Haiku to Japadog

16 April 2018 – Sunshine & relative warmth in a soggy week, perfect for our visit to Sakura (“flowering cherry tree”) Days at the VanDusen Botanical Garden. This two-day event is the annual contribution of an astounding all-volunteer committee to the larger Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival that takes place month-long throughout the city.

We’re on for all of it, high culture to low.

We start high, following a trail of posted haiku — all cherry-blossom pink, of course — to the haiku tent.

The poems are all part of an international, invitational project. That one from the USA; another, for example, from Russia.

And another, pointed political commentary, from right here in Canada.

We take part in a haiku workshop in the tent, learn something of their key characteristics as well as variations on the form, read and discuss examples culled from The Haiku Anthology (ed. Cor van den Heuvel, W.W. Norton, 1999).

A haiku walk follows the workshop but we peel off, decide to take in — literally — another mainstay of local Japanese culture.

The Japadog!

Stop snickering. The Japadog is as much a cultural phenomenon as haiku, invented right here in Vancouver by a young immigrant couple in 2005, now a truck/trailer/cart mainstay of our cityscape, and boasting two outposts in California (LA and Santa Monica).

We choose the Terimayo – a best-seller featuring kurobuta pork, fried onions, teriyaki sauce, mayo & seaweed. Yum. (Washed down later with lattes, because the matcha tea line-up is just too long.)

We take our happy tummies up the hill to join others enjoying a bird’s-eye view of succeeding acts on the Cherry Stage below.

We arrive in time for almost the entire presentation by Kohei Honda and Keita Kanazashi, brought in from Japan to perform on the 3-stringed Shamisen and the Japanese drum respectively.

Many in the audience are in traditional Japanese dress …

others, from other cultures, express their own sense of cultural identity.

Then there’s the rest of us!

Later we scamper downhill, crowd in close to the stage, want to take in every moment of the closing act, the Vancouver Okinawa Taiko ensemble. Formed in 2004 by Masami Hanashiro, they serve as local ambassadors of an Okinawa grassroots folk art — a distinctive marriage of drumming and dancing, performed to both traditional and contemporary Okinawa music.

We watch to the end, entranced.

Then we walk toward the exits, passing the Cherry Grove. It is the perfect backdrop for visitors in traditional garb, striking a traditional pose beneath the many trees and their great drifts of blossoms.

At home, I write my first haiku.

Of course I’m not going to show it to you. Don’t be silly.

 

 

 

 

 

Knobby Knees

19 March 2018 – And hairy naked ones too, but I haven’t come to the VanDusen Botanical Garden to admire human knees.

I want these guys.

Whole great marching platoons of cypress knees!

Proof I am indeed circumnavigating (with protracted time-outs on every pond-side bench) the R. Roy Forster Cypress Pond.

The Garden as a whole is very busy, on this warm, sunny weekend day —  bursting with new blossoms, excited children, and keen photographers staggering under their telephoto lenses.

The Pond, tucked away to one side, is a quiet haven. I slide off to join it.

The approach is part of the pleasure.

First, the serene warm presence of the Confidence couple, Michael Dennis’ 2012 creation in Western red cedar …

then silver sunlight glinting off Southern Magnolia leaves (their native habitat, the south-eastern USA, proving what a benign climate I now call home).

I sink onto a first bench, its wooden planks warmed and made redolent by the springtime sun. It gives me a good view of the floating bridge that zigzags its way across the Pond.

I sit there quite a while, happy to let the day come to me, feeling my muscles expand again after their two weeks’ contraction in the Toronto chill. (For all that we are a special animal, we are animal. Our bodies tell us so.)

Then I rise, turn away from the main paved path leading to the bridge, and instead walk a bark-chip path around a far pond edge.

Cypress knees delineate shoreline, neatly encircle the mini-island opposite.

I look away from the Pond, eyes right-not-left, and admire blossoms floating in a bowl of water on the other side of the path. There are several of these bowls, each placed on an upturned log, filled with blossoms currently on offer in nearby shrubs.

What could be simpler? Or prettier?

Eyes pond-side once again, but lazily so,  my mind slightly ahead of my eyes, already anticipating the next bench.

Then a double-take. I freeze. Did I see … ? Was that … ? No, couldn’t be … !

Look again.

Silly me. Of course it’s not real.

Slightly shame-faced, I walk around the far end of the floating bridge and sink onto another bench, giving me a fine view from the far side.

Another month or two, the surface will be thick with water lilies.

Two Days Earlier …

I know. Chronology shot to pieces. And no thematic link at all. (Except that, yes, I am back in Vancouver.)

But you don’t mind, do you.

Barely back in town, greeted with sunshine and double-digit temperatures, I head for favourite places. The VanDusen, above, is one — but so is the Main Street / False Creek area, and that’s where I take myself just a day or so after returning to town.

Where I meet:

Backpack Woman, scampering for safety in the Main & E. 7th parking lot …

and Bookworm Woman, soaking up sunshine and the printed word by False Creek …

and Exercise Man, digging in that paddle as he flashes under the Cambie Street bridge.

Truth is, I’d stopped to admire the flamingoes — or whatever they are — somebody has added to the acrylic stripes on this bridge piling, one element of this art installation showing the 5-metre rise in sea levels that climate change could cause.

And then racer-guy joined the scene.

Very Vancouver.

 

Honorary Tuesday

3 March 2018 – It isn’t Tuesday, but the original Tuesday Walking Society is out in full two-woman force, and in honour of our reunion we declare the day to be Honorary Tuesday. Makes us happy.

As so often, for all those Toronto years, we meet at an agreed time & place — this time, the Pape subway station.

I just have time to admire the frosted-glass artwork on the stairs …

when Phyllis appears. Back onto the subway, on to Main station.

Where we walk down-down-down, headed for Lake Ontario and, eventually, this year’s Winter Stations art installations along the waterfront in the city’s Beach neighbourhood.

Memories of other walks, as we walk… Once more alongside Glen Stewart Ravine as it broadens into Glen Stewart Park. This time with a fresh dusting of snow, and a snowman-in-the-making.

Mum is doing most of the work; small child pats the snowman occasionally; dog watches peacefully from one side.

The sun comes & goes; the wind comes & goes (but, mostly, comes); we reach the boardwalk and head east. The water is cloudy and choppy, wind-driven.

This is the city’s fourth annual Winter Stations — the idea being to have some wintertime fun with the lifeguard stations that otherwise just stand there, cold & bleak behind the snow fence, until it is summer again.

Here’s the wintertime fun: invite design firms internationally and universities provincially to come up with art installations that will each wrap themselves around one of the stations.

We reach the first installation.

Shazaam! Inside lurks one of those frames; outside, it’s Pussy Hut, an American tribute to the pink pussy hats worn worldwide on Women’s Day.

Beyond the hat/hut, you can see more of the installations — Revolution, with its megaphones; the ovoid Nest, with its colourful criss-cross of tapes; and then the boxy, bright-red fabric panels of Obstacle.

Nest, the work of Ryerson University students, is designed to offer “comfort and introspection within a system of complexity and disarray.” On a windy day like today, the concept becomes physical reality.

I enter, I peer up through its shell, through the lifeguard station frame, out to the clouds above.

On to Revolution (OCAD University). Much friendlier than it sounds: 36 vertical tubes, at different heights, easy to swivel — to revolve! —  that invite everyone to shout their opinions into the air.

I don’t shout. The tubes strike me more as telescopes than loudspeakers — perhaps because we are water-side? — so, instead, I peer through one of them and enjoy the change of perspective.

We can’t find an identifying sign for this next installation, but its anonymity doesn’t keep it from providing what they are all meant to provide: pleasure and comfort on a chilly winter day.

At the moment, it’s to the benefit of a tired gentleman and his dog, bright red ball still clutched firmly in its mouth. (Later, online, I learn this is Rising Up, the work of U of Guelph students.)

On to that boxy collection of bright-red fabric panels, each swivelling quite forcibly with the wind.

I put a hand to one, thinking I’ll slide inside. Oww! I’m smacked by the wooden frame that holds the fabric taut. And I discover why the UK design team called their creation, Obstacle.

“At first it appears impenetrable,” they tell you, but with closer inspection and especially through cooperation with others, you can make your way inside.

Phyllis and I have a long history of cooperation, but we don’t make our way inside — we move on to Make Some Noise!

Who can resist? It’s an “oversized noise box,” say its German designers, with black horns and red hand cranks to get ’em wailing.

So we do. And so does everybody else that passes by.

We are veterans of previous Winter Stations exhibitions; we are veterans of blustery Toronto winters; we are veterans of the impact of those winters on the city waterfront.

But we do not expect what we see next.

Three surfers! In wet suits, mind you, and surely insulated wet suits at that. But still …

They offer one more tribute to lakefront fun in winter — the perfect grand finale to Winter Stations. We admire them, but have no desire to emulate them.

We head north to Queen Street East, correctly anticipating a different kind of water, the hot kind that brings you lattes.

What we don’t anticipate is what happens after that.

Next post. You’ll see.

 

 

 

Now Playing!

25 February 2018 – And then … it snowed again. A big old wet-sloppy storm whumping in off the Pacific.

Media weatherpersons put on serious faces.

Black Dog Video chalked up a signboard.

“Bad drivers” and “slush puddles” are universal phenomena. “Translink” = public transit.

Not my problem, that day. I didn’t have to go out, so I didn’t. Instead, I could take a disinterested view of the storm, and admire frosted trees from the warmth of my own living room.

But today I was out. Out there in the slush puddles. My reward was this canoe & bedsprings arrangement in an alley just off Quebec St.

The bedsprings, I assume, are for the toss. But surely the canoe is a keeper?

Why else would you plant tulips in it?

The Incongruity of Snow

22 February 2018 – There! That’s what I mean. Not “Silly in Snow” or “Surprised in Snow” — though both titles appealed to my sophomoric love of alliteration — no, it’s the sheer incongruity of snow in Vancouver that I’m struggling to express.

I’m used to snow in cities (says the native Montrealer), but in cities that are themselves used to snow. Snow scenes that look entirely normal in that context are bemusing — to me, anyway — when viewed in a city whose ecology and architecture prove that snow is a rare phenomenon.

In this context, it is… incongruous.

And for precisely that reason, I am alive to it here in a way I no longer respond to it in more snow-normal contexts.

Even paw prints delight me.

As does the sight of a snow-silly dog himself, leaping at snowballs thrown by his owners, getting his ears scratched and whirling snow from his tail as he waits for the next toss.

See the pale green chair, in the lower left? We’re down on the Arbutus Greenway again, and there are chairs and other warm-weather, garden-related objects all around.

A week or so ago, in the green glow of seasonal warmth, they looked quite normal. Now everything reads differently, in juxtaposition with the white of snow and the sparkle of ice.

Icicles trace frozen vines in the foreground; a blue chair waits out the snow beyond.

As does this hibiscus!

And these primula — part of the exuberant display of plants & garden-implement art on the gates of the Vancouver Compost Demonstration Garden.

Around the corner now, away from the Greenway and heading into Kitsilano.

Tree buds furry with the promise of blossoms are, at least for the moment, also bright with the hard glint of ice.

The homeowner has just shovelled his sidewalk and is now sprinkling a bit of salt. We tell him he is Our Hero. He grins, says it’s nothing much really, we don’t get snow all that often. “Not like back east! Those guys, it’s a life sentence.”

By now it has become our game, as we walk, to spot objects/plants that seem particularly incongruous in the snow. This yellow ducky, for example?

Definitely!

Soon after, down on the Kits main shopping street, we burst out laughing at a street corner decal. Nothing to do with snow. Just plain incongruous, all on its own.

Right. Back to snow sights.

This little woollen stuffed animal, tied to a bench in Vanier Park. Why is it that can we just laugh at the sight of the yellow duck, but somehow wish we could protect this little creature from the elements?

I think we would have been touched anyway. But more so, because the bench has a plaque on it, commemorating a young woman who was, say her grieving family and friends, both “beautiful and fierce.” We pause for a moment, honouring the loss to the universe of this bright spark.

I’m almost used to the next sight — palms wearing snow berets. (Am I acclimatizing?)

And I can at least decipher the sight after that — this, thanks to many walks along Lake Ontario in Toronto’s Beaches neighbourhood. There as here, poles wait for the volleyball nets of summer. But here, unlike there, laden freighters sit in the water and mountain peaks line the horizon.

Next day we’re up at the VanDusen Botanical Garden. Again the contrast to my visit a week or so ago: everything now snow-covered, silent, still.

Even this pond, temporarily frozen.

“Snow bomb!” shouts my friend. A ski veteran of the Lizard Range near Fernie, B.C., she knows what she’s looking at.

Meanwhile, Down South…

Go read Lori Greer‘s recent posts about snow in Portland, our nearish neighbour across the border. They, too, find snow a bit bemusing. (If you don’t know her blog, this may be a happy discovery.)

 

 

 

Westward Ho…

16 February 2018 – You’d think I was already as west as it gets, but no! Not in Vancouver terms. Here we are in West Van this grey-shimmer morning, following a good chunk of the West Van Seawall.

It is a delightful 5.6 km ribbon of pathway, snaked between Burrard Inlet to the south and a still-active CN railway track to the north. Community gardens and luxuriant growth screen the tracks; we are free to enjoy the long views across the water, with Lion’s Gate Bridge to one side and those Coast Mountains to the other.

We see fish as well. Though not in the water…

A whole little gathering of these mosaics, a 1994 project (if I interpret signage correctly) of grade 6 Irwin Park students called “The Meaning of Peace Goes Beyond Words.”

More artwork as we walk along, some official — such as Bill Pechet’s outsized chairs — and some definitely spur of the moment. A predictable moment, any time you have quantities of rocks to hand.

We walk out one of the wooden piers, then blink at all those feathers at our feet. Some of them bloody. Our speculation is cut short by a middle-aged man leaning against the railing.

“I can tell you what happened,” he says.

Picture it: gull minding his own business in the waves; eagle on high, looking for breakfast.

“He just snatched up that gull, plucked it clean of feathers right here on the pier. And look!” Our informant points to the top of a very tall tree back from the water’s edge. “There he is! Digesting, I guess…”

Next pier along is Ambleside Pier. Long distance, I pay more attention to the near-by gull, posing for his moment of fame (I hope he’s watching for eagles), than to the human activity out on the pier.

A handful of men out on the pier, dropping their crabbing paraphernalia into the water. Each one of them, presumably, armed with his valid Tidal Waters Sports Fishing Licence. Large signs specify exactly what they may take, and how many, how often.

Heading back toward the car, I am again gob-smacked by happy palm trees, out there in a Canadian winter. This particular time, I am also pleased by their dance with the spidery bare-branch Something, right next door.

My friends indulge me. Other pedestrians stride by without a glance. I guess they are all used to palm trees.

But my friend slow down as much as I do, to eye the ducks. We’ve been fascinated throughout the walk by convoys of these boldly marked black & white ducks. They seem to cluster much more than other ducks I’m used to — sometimes bobbing head-down beneath the water one after another like an aquatic chorus line, or all swirling in one direction, or suddenly exploding in two opposite directions.

Or, as here, stretched in one long scribble across the silvery surface.

They make me think of the Bufflehead duck that I know (sort of know) from back east, simply because they are also black & white. My friends do a better online search later than I manage to do, and identify them.

Barrow’s Goldeneye!

Aren’t you glad you know that?

Rok Tok

11 February 2018 – Rocks can talk. And make magic. We discover the magic, rok by rok.

We’re partway along the Arbutus Greenway Corridor — an otherwise unprepossessing stretch one must add, between Nanton Rd. and Quilchena Park.

See what I mean?

But look again. See. See the long line of rainbow rocks. Thank the grade 2 students of York House School, and all the people who helped them.

We bend our heads, crouch to read.

The Corridor runs just east of Arbutus Street, repurposing a disused CPR line for some 8.5 kilometres or so …

from Fir St. & W 6th Av. near False Creek, to just south of W 7oth, near the Fraser River.

We start at the False Creek end, work our way south to W 70th, lingering in this stretch with the rocks.

 

Don’t see, or hear, a stellar jay. But when you do, oh, they are wonderful.

 

Imagine how much stronger a sense of community those children have, thanks to this project.

It’s reflected in their rocks.

Some add pictures …

 

or mix their languages, comfortably at ease …

and they all, rock by rock, move the rest of us to action.

Yes, nature is waiting for us. All around us. Farther south we come across another stretch of community gardens.

At first with silent sentinels …

but then with cheerful real-live gardeners, out removing winter mulch, preparing the soil, doing all those tidy-up-get-ready steps of early spring.

And we get an answer to the question posed earlier by one of the rocks.

The answer — the winter-time answer at least — is: Brussels sprouts and kale.

Silver & Light

9 February 2018 – We’re in Stanley Park, tracing its perimeter as we walk the Seawall. A cloudy day, the water a silvery sheen but, here and there, one moment or another, a piercing pinpoint of light & colour.

The incandescent yellow mound of the sulphur terminal, for example, as we approach Prospect Point. It is across Burrard Inlet on the shores of North Vancouver, not close, but look, it draws the eye.

Very close, the reflected arc of Lion’s Gate Bridge, a broken dark scribble on the shining water. Shining, too, rectangles of bright windows in a single focal point of sunshine through drifting clouds.

A backward glance as we round Prospect Point, and that sulphur pile still pulls the eye. (No need to keep the eye instead alert for roller-bladers — we pedestrians have a designated path of our own.)

More sunshine slanting through the clouds — another momentary focal point in the seascape. This time it’s a freighter laden with containers (I see containers & I think photographer Ed Burtynsky, every time), picked out bright against the water, clouds & backdrop mountain range.

We’re around the point of land, curving back eastward toward English Bay and False Creek. Now the sun offers more than a spotlight; it offers a whole sky.

But not quite yet! We must yet pass Siwash Rock, and walk into the sunshine around that next fold in the land. Still, there it will be — the freighter is the promise: no longer a single focal point of light, but part of a larger light-bright whole.

And so it is. We round that fold of land & walk into sunshine.

Past Third Beach, past Second Beach, past English Bay (with a sideways diversion to a café) … and onto a False Creek ferry.

Next stop, the purposeful (& successful) hunt for wind chimes to suspend from my upper balcony. Come to think of it, they too are “silver & light” (even if here silhouetted black).

I see them, and hear their mellow, deep bong, as I type these words.

Ready … Set …

5 February 2018 – And, already, the occasional “Go!” Nature is bursting out from the starting gate, here in Vancouver.

“The witch-hazels are in bloom,” says the ticket-taker, as we enter VanDusen Botanical Garden. “All over the place.”

Indeed they are.

Tawny golden tassels everywhere we look, taking pride of place even though we are in the Rhododendron Walk. Not a spectacular tree, once the leaves take over, but, oh, just look at those blooms.

So loveable. Perhaps because they are such an early harbinger of spring?

The rhodos are not going to take a back seat much longer. All around, big, healthy shrubs, laden with fat buds.

That lot, still closed. Others, much closer to open. This Rhododendron Ririei (Great Bell), for example:

And the smallest species we happen to notice, the Rhododendron ledebourii, in full bloom.

These last two examples are native to Russia’s Altai Mountains and to Mongolia respectively. That may explain their jump-start in Nature’s great spring race.

Then there are sights that have nothing to do with spring. They are just part of what makes Vancouver such a visually striking Rain City.

Moss on bare branches …

and Hart’s Tongue fern gleaming by a mossy rock, in the Fern Dell.

We pass the Maze, guarded from on high by its huge Monkey Puzzle tree …

and a great gnarl of tree boll in a copse.

Finally, as we cross the little zigzag bridge over Livingstone Lake, another mossy tree branch, this one hanging green-angled over its black reflection in the lake below.

Then it’s a peaceful downhill walk to Max’s Deli & Bakery at Oak St. & West 16th Avenue.

Where I have …

oh, go ahead, take a wild guess …

Of course.

Humans, Birds, Food

We already knew, didn’t we, not to feed wild birds? Or we are at least now willing to take the BC SPCA warning seriously?

I was sufficiently taken by that message on the Granville Island ferry dock to include it in my previous post.

What it doesn’t point out is that — along with protecting the birds from our food — we must sometimes protect our food from the birds.

Presumably the Vancouver Art Gallery café grew tired of patrons stomping back inside, muttering rude things about feathered thieves.

 

 

More Chairs. Still Staring…

31 January 2018 – Despite my Stares & Chairs post of January 13, I do not go looking for chairs.  I do not. I’ve become a moss-on-trees junkie, a crow junkie, yes … but no, not for chairs. They just keep turning up.

Even so, the first thing I stare at, this not-raining morning, has nothing to do with chairs.

Think toe-nails.

So that’s a good laugh, a silly moment to launch a walk that takes us out to Vanier Park, on the south shore of False Creek in Kitsilano.

Past the Maritime Museum, past the Museum of Vancouver, with kids and dogs and adults and bicycles and hiking boots all enjoying the day.

And then …

Sixteen chairs. Echoes, an art installation by Michael Goulet, part of the Vancouver Biennale of 2005-2007, reinstalled by Goulet here on the beach in 2010. (Note: not my photo. It’s from the Goulet page on the Biennale website.)

I could tell you more, but the signage next to the installation says it so much better…

We lean over chairs, each with its few words, in one official language or the other. This one is a bit of a stand-alone …

while these, somehow, seem to talk to each other.

Follow the arrows …

And we walk on.

And on, and then on some more. Onto Granville Island, among the offerings of the Granville Market. And finally, down to the Aquabus dock, for a ferry ride back home.

One last message, as we cross an outdoors eating/gathering space that leads to the wharf.

The gull hopes you can’t read.

 

 

  • 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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