B Is For Bee (& Buttercup)

24 May 2020 – Walking south through quiet residential local streets, as usual, and, again as usual, head-swivelling to check out each back alley as I pass. Because there might be something to explore.

And, oh, this time, there is.

A brightly painted bee-trail the length of the block.

It starts with that one bee, then leads you hippity-hop forward …

 

to a node with two bees, to keep you motivated …

and a final twist of hippity-hop …

 

to the three-bee finale.

And then the magic spell is broken.

Or perhaps intensified, depending on your attitude to cityscape.

I turn my head to the right, and take in the boarded-up old house, the beater-car in the yard — and what explodes all over the rest of the yard.

B is for buttercup.

 

 

Red for Joy (Update)

12 May 2020 – Aha! My neighbourhood stealth fibre-artist is at it again.

On April 24, I showed you her/his handiwork — the red crochet balloon attached to a playground wall mural, one-half of that post’s demonstration of joy & grief as intermingled realities.

Back then, the balloon addition was linked to the mural-child’s hand by a simple white cord. But not now.

Now the cord is covered in little red bows. (Maybe the “balloon” is really a kite?)

So I think: “red for joy” update.

And then I think:  I bet there are other red symbols of joy to be seen, if I just look 

Well, why not. As good a theme for a walk as any other.

So. A red rhodo bud, about to blossom …

and a red (pinkish-red) fish kite, hanging in a backyard garden.

Red to remind us that double-doubles are still available …

and red to cover both bum & noggin, when out for a walk.

Red for city bike racks, waiting for our return to this patio …

which are in counterpoint to the black rack beyond, where a solo cyclist is fastening her bike. (But not in order to visit Open Door Yoga! It’s only open online these days, as its signboard explains.)

And finally, a Red Temptation for all you guys, working from home.

Maybe you’ve already succumbed.

Grow your beard!

And, yes, dye it red. Why not? There’s no end of eminent red-beards to serve as your role model.

(There is a point, to all this red blather. I think it is not wrong, or even frivolous, to enjoy joy in the midst of the stress & grief that also surround us. Joy is more than a flash of pleasure. It is a reminder that life contains many realities, all at the same time. When we remain open to joy, we remain open to energy & optimism and we respond better to all the difficulties that are also present in our lives.)

 

 

Attitude

7 May 2020 – They (the omniscient “They” that permeate our lives) insist that our success in handling a situation  depends in part on  the situation itself, and a whole lot on our attitude.

Well, here we are with a situation to handle.

I (the not-omniscient “I”) feel better-equipped when my attitude includes:

gratitude …

humour …

and a bracing shot of nature.

All the better with a regal Great Blue Heron thrown into the mix.

And better yet — talk about good omens — if the freighter lying in the Burrard Inlet “parking lot” beyond bears the name, “Wisdom Line.”

Stealth Art

17 April 2020 – Borrowing a brand name, and it’s one I’m about to promote, but not just yet. Meanwhile, “stealth art” in the generic sense, something that sneaks up on you. You’re not in a gallery (impossible right now anyway), you’re just going about the day that current local regulations leave open for you — and then, boom, there it is.

Art.

As long as you have a cheerfully open attitude about what constitutes “art.”

It can be an arrangement of spring blossoms, as curated by mother nature. (Blossom festivals cancelled, so what, they bloom anyway.)

Or an arrangement of caution tape, as woven by a Canadian who just can’t do without hockey, even though the season is on hold. (The crow was apparently less impressed than I was.)

Or a whole evolving Little City of rock and clean fill and other found materials out the Leslie Spit in Toronto — as arranged, or at least as initially arranged, by The Stealth Art Collective, but with other appreciative hands ever since.  Here’s one image to start with … (I am such a fan of their work out the Spit – I stood wide-eyed again and again, in the years I cycled or walked out there myself.)

Or street art on your very own table! Just download this colouring book of designs created by some of Toronto’s best-known names, all for you to enjoy in your physical isolation.

“Such a lovely, local, timely, engaging response to the times,” wrote the friend who sent me the link. Yes, it is.
I think we are all experiencing a good many lovely, local responses to the times, and feel a resulting surge of joy and energy and courage. Let’s keep it up…

Distance, Connected

29 March 2020 – We’ve finally got the mantra right: physical distance, social connection.

We’re all thinking about it, adapting to it, noticing it, each in our own little corner of the world. Here’s a bit of how it is currently evolving, in my little corner, as noticed in my walks of the last few days.

Almost everyone in Vancouver now works from home and we all largely stay at home, but — except for those in quarantine or self-isolation — we may still go out for exercise and essential shopping, while maintaining 2 metres of physical distances from others.

Here I’m threading my way between condo buildings toward False Creek, under a canopy of business-as-usual spring blossoms.

But life is not business-as-usual, is it?

Science World (that “golf ball”), like all public attractions, is closed, and the creek itself almost empty of all watercraft. No ferries!

Like you, like everyone, we are adapting to our new world.

Local busses permit rear boarding only (to protect the drivers) …

and waive the fee (to make any touching/tapping unnecessary).

Attractions and retailers of varying sizes expand their online presence and, as appropriate, keep some form of structured physical presence as well.

Greenworks, for example, offers its building-supply products by free delivery or through no-contact transactions at the door, all explained in trim, professional signage.

Some of the other local signs are more homespun, but just as determined to find a way to obey regulations, keep everybody safe and still, somehow, maintain connection with their customers. They position themselves at different points on the closed/open scale.

This skateboard shop is more closed than open …

while this little bicycle store is more open than closed.

Federal Store has a similar street-front strategy to Greenworks, but with its own lunchonette/grocery store spin.

Step up to the door, place your order, and then wait for it at a respectful 2-metre distance from everyone else.

We’re all beginning to get some sense of 2 metres, or hope we have — but it’s so easy to forget, isn’t it, when you’re out with your friends.

Not for this trio. They have it all worked out. I notice them today, on a walk that takes me south rather than north.

You can see two of them, properly spaced, with the third (also properly spaced) partially visible behind the woman on the right.

I don’t realize how clever they are until they move on. That’s when the rope becomes visible. They’ve looped it waist to waist, attached at 2-m intervals. They keep it taut as they walk.

I’m enjoying all this, taking comfort and inspiration from examples of good adaptations to bad circumstances — but I am also noticing examples of good things that were already with us before COVID 19, and still are.

This fabulously painted block of E. 21st Avenue, for example, probably my favourite block in the whole city …

and this front-yard statuette of the seated Buddha, his lap full of Nature’s own tribute of petals …

and this front-window evidence of a good neighbour — a heart for the community, a bike for the environment (visible through the glass), a feeder for the birds.

Heart.

Along with the opportunists and idiots that always appear in bad times, there’s a whole lot of heart on display, isn’t there? (Think of your own examples…)

Our good hearts, as we encourage balcony noise-making at 7 p.m., to support the people who protect us …

and as we reach out to support each other.

Note: Just now, as I typed that reference to the sign in Dude Chilling Park, I heard the raucous sound of clattering pots & pans, right here in my own neighbourhood.

I looked at my watch.

Exactly 7 p.m.

 

 

 

Mind-Hops / Foot-Hops

24 March 2020 – Circumstances change, and trigger new responses, both mental and behavioural.

Mind-hops. Foot-hops.

Or lack of foot-hops. Not the usual mass of happy feet this mild, sunny day, in the Olympic Village plaza at False Creek. Giant sparrow (one of Myfanwy MacLeod’s pair, The Birds, created for the 2010 Winter Olympics) pretty well has the place to himself.

I admire this rainbow & frog chalked onto the pavement, but don’t, as I would have done just two weeks ago, go get a shot with that frog right-side-up …

because that would have brought me within 2 metres of the cyclist over there. (See his bike tire, upper left?)

Another chalked message …

has me thinking, “Self isolation?” — not, “Break-up!”

A woman and her lap-dog soak up some sun, with open space all around her (I’m farther away than it seems) …

and a couple are peacefully, safely, alone, over there on the far side of Himy Syed’s stone labyrinth.

(But!!! Even as I’m appreciating the physical distance we’re all maintaining here at Olympic Village, crowds of idiots (aka COVIDIOTs) are packing English Bay. Let’s hope that the only thing going viral afterwards was the images of their irresponsibility.)

I leave False Creek for Cambie Street, slaloming around the relatively few other pedestrians as I walk. I pass more new behaviour for our new times: controlled entry into this big box retailer, with tape marking the 2-metre distance between standing points, and a staffer monitoring the queue.

Interesting, but not personally relevant. The retailer I want to check is this grocery chain. Have the new hours begun? With the promised first morning hour for people like me?

Yes.  7-8 a.m., before regular opening.

Which is why, two days later, I’m out in the breaking-dawn drizzle, heading up the street with my wheelie.

Shopping goes well: a smiling employee, out of physical range but at the door, ensuring only those qualified come in; well-stocked shelves; relatively few shoppers, all of us smiling at each other but keeping our distance.

Including at the check-out, with its taped lines to show spacing for the line-up.

Later on, some neighbourhood streetscape.

More mind-hops, foot-hops, including this example of what is becoming commonplace. A physically closed eatery, with a warm message to the community.

And, just one block over, a graffito for the times.

Well no, I don’t endorse the middle part of the message, but I love the humour.

And I love this blooming magnolia. Just for being there.

Eight years ago, I changed my About message on this blog, to explain the name-change from Sagas of Iceland Penny to Walking Woman. This excerpt comes to mind now.

Until August 2012, this blog was about training for the big Arthritis Society trek in Iceland, and then doing it. As of August 2012… I walk on! With my feet and in my mind as well.

Whatever restrictions limit our feet, nothing need limit our minds. Now, more than ever, let’s walk on. We’re in this together.

 

 

Adaptations

18 March 2020 – We are all adapting — in large ways, but also small. Small shifts in everyday activity, or how we perceive an activity, in this new context.

I am walking north on Willow Street, and that is already an adaptation. I had planned to be strolling the magical grounds of the VanDusen Botanical Garden. But I’m not.

Why not? Got to the Gardens, and found it closed. Just 10 minutes earlier, the slightly unnerved young staffer told me, word had come down to close the doors. Duration unknown, but effective immediately.

So I adapt, and exchange their 22 Ha for a 6-ish km walk home instead. Same sunshine and fresh air, and lots of residential-street shrubs and trees. (Albeit minus helpful botanical labelling.)

Second adaptation. If public venues are closing, I think, maybe the library system will be next. I am a junkie, about to be cut off from her usual source. Alternate source? Little Free Library boxes — that amazing book-sharing resource now totalling some 100,000 boxes worldwide.

I swear, the thought has no sooner crossed my mind than a LFL box pops in view.

Complete with cheerful spring flowers, did you notice?

I take two books.

I promise to keep my end of the bargain.

I walk on.

And I meet, some kilometres farther north/east, a call for another adaptation, this one chalked on the sidewalk at a street corner.

Perhaps not a change of behaviour, at that.

Perhaps it’s what you do anyway.

Now is sure the time for it!

 

 

“Things could change …”

14 March 2020 – I cross paths with two young men, and overhear just a snippet of their conversation. “But by next week,” says one, “things could change.”

For all I know, they’re talking team standings, but that’s not how I decode it. I think infection tallies, health guidelines, further restrictions, evolving strategies.

Because the world has changed — my fortunate little world in a fortunate city in a fortunate country has changed — and suddenly my perceptions all change as well. Put the ordinary in an extraordinary new context, and it is no longer ordinary.

Marcel Proust got it right. “The voyage of discovery,” he wrote (as translated on an Art Gallery of Ontario wall), “is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

I’m walking a familiar landscape, my favourite False Creek loop, but I’m doing it with new eyes, new reactions.

  • Item: The woman next to me at a traffic light sneezes into a tissue, and I am consciously grateful for her good hygiene.
  • Item: Two ducks swim toward the railing, down by World of Science, I notice the gap between them, and I think …

“Social distancing! Even the ducks.”

I’m not trying to be clever. There’s no audience for this little quip except my own brain. It’s just an example of new reactions, in these new times.

As I walk I realize I am looking around me with some wonder, with heightened appreciation because of heightened awareness of our common here-and-now, immediate, vulnerability.

I watch two young women shuck their shoes, string up a volleyball net in Concord Community Park, and start to practise their technique.

I’m used to this. I see it all summer long, but now, in these circumstances, a display of health and joy seems precious, special, something to notice, to value.

I sink into one of the park’s welcoming chairs, prop up my feet on the log …

and for a while just watch the life of north-east False Creek flow past. It is reassuringly, wonderfully normal. (Even though, as that young man will say in an encounter I have not yet had, “by next week things could change.” And will.)

People with bikes, with scooters, with dogs, with smart phones, with strollers and kiddies. Kiddies in helmets, learning their own tiny scooters, and kiddies squealing with delight as daddy (it’s usually daddy) scoops them up for a tickle. Ferries come and go. There’s a guy in a kayak. And those two young women just keep spiking that volleyball.

I wander on. More normal things to cherish, in this abnormal time. Look! two new inukshuks, so easily created from the waterfront stones. And look! a crow to admire them.

The seawall leaves the Creek long enough to thread between a nightlife venue and BC Place Stadium. As it curves back toward Plaza of Nations and the water, I’m startled by a big, fresh sign.

Startled, again because of the way I decode it. I take it for reassurance that despite the pandemic, the False Creek ferries are still operating. Only much later do I realize that it is almost certainly construction-related, nothing to do with COVID-19.

And yes, the ferries are running.

Still heading west, approaching Coopers Park, and I pass a sign I’ve seen before. It explains an art installation I know well and have already featured in this blog.

So, nothing new here — except it triggers memories of two recent exchanges with friends who note tartly they’d like to see the world get as focused on climate change as on the virus.

And here they are, the sea-level stripes on the Cambie Bridge supports.

Children play happily under the bridge’s north-end ramps, no sign that parents are yet keeping them home. Swings, slides, all the usual equipment with cushiony surfaces underfoot, plus a chalk wall and a hard surface for chalked hopscotch and other artistic impulses.

Even a carrot and a bunny-rabbit on the utilities box!

I walk on as far as the Yaletown dock, take in the children’s artwork on a BC Hydro box, whose message suddenly bears additional interpretations …

and double back to Coopers Park.

Up the long zigzag ramp onto the Cambie Bridge …

and across the bridge, with my favourite dock, Spyglass Place  to welcome me on the south side …

where I again sink into one of those welcoming chairs.

I again prop up my feet, respectfully positioning them to one side of the butterfly …

and again watch some False Creek life flow by. More dogs, kids, adults. More ordinary stuff, suddenly so extraordinary.

I head on east. Clipping along. Pass a staircase, slow down to read its scrawled message. And freeze.

The answer would seem to be: No.

But let us rise to the challenge. And let us support all the authorities who provide science-based information, and follow their guidance. This is a “voyage of discovery” worthy of Proust.

I stop for a latte in Olympic Village. I move to the pick-up counter, where another woman is waiting for her order. We smile at each other — and each take one step back. And smile again, in wry acknowledgment.

If Mr. & Mrs. Mallard can get the hang of social distancing, so can we.

 

 

 

 

 

Left, Right, & Over the Tracks

1 March 2020 – I think this will work. I’m on a promising creek-side trail in the woods, there is even a finger pointing the way …

but it still seems a good idea to check.

So I ask two fellows walking the other way if I am indeed headed for the Shoreline Trail. Yes! they say: left around the tennis courts just ahead, then right-ish around the soccer field, over the tracks, and then follow the trail signs.

Works perfectly. Brisk march left / right / over the tracks; then slow-step to read the signs.

I note the bear-in-area warning; nod respectfully at the Terry Fox Training Route sign; nod equally respectfully at the Great Trail (formerly Trans Canada Trail) sign, thinking about its +24,000 km across this country; read the mudflats warning; and finally turn onto the pedestrian option on the Shoreline Trail (the paved cycling track is roughly adjacent but, in this wooded terrain, usually out of sight).

Shoreline Trail is neither long (2.3 km one way) nor difficult (mild ups & downs), but beautiful, rich in habitat, and brand new country for me. It cups the eastern end of Burrard Inlet out in Port Moody, some 20 km or so from Vancouver.

Established in 1859 as part of the colony’s defence against potential attack from the U.S. (those pesky Americans), Port Moody had brief, bustling glory when, in 1879, it was officially chosen to be the western terminus of the new Canadian Pacific Railway. Alas — especially for the speculators — the CPR soon changed its mind, and pushed on a few more kilometres west to the newly-named community of Vancouver. Port Moody is now a small city, within Metro Vancouver.

Given all this, I am not surprised to learn there is a plaque in town to commemorate the city’s one-time status as western terminus of the railway — but no plaque to honour William Van Horne, the imperious CPR president who, by his route choices, determined the fate of so many communities.

That’s history, back in horizontal time. I re-immerse myself in vertical time, the here-and-now of the Trail beneath my feet, and the discoveries it offers me.

Mudflats, oh yes, all along the Inlet …

and boardwalks, at strategic locations.

Many little pedestrian bridges over the numerous creeks, with new greenery, like these Western skunk cabbages, just beginning to unfurl in the boggy areas …

and great shaggy fern beds & other ground cover all around the path, with the occasional nurse log as well.

This particular “baby,” as you can see, has long since shot free of its nursery and now soars to the sky.

I read more signs about habitat — the indigenous Douglas squirrel, for example, and bird life including sparrows, kingfishers, bushtits, towhees. This is an area rich in salmonberry, blackberry, thimbleberry, they tell me, and feel compelled to note the frequent presence of the banana slug as well. I’m sorry to say I don’t see any of the above, not even a banana slug. (Umm, not so sorry about that.)

I do see a great blue heron, though, patiently poised out in the mudflats, and I pass a nesting area.

This particular colony is close to a pond. Reading yet another sign, I learn the pond was man-made — created to support amphibian life, such as the indigenous red-legged frog, Pacific chorus frog, long-toed salamander, and the northwestern salamander.

I’m all in favour, glad it’s there — but I also notice that cluster of homes just beyond, and think how much we take away from nature, even as we now put more emphasis on its protection and restoration.

My turning point is down by the Old Windmill Park Site. I can’t guarantee these are the remnants of a windmill, but it seems likely, doesn’t it?

Shoreline Trail is such a pretty trail, winding as it does through woods, its edges softened with underbrush and ground cover, made even more inviting with the occasional bench.

This particular bench is framed by an arc of tree trunk; the next one sits by one of the many creeks, opposite the only metal relic I see along the way.

More Trail, more creeks, often with a cautionary “Salmon at work” sign, urging us to respect these waterways for the life they support.

I connect once more with the side-trail that  brought me here from town, and head back toward city streets. I pass trees with their lower trunks encased in wire cages, meant to protect them from local beaver. But, sometimes, the beaver get there first.

I think once again about our urban relationship with nature: a man-made wetland pond, but housing just above; protection for that colony of heron nests, but wire mesh to thwart the beaver.

So, when I’m back in town, and pass this handsome sculptural representation of a salmon run that adorns one flank of an office building …

I think about the real creeks I’ve just visited, home to real salmon runs.

 

 

 

KIS-Smart

20 February 2020 – There is nothing Stupid about Keeping It Simple. It is Smart. And challenging. It takes time, thought and skill to present complex ideas in a way that is both accessible, and intelligent.

Much easier to throw out a smokescreen of obscurantist jargon.

Can you tell I am on a rant? My target is artspeak.

My gallery-going friends and I, all of us reasonably intelligent and articulate, are fed up. We read the poly-syllabic babble aloud to each other, and snarl. If you feel the same way, take heart.

It’s not you. It’s them. Those sign-writers lack either the skill, or the desire, to communicate effectively with the “intelligent outsiders” who form the bulk of their audience. It is not our job to learn jargon. It is their job to offer us a way to connect with the images, using intelligent, everyday language that adds clarity without sacrificing nuance.

Enough snarling. On to the joy of a gallery that gets it right. A gallery whose acronym could not be more misleading: the Surrey Art Gallery (second-largest public art museum in Metro Vancouver) does not make you sag, it expands your heart and mind with every visit.

The tree reflection rippling in the courtyard pool is a foretaste of the art/nature celebrations to come.

First, the Don Li-Leger exhibit. A Surrey-based artist, recently deceased, and we had never heard of him. Here’s how the Gallery describes him:

Don Li-Leger (1948-2019) had a five-decade long art practice marked by a deep and enduring curiosity for nature. Over his career, he explored flora, fauna, and landscapes through a variety of media. This exhibition brings togther selections of late video works alongside a series of paintings the artist made in response to the 2017 “super bloom” of wildflowers in Southern California and Arizona. Vivid colours and abstraction point to Li-Leger’s enduring ecological vision, rooted in life and light.

You see?  Clear, concise, and information-rich.

We watch a loop of short videos, and step through zigzag curtains to find ourselves in a darkened room, with wildflowers glowing from every wall.

We just … breathe for a moment, amazed. Then we look. Then we bend close to a wall, to read.

Nothing baffling here; every word intelligent, relevant, and clear. The text adds to our appreciation, right down to those last few sentences that put the exhibition title, Counting the Steps of the Sun, in context.

We linger over large images …

and ones that are relatively small …

and then move on to the Gallery’s other major exhibition, the work of Musqueam artist Susan Point.

We know this name, and maybe you do too.

“Over the past three and a half decades,” says the Gallery online introduction,

artist Susan Point has received acclaim for her accomplished and wide-ranging works that compellingly assert the vitality of Coast Salish culture, both past and present. … On tour from the Vancouver Art Gallery, Susan Point: Spindle Whorl showcases her silkscreen prints and their significant role in her practice, with a focus on the recurring motif of the Coast Salish spindle whorl. Comprised of a small (usually) wooden disk with a pole inserted through the centre, this tool was traditionally used by Coast Salish women to prepare wool that would be woven into garments and ceremonial blankets…

Point’s artistic vocabulary is entirely other than that of Li-Leger, and deeply rooted in her culture. There is Gallery signage to explain it to us.

(Oooooo, imagine the scope for artspeak.)

Absolutely clear. Not easy, but clear. A resource, along with the spindle explanation, to help us connect with the images.

Point herself wrote the title and text for this work: Salish Vision.

I could just enjoy the image. But, thanks to the quality of the signage, I am offered a way to explore at a deeper level.

We walk, we pause, we look, and we sometimes bend in to read as well.

My eyes keep flicking back to this work, and eventually my feet physically bring me back, to linger another moment before we leave the Gallery.

This time the signage consists of the title, nothing more — and that’s enough.

Raven’s Song.

I laugh, delighted. Isn’t that exactly how they sound?

 

 

 

  • 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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