Colour! Motion! Wild Life!

2 June 2023 – West from home today, into Pacific Spirit Park on the University Endowment Lands — 55 km of trails woven through 874 hectares of forest, bog, cliff and beach.

Amidst the grandeur, small perfect cameos.

The bold colours today, of an old burn…

the swirl of a dancing tree root…

and — we are in a forest after all — a resident brown bear.

Oh, all right. He came later.

3 X “The Big 2-4”

22 May 2023 — It’s the last day of the 24th of May holiday weekend, indelibly rebranded for me as “the big 2-4” after I heard two laughing teenagers refer to it that way.

I celebrate with a walk a day, nothing huge, just 6K or so each time, but satisfying, and — it turns out — with some similarities:

  • each begins at a scenic waterfront attraction to the west: Granville Island, on False Creek; Devonian Harbour Park, on Coal Harbour, south shore of Burrard Inlet; Dundarave Park, on the north shore of Burrard Inlet in West Vancouver, west of Lions Gate Bridge
  • each leads me initially eastward along a seawall bordering the water: False Creek South Seawall; Coal Harbour Seawall; Centennial Seawall
  • each has me, at some point, turning inland to pavement and other options.

And each is entirely satisfying. Big vistas with all three — oh, these west-coast mountain/seascapes — and happy people who take it all in as they walk/bike/skateboard/kayak their way through the day.

I revel in it, I gawk at it, and in the end I am most touched by three very small side-moments in all that splendour.

Fresh off my ferry ride to Granville Island on Saturday, I pause a moment at the top of the ramp. The “ferry dock” inscription is faded to near-invisibility, but the upright beams nicely frame a pillar of the art deco Burrard Bridge beyond.

But while that pleases me, it’s not what touches me. What touches me is the busker under the red tent kiosk on the right. Nobody pays any attention to her, as they mill around, but I sit and listen. Her instrument is an Andean panpipe, and she is playing Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. The haunting melody drifts past me on the wind, and I supply the words in my mind. “I heard there was a secret chord / that David played and it pleased the Lord…” Surely David also played it on a panpipe, the way I am hearing it today.

Sunday has me hop a bus to the very edge of Stanley Park, where I drop down through Devonian Harbour Park to Coal Harbour. This stretch of Burrard Inlet is named for the viable coal seams they thought they’d discovered, c. 1860 — not so, but the area later prospered through ship building before becoming parkland and residential/commercial.

I’m just off the bus when I stop flat to admire this sculpture. No. Not the sculpture, though it deserves admiration. The title describes it: Search, by J. Seward Johnson Jr., is a full-size bronze figure of a woman looking for something in her purse.

What stops me is that flower. Someone has carefully placed a parrot tulip blossom in the opening of her purse. The blossom has faded a bit by now; the tribute is still fresh.

What a start to my walk!

Today, Monday, I hop two buses for the longer trek right through the city, on through Stanley Park, across Lions Gate Bridge to the north shore and on west to Dundarave Park in West Vancouver. It’s a cool (16C), cloudy, blustery day — perfect atmospherics for the large-scale drama of this waterfront. Huge timbers hurled in by the ocean, boulders and rocks and stones, beach pea and other rugged first colonizers, freighters in the “parking lot” awaiting their turn to carry on to the Port, mountains as backdrop, wheeling gulls and crows, even a pair of bald-headed eagles. All of that.

And, yet again, I am stopped flat by an unexpected detail, a micro in all that macro. This time it is near the end of my seawall walk, but once more it is a human figure.

Note that use of language. I didn’t say “human,” did I? I said, “a human figure.” On Granville Island, the figure is human-human; in Devonian Harbour Park, the figure is bronze-human. This time… it is wooden-human. Driftwood-human.

See? There on the left. A hiker has paused in front of Lions Gate Bridge to admire the view, right hand to right hip and left hand to left kneecap. (Admittedly headless, but accidents happen.) On the right, a unicorn (perhaps) has also paused, to keep Headless Hiker company…

No, not constructed. I look it over and can find no carving, no joins.

I am so amused by this, it makes up for the lack of salmon burgers in the café where I finally stop for lunch.

Beauty, High & Low

18 May 2023 — High, low, all around.

Beauty high,…

the Greenheart TreeWalk , snaking its way through the forest canopy of the UBC Botanical Garden

and beauty low…

a shadow fern, keeping a real fern company on a rock down there at ground level.

Read, Scuff — the rest of the story

15 May 2023 – Remember this street corner?

You met it last post, when I started scuffing back into visibility a poetic sentence that began in a loop there on the corner, and then straightened out to run north on St. Geroge.

I read/scuffed/read/scuffed this much:

“Listen the buried stream gurgles its longing to return to daylight & moonlight…”

I ended with three dots, convinced there was more to find, north on St. George, but my scuffing foot was getting cranky. I promised to return, and look for the rest.

And I do!

I walk prudently in shade, in today’s oppressive heat, as laser bursts of sunlight break through the trees’ protective cover.

Back at the St. George / East 11th corner, I discover my scuffing foot will have no excuse for crankiness today: wind seems to have cleared all the litter from the stretch of sidewalk I still want to read.

You see? We are picking up where we left off, with that word “moonlight” closest to my feet.

I walk on.

to nourish





& you

The complete sentence:

“Listen the buried stream gurgles its longing to return to daylight & moonlight to nourish ducks bracken ferns salmonberry & you”

I find this hauntingly beautiful, magical. It brings powerfully to mind an equally anonymous artistic impulse I encountered in Toronto — the Stealth Art Collective — whose tributes i used to find out on Leslie Spit. I am sorry to see that their latest post is dated July 2022.Click on the blog anyway; it is worth the visit.

May the Collective return! And, if it never does, my thanks for all that it added, in words and transient art installations, to the Spit over many years.

Read, Scuff, Read, Scuff (Repeat)

12 May 2023 – I’m walking north on St. Geroge through residential Mount Pleasant, just about to cross East 11th. Quietly friendly and human-scale heritage homes; warming temperatures; the season moving from cherry blossoms (now carpeting the ground, not trees) to showy Iceland poppies.

Important further information, for what is about to happen: this area slopes northward to what was the natural end of False Creek before all the infill took place, and many now-buried streams lie beneath these streets, still part of an invisible watershed.

I’m looking about happily as I walk. I almost don’t look down, just there on that far corner.

But then I do. And, only faintly, faint enough & further camouflaged by dappled light & fallen blossoms that I have to squint and blink at it, I see one word inscribed — how long ago? — into still-fresh cement in a neat cursive hand.

The word is…


There must be more, I think, and i start to scuff dead cherry blossoms out of the way.

There is more! The words first spiral around the fatter space of the street corner, then carry on, straight-line, north on St. George.

the buried

It is so hard to read! I keep scuffing, keep guessing, keep reading.




longing to




& moonlight

Dot-dot-dot, because there is more. I’m pretty sure there is more. But that next stretch of sidewalk is encrusted with muck and yet more cherry bloom litter. Ya basta for now.

I’ll return, I will. And I’ll share the rest of the message with you.

Meanwhile, let’s all honour that hidden stream by enjoying our own daylight & moonlight. Let’s enjoy them like crazy!

Because we can, and it no longer has that privilege.

GOA: Murals, Stained Glass, Urban Myth & Art-Deco Dentistry in Nelson

7 May 2023 – – And now here we are in Nelson, tucked up in a verandah-graced unit in a heritage building just off the busy energy of Baker Street. I’m trying to sort out my memories of Nelson and realize I’m not sure I have any — which is pretty well a sure sign that I don’t. I do remember a visit to the “Hot Rats” (aka Hot Ratulations, aka Ainsworth Hot Springs) back in 1980 or so, when my partner and I visited his sister at her back-to-the-land homestead on the east side of Kootenay Lake. But did we spend time in Nelson?

One shake of the head tells me it doesn’t matter; I am here now. And it is sunny and mild outside, and we are bouncing to explore.

Happy chance lands us in Herridge Lane, running between main-drag Baker and uphill Victoria streets, from roughly where we’re staying until the lane bumps into a mountain and can’t go any farther. Mountains are part of the deal, this is more or less a city terraced up its mountain slopes, and staircases abound. Today, we roam horizontally, not vertically.

Herridge Lane rewards us.

A young man pulls in to park, just as I take a photo of this charming mural wrapping an entire small laneway building, charming because of the way mother & baby animals touch noses at the corners.

Young Man is eyeing us in a friendly but speculative way. We chin-point to the mural. “Love it!!” we say. He beams. “There are lots of murals in this lane, just keep going. And… thanks. This building, this mural, is mine.” We idly ask his business. “Cannabis,” he says. It’s a factual statement, no particular inflection.

He says no more about that, but does tell us about “underground Nelson.” He’s only lived here 7 years, he warns us, he isn’t sure of all this, but… “Apparently the original Nelson is now underground and this Nelson is build on top of it. Dunno… some mud slide, or flood, or something? I heard there used to be underground tours…”

We tuck this away for later investigation. Meanwhile, we stick to what we can see, right here on the surface. This doorway, for example, next to Cannabis Man’s office building, with its evergreens and wildflowers…

and, a block or so farther long, the whole back wall of the Capitol Theatre, with old show ads and additional murals like this one.

Other people chance-met at street crossings encourage us to keep going. “More in the next block!” says one fellow whose pony-tail may be silver-white,but is still thick and shining. He’s more sure of the murals than he is of underground Nelson. “Yeah… heard something like that…”

Ohhh, never mind. What we see right here above ground is plenty, all of it informed by laneway context.

Stickers on a rusty stand pipe…

a duck flying into some gas (hydro?) meters…

leaving behind a whole dancing choreography of artwork, wooden crates & doorway.

Dapper Dan twirls his cane above a pick-up truck…

and Pensive Paul slouches against the wall as he contemplates eternity (or, more likely, the smart phone in his hands).

We veer onto Victoria Street for a while, then rejoin Herridge Lane for the bit we had missed.

It rewards us with this glorious stained-glass greenhouse (built by a man who used to do set-design in Vancouver, we are told by a cheerful fellow clearing brush nearby)…

and then, in Hall St. Plaza where Hall butts into the Lane, with Dancing Woman as happy companion to a couple of Coffee-Break Women (who gave permission to be photographed).

A few blocks checking out Baker Street, where we discover that this 1933 Scandinavian Church is now a dental clinic…

and a smiling young woman climbing the steps tells us, “It almost makes me happy to keep an appointment.”

Across the street, the signboard for AFKO, Association des francophones des Kootenays Ouest…

which is a reminder, as are the diverse skin tones and accents all around us, of the many cultures that call this area home. Prospectors up from the USA in USA in 1886; incorporation in 1897 as Nelson (after a typical fuss about which British Big-Wig name to choose); and more arrivals ever since.

And, of course, before all that, some 10,000 years as home to the Ktunaxa, Saixt and SyiLx indigenous peoples.

A few more murals, an afternoon visit to the #23 streetcar museum on Kootenay Lake…

and a conversation with a life-long Nelson resident, and streetcar museum volunteer. We quiz him about the streetcar, and then about Underground Nelson. He chortles. Some wet patches in the lower reaches of some old buildings, he says; people like to call them underground rivers, but really — dramatic pause — they’re sewers. More laughter.

Ah well. Every city needs an urban myth or two.

We eat splendid thali dishes from a Baker St. South Indian restaurant for dinner, and plan the next day’s GOA. It will take us up-lake to Ainsworth & Kaslo.

Spring! (Theoretically…)

15 April 2023 – Ten raw Celsius degrees as I write this, but Vancouver, in a touching act of faith, is acting as if spring were more than a theoretical concept.

The art deco Marine Building, tallest in the British Empire when it opened in 1930…

primps & preens as it admires its reflection in the office tower opposite.

Science World, just off the end of False Creek…

has a pair of worker-ants crawling over its geodesic dome in a fit of spring cleaning.

The Medianeras (VMF 2019) Alley Man, just south of False Creek, takes advantage of his giant size & powerful fingers…

to calmly grab that glossy black car for himself.

A low-rise apartment building up in Fairview offers passers-by a moment’s relaxation in newly scrubbed & positioned chairs…

watched over from above by the resident Balcony Rainbow Spirit.

Farther down the block, a Mountain Fire Pieris flaunts its party trick…

the ability to turn baby red leaves to mature green leaves, right there before your wondering eyes.

And, not to be outdone, one of the street’s many cherry trees…

explodes its blossoms into the sky.

Saint Barbara & the Broadway Subway Project

2 April 2023 – Given that she lived (per legend) in Nicodemia in the 3rd century AD, Barbara has no geographic or technological connection with Vancouver’s Broadway Subway Project, now underway.

But she is here!

I only learn all this by following the Bouncing Ball of Curiosity from my physical navigation along the edge of current excavation on Broadway near Cambie, to internet searches once back home.

Some pedestrians are just stomping their way through the tunnelling disruptions to foot traffic, but many of us are downright fascinated. We stop, like this woman…

to peer through gaps in the protective mesh and gawk at the depth and scale of what’s going on below.

I wait my turn for that gap, and meanwhile eye the huge blue metal elbow looming overhead. (You get a glimpse of it, upper right in the photo above.) I lean back to try to trace its origin and end point. I can’t see all the way to where this metal tube begins, but I sure can see it’s ‘way up there.

I then get a good view of where it ends, and what it’s doing, thanks to this construction worker on break.

He generously waves me over, yielding his place at a much bigger gap in the mesh. He also explains what’s going on. Which is why I can now tell you, with considerable confidence, that the blue tube is pumping concrete…

via its needle tip, through the grid into the tunnel floor.

He goes back to work. I continue to gawk for a while, and finally navigate my way through the maze to an exit point, trying to obey all three signs as I go.

Later, I get to wondering about the depth of that tunnel. I visit the Broadway Subway Project home page, can’t find that particular stat anywhere — but then get sidetracked by a passing reference to the tradition of naming tunnel boring machines after women.

It’s because of Saint Barbara, you see. Patron saint of miners, tunnellers and explosives workers, you see.

Well, I don’t see, so I have a whole new bouncing ball to follow.

According to Christian legend, Saint Barbara was a beautiful young woman (here as imagined in an oil painting by Wilhelm von Schadow, 1844)…

who converted to Christianity, much to the displeasure of her father. Legend has it she fled to the cliffs, to escape his fury, and the rocks opened to allow her entry (of relevance to miners).The escape was temporary. Her father subsequently had the non-Christian authorities condemn her to death, and he himself beheaded her. While travelling back home afterwards, he was struck by a thunderbolt that incinerated his body (of relevance to explosives workers).

Enough about her sainthood — which is now of a somewhat diminished nature, anyway. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, since “her biography is questionable and her legend probably spurious,” she was dropped from the General Roman Calendar in 1969.

Never mind. She remains dear to miners, tunnellers and explosives workers worldwide, with her December 4 feast day honoured by a long list of British, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, American, Irish, Norwegian — oh, you get the idea — and many more military and other organizations worldwide. Visit the legend of Saint Barbara, on the website of the ISEE (International Society of Explosives Engineers), and see for yourself.

Meanwhile! Back here in 2023 Vancouver, on the Broadway Subway Project!

While the project website fails me for tunnel depth stats, it rewards me handsomely for my curiosity about the names of our own two TBMs (tunnel boring machines). Per tradition, named for outstanding women. In this case, for Elsie MacGill, born in Vancouver and educated at U of T, who was the world’s first female aeronautical engineer, and for Phyllis Munday, who was a pioneer for women in mountaineering.

I tell you, I am now invested in all this. I care about TBM Elsie & TBM Phyllis.

I therefore linger over, and now share with you, two TBM photos from the Broadway project online gallery of visuals. One shows work done last August to prepare a worksite for assembling TBM Phyllis…

and the other documents the triumphant moment this March when Phyllis arrived at the future Mount Pleasant Station, ready for her part in the 24/7 tunnelling schedule.

Then I notice the Ghella banner, proclaiming “5 generations of tunnelers.”

Oh good grief, a whole new Bouncing Ball of Curiosity to follow!

Black on Slack

24 March 2023 – The temperature is back in single digits, but never mind, it is almost spring.

I know this, as I approach Dude Chilling Park, because:

One, hardy crocuses are in full bloom…

Two, a hardy book-lover is sprawled on the grass with her must-read…

and, Three, the slackwire enthusiasts are back.

Once again, they’ve strung two lines here at the park’s north-west corner, and they are honing their skills.

The nearest bench is occupied by a couple of skate-boarders taking a break, so I lean against a tree. As always, I am dumbfounded by the coordination and focus this art requires.

Black Shirt is midway on one of the two lines, a little tentative in her moves.

She bails.

But moments later, on the companion line, her focus is absolute, and her moves are slow, controlled, and rock-steady.

End to end, Black Shirt executes a perfect walk.

I circle the park and, passing the adjacent tennis courts, notice that the Phantom Yarn Artist’s contributions to the fence are still intact.

Nearly intact.

This bit is the remnant of Dr. Bonnie Henry’s famous mantra from the early days of COVID: “Be kind, be calm, be safe.”

It’s the important bit, isn’t it? And always in season.

Eternity & 2018

21 March 2023 – Well, not exactly eternity. Still, when you’re standing on the Camosun Bog boardwalk, admiring a whole bouquet of moss presented on a tree stump…

your mind does expand beyond calendar dates.

The very next day, still motivated to walk by newly warm (& not-raining) weather, I’m prowling westward in my Mount Pleasant neighbourhood. My eye, unbeknownst to me at the time, is firmly snagged in 2018, because I fall captive to three wall murals in the area — all created during the 2018 Vancouver Mural Festival.

First up, a building at Manitoba & West 7th, its art beaming at us from both street-facing walls, the work of Madrileno Rubén Sánchez. I’ve seen it before, I love it all over again, both the Manitoba wall as a whole…

and its details. Go ahead, spread the image, do your own prowl. Here’s one detail I particularly like: the woman paddling her canoe right down that sidewalk.

Same street corner, now facing westward along 7th, and there’s a choice of views.

You can enjoy it via a parked car window…

or take it in with your very own eyes.

Detail upon detail, including that wonderful yellow pipe in the foreground, with its question-mark of black & white smoke. And, higher up, farther along, a light bulb.

And a happy flower, rising straight from the sidewalk.

I notice that because here we are, almost spring. I begin looking for more mural sidewalk flowers. And I find them.

There’s the detail in Colorado-born artist Bunnie Reiss’ mural just around the corner on Columbia…

and the bright crocuses at gravel’s edge in the alley between 6th & 7th, on Ontario Street. (Thank you Atheana Picha, both indigenous Fijean and of the Kwantlen First Nation.)

But there’s nature down here as well — even here, soaring trees. Reminders of eternity.

On Alberta Street, I stop first to admire this quiet door, so perfectly in harmony with the sentinel trees either side…

and then I tip my head back, back & back, to let my eyes soar up into the trees.

Even in the heart of a city, you can escape the calendar.


    "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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