderful, and, in the multiplicity of her colours, totally inclusive. I shamelessly stole Michael Snow’s Walking Woman sculpture series for my blog title, but I’m now adding her as another avatar, another inspiration.

(Guys, you can claim her too. Just do a mental photo-shop, and substitute your dangly bits for her dangly bits.)

And here we are. Our very own Wired for Walking avatar, just when we need one.

And It Rains

1 January 2021 – Rain smacks onto Scotia St. and courses on down the slope, tracing the route followed for millennia by Brewery Creek, now sealed away beneath the pavement. I am out in seriously waterproof gear, ready to take on the day.

As always, I slow my steps by the totem pole that soars up this side of the Native Education Centre at East 5th.

The work of master carver Norman Tait of the Nishga First Nation, this totem is a tribute to all indigenous peoples, past, present and future, and bears the title “Wil Sayt Bakwhlgat,” or “place where people gather.”

I look into the oval alcove, as I always do … then step closer, cock my head, peer inside.

Yes, it’s just a rock, but I pause, for I have seen tributes tucked into this alcove before now. If there is intention to this placement, I wish it well. (If not, I like the rock anyway. — shape, colour, and shine.)

The rain and I carry on downhill to East 1st, where my brain — supposedly running the show — waits to see which way my feet decide to go. My feet turn left, my brain raises no objection, so I’m headed for False Creek.

Goodness, it is so wet! Temperate rainforest strutting its stuff. No takers for any of these rental bikes …

just occasional pedestrians, like that woman keeping pace with her aging German shepherd.

In contrast I pick up my own pace, and then start to giggle. Here I am pitching attitude at rain drops! (Yah, well, just keep heaving it down! I can — literally — take you in stride!)

Self-praise has me barrelling right along, a little more west & a little more north, and then here I am, curving ’round Science World at the end of False Creek. Down here at the sea wall, I’m not the only person pitching attitude at the rain: lots of people are out for a bit of January 1st exercise — adults, kids, cyclists & runners, with a pretty even division between the pro- and anti-umbrella camps.

I lurk under the Science World canopy on the west side for a bit, where I eye the sail boats and that clever heron who has neatly tucked away his neck, presumably to keep it dry.

There he sits, patiently waiting out the storm.

We all know how that feels!

Happy new year.

Lines & Spaces

9 November 2020 – Another looping walk down to my end of False Creek, west to the Cambie St. bridge, up and across, back east via Olympic Village plaza, and home.

Hadn’t planned any theme, but this industrial corner off Scotia & East 2nd seems to focus my eye in a particular way.

Lines & spaces!

In this case, with rust.

But later, with water …

with traffic lights and a seagull …

with a floating log …

with on-ramps for the Cambie St. bridge …

with a whole mad frenzy of tubular geometry …

and, most wonderfully of all …

with dog leashes.

It’s an outdoor doggie obedience class in the Olympic Village plaza.

Detour

7 November 2020 – I’d planned to stick with West 4th, all the way to Cambie, but roadworks force a detour. I angle through a parking lot just past Manitoba St., to catch the nearest alley.

First glimpse of the alley, and I think: “This could be fun.”

Turns out that guy isn’t pointing at Grecian Goddess there on the wall: he’s concerned about a stack of boxes inside the doorway beside her, and wants his buddy’s opinion.

I hit the alley and stand stock-still, mesmerized by all that it offers.

Finger-Pointing Guy asks, with kind concern, “Are you okay?” I reassure him. “I’m just stunned by all this art.” He blinks at me. Art???

Yes, art. Look.

If the style of those writhing creatures seems familiar …

perhaps you’re remembering the wolf sculpture by Paige Bowman (‘birdfingersss”) I celebrated in my Animal Flow post. This is also her work..

Human being to the left is suitably horrified.

Soothing waves just a bit farther west …

and a musical pirate opposite. (A lute-loving pirate! Not to be confused with any loot-loving pirate you may happen to know.)

Beyond the pirate, a dead ringer (or so I think) for Sammy Davis Jr., flying from one adventure to the next, the length of this entire mural …

from his first brave leap, upper left …

through repeated moments of great concentration …

to a confrontation with some Force of Evil, upper right.

Swivel head back across the alley, and … change of pace.

Something Escher might do, were he alive now and more fascinated by tubing than by fish and birds.

A few more steps (a few more paces, ho ho), and … change of pace.

I hit Columbia St., the next intersection, and look back with appreciation. Lots of surprises, in amidst all that scruffiness.

I decide to stick with the alley for one more block, but expect nothing more from it. After all, how do you top technicolour LOVE?

You write an erudite pun in neat blue letters on a white wall, is how.

Clever, but — I am happy to report — without any evidence, either visible or olfactory, to back the claim.

Uke-duckswim-dogbark-lele

31 October 2020 (still) – Well, the day is not only about white-faced ghouls and black-faced teddy bears.

It’s also about ducks obvious to the symbolism, who just want to paddle the creek that runs through Hinge Park …

and equally oblivious woofers in the dog park opposite, who just want someone to finally throw the ball …

and banjo/ukelele/etc strummers who just want to entertain the ducks & the dogs & the rest of us, but yes, probably do know it is Hallowe’en.

Unless they are just addicted to silly hats.

Soft Side

31 October 2020 – I know she’s a ghoul …

but she has her soft side.

She loves her teddy bear.

Even though he only has one arm. (And, perhaps, only one eye.)

Happy Hallowe’en.

The Boards, the Fox & the Big Red Fish

24 October 2020 – I’m back on Port Moody’s Shoreline Trail, subject of a very enthusiastic post last March 1st. I’m still enthusiastic, for all the same reasons: it is a charming, diversified trail cupping the eastern end of Burrard Inlet, offering forest, seascape, mud flats, history, signage and wonderful stretches of boardwalk.

I’m amused to see that I’ve photographed the same sinuous curve of boardwalk both times.

(Can you blame me?)

The sea/mountain vistas are as soul-lifting as ever.

But something has changed, something more all-encompassing than the seasonal difference between March and October. Back then, COVID-19 was not yet the context of our lives. Now it is.

Polite signage all along the Trail keeps reminding us of the new requirements that go with this new reality: physical distancing, and one-way traffic. Outward bound on the foot path as usual, but now back on the paved path previously reserved for cyclists.

And — just in case the printed word isn’t enough — we are forced to lock eyes with our highly respected, much-admired provincial health officer. Who among us would flout a directive from Dr. Bonnie Henry?

I follow the boardwalk back into the forest, still on the footpath, enjoying as always the many “nurse logs” (this one proud mother to triplets) …

and also some one-off delights, such as this slender tree, neatly fastened into its bark sheath with a line of fungi buttons.

But then, after a few more kilometres of forest, shoreline and boardwalk, I’m ready to turn back.

And that takes me to the Fox.

Not that fox. I just threw him in — the work of an unidentified mural artist near Fraser & East Broadway — because I like him so much, and think you will too.

No. Changing direction out here on the Shoreline Trail means switching over to join this Fox …

where he trained before dipping his artificial leg in the Atlantic Ocean at St. John’s on 12 April 1980 — the start of his planned run all the way back to the Pacific.

I’ve always known the broad outline of the Terry Fox story, but now, in pandemic, I think about it differently, react viscerally. When this young man lost his leg to cancer in 1977, he responded by deciding to raise money for cancer research with a cross-country Marathon of Hope. It didn’t end well for him personally — he had to abandon the run in northern Ontario, when they found the cancer had spread to his lungs — but it has continued to work wonders for cancer research. As of April 2020, more than $800 million has been raised by millions of people, in annual Terry Fox runs and other events in more than 25 countries world-wide.

But it’s not just a cancer story, is it? It’s for all of us. It reminds us that while bad things happen, they are part of life, it is then up to us to decide how we will respond.

The thought stays with me, even as I turn onto a side trail that follows a sparkling creek back toward town. It’s back of mind, I’ll grant you, especially when I fall into a game of kick-the-ball with an eager King Charles spaniel, but the theme of resilience, of bouncing forward to rise to the challenge, stays with me.

And then I discover the Big Red Fish.

I’m well up the creek by now, and I see the artwork on Noon’s Fish Hatchery (home to the Port Moody Ecological Society) …

before I notice the cedar house pole being carved in the open shed just opposite.

First I step in, to admire the pole — the colours, the grain, the sinuous lines, everything — and then I step back, to read the signage.

It’s another story of adversity, resilience, and rising to the challenge.

Adapted and survived … Adapted and survived …

I think about wise adaptation on my bus-ride home.

Surprise!

15 October 2020 – So satisfying: happy surprises, even when I’m walking a not-wildly different variation on a pretty familiar route.

I’m not surprised by moss on this tree trunk, as I head south on St. Catherine around East 10th, but I stop to admire it, you know I will. And while I’m at it, I salute the bike-share racks across the street. At a time when so many bad possibilities threaten, let’s treasure everything that looks unreservedly good.

Then… surprise! I notice that somebody has tucked a little painted stone into a crevice of the tree bark.

A micro-surprise, if you like, but lovable all the same.

Macro-surprise comes later, as I pass an alley between East 18th & 19th, by Carolina. First surprise is that, by total chance, I’ve just rediscovered Bee Alley. I first shared it with you last 24 May, under the pretty obvious title, B Is For Bee.

It’s a whole alley-block of pavement art, celebrating bees.

It still has those wagglers to lead me in …

and there is still bee motif all along the way, but there are some additions, some new images.

Surprise!

A butterfly …

a salmon (I think) …

and a whale.

Still no artist signature I can find & no explanations, so I can only wonder, and guess. The butterfly looks generic to my uneducated eye, but both the salmon and whale surely come to us from the rich Coast Salish imagery of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-waututh people.

On I go, already very pleased with the day, as you imagine — but it just keeps handing me more discoveries.

I’m on East 18th, near St. George, okay-residential-not-amazing, and then I see this plaque set in the walkway to an infill house. The house is fine — modern in a clean-lined, minimal way, and in scale with & respectful of its setting.

But the plaque interests me more.

“Certified passive”? I build up a whole scenario of a bone-lazy house that won’t even pick up its underwear from the floor. Alas, I do realize (though regretfully) that is probably not the explanation.

And it’s not.

Still … surprise!

Well, for me. I didn’t know there was a world-wide Certified Passive movement, let alone metrics and civic support right here, for homes that meet specific standards for occupant comfort & energy performance.

On down the block, and stop to admire a slightly but lovably dishevelled older house, with a slightly but lovably overgrown garden inside its picket fence, and a Little Free Library box out front.

I check out the books, and only then notice — surprise! — this welcome to passers-by, hung in the protected archway of the gate.

I like that very last bit especially: “Be completely silent, and that will take you to the depths of your spirit.”

The Thing About Labels

5 October 2020 – This is the thing about labels: sometimes they mislead you.

Oh, not always. Most of the time they are valuable.

Suppose you’re walking down a neighbourhood street, and you see a monster. Like this one.

You’d want to know what kind of monster he is, wouldn’t you? So you’d circle him …

and read his label. See? Valuable.

Or you’re still in the neighbourhood and you see a corner garden — an over-the-top wonderful corner garden. Like this one.

You’d be grateful for the labels. You’d read the official City one, telling you a local resident sponsored this plot under the Green Streets Program, and you’d look around a bit and …

next you’d read the gardener’s own label. Valuable.

And then you’d luck into a whole other dimension of labels — verbal labelling. It is provided by this bearded gentleman, later explaining to this lady as he had just explained to me …

that the garden was all thanks to Sherry. It is Sherry’s hard work, and he wants everybody to give credit where credit is due.

Which I am happy to do — and that leads me neatly into the topic of misleading labels.

“Naked ladies!” I squeaked at you in my previous post, adding “Amarylis belladonna” because that’s what my googling had told me. Hah. Two readers knew better and in the kindest possible way set me straight. “Autumn crocus,” they said; not Amarylis.

So I look again — and discover that “Naked Ladies” is a nickname for two entirely different families of fall-blooming flowers: the Amarylis belladonna, but also the one I’d photographed and in fact really had in mind from life in eastern Canada, namely the Colchicum autumnale, or Autumn crocus.

Just to keep the whole “misleading” riff going, I also learn that the Autumn crocus, despite its name, is not a true crocus. True crocuses belong to the Iris family and are harmless, while the Colchicaceae family aren’t crocuses and are toxic.

On the other hand, whichever variety of Naked Lady you choose to embrace, they both bloom in the fall and do so without any modesty screen of leaves.

Back to valuable labels, again with thanks to my readers (specifically fellow WP blogger bluebrightly). That stunning yellow flower I showed you last post with the iridescent buds is a Dahlia, specifically the Mystic Illusion dahlia, and is that not the perfect name?

One final label, this one discovered just hours ago, right where Hinge Park borders on False Creek. First you see the rubber boot, then you see the wording:

I go to the website, just like they ask, and read a plea from the City of Vancouver. “Help us prepare for sea level rise,” they ask.

I’d call that valuable. Definitely not misleading.

Following Fall

2 October 2020 – Fall leads the way, and I follow.

Past a spray of gleaming leaves (magnolia is my guess) that guide me onto a path leading to the VanDusen Botanical Garden …

under the gleaming overhead ribs that guide me into the Visitor Centre …

and, tickets displayed to the masked attendant behind plexiglass, on through the Centre and out into the Garden with my friend.

We pause long enough to enjoy the mum dancing with her toddler by Livingstone Lake …

and then head into some woodland pathways, where we giggle at the white Doll’s Eyes (Baneberry, Actaea pachypoda) …

who are suitably shocked at the sight of all these Naked Ladies (Amaryllis belladona) stretched out in dishevelled languor.

“Red Maple” says the handy label on a tree next to Cypress Pond, and a tiny little red leaf obligingly displays itself on a mossy branch.

Decades of flaming fall colour in Ontario & Quebec leave me only mildly impressed by the foliage here — but I am wowed every time by the moss!

Also by the footbridge across Cypress Pond …

and, this time around, by the seasonal contrast of yellowing lily pads among the green.

A Bald Cypress at the far end of the bridge flaunts both its needles and its knees, the former due to fall off any day now but the latter there in delightful permanence.

I dance around for a bit over by Heron Lake, lining up a glimpse of fountain spray through the autumnal foliage …

but soon move on, to stand enchanted by the sight of yet more tree branches draped in moss.

We are both enchanted by what we see next: a profusion of this startling yellow flower (no identifying label, sorry), with numerous multi-hued, iridescent buds about to take their own turn centre-stage.

The Garden is also host to the annual Artists for Conservation Festival at the moment, so we pass some tents with relevant displays, like this one explaining a breeding program for the highly endangered Northern Spotted Owl. Squint hard enough & you’ll make out the owl on that female volunteer’s left wrist.

“Look like giant rose hips,” says my friend, eyeing this shrub as we head back along Livingstone Lake, and they do, don’t they?

Turns out to be Medlar (Mespilus germanica), not rose — a fall fruit that is ripe “when it turns to mush,” says the delightfully named Gardenista website. Also known, adds the website, as “cul-de-chien,” and if that doesn’t set you sniggering, it’s time to wish you spoke French.

Eastern Redbud leaves do their stained-glass-window impersonation when viewed against the sun …

and a helpful sign near the artists’ display tent teaches us yet another way to measure two metres of social distance.

Goodness, the things you learn. Two metres = 20 Ulysses butterflies = 1 Bald Eagle’s wingspan = 1 cougar, nose to tail tip. Also = six feet, but how boring is that?

One latte & much conversation later, I’m primed for a meandering walk home. It leads me through the neighbourhood where I saw all those swings a while back, but this time around, it yields a teddy bear.

Made of stone, but wearing his heart on his sleeve.

  • 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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