Winter Growth

5 December 2019 – “Winter growth” is not quite the oxymoron it sounds, even if some things — daylight hours, for example — definitely contract in this season. Some other things increase.

Cats grow more fur.

And Vancouver trees grow more moss.

Everywhere you see trees packing on the moss, including downtown streets like this one.

Porch Guy is eyeing me, and I spend a nano-second or two wondering if he would be reassured or insulted to learn I am taking a picture of the tree, not him…

Who cares, back to the moss. Moss spreading down tree trunks right to the curb-side ground …

fattening branches to shaggy splendour …

creating mossblots …

snuggling down with other moss-family relations and a lichen or two …

and popping up in emerald bubbles against streaky bark.

The scene is just as luxuriant, and a lot more lyrical, out at the VanDusen Botanical Garden. (It also lets me look like I know what I’m talking about, since most trees are tagged.)

Red Maples compensate with moss for their loss of leaves …

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and a Black Elder flashes green against the dramatic backdrop of rusty orange across the Garden’s Cypress Pond.

Not surprisingly, there are a lot of Bald Cypress trees in the vicinity, and all that vivid orange is their needlework. They’re no slouch in the moss department either, whether on solid land or growing in the water …

I mean, look closer — even their knobby knees are covered in moss!

In this temperate rainforest climate, winter moss doesn’t just leap all over the trees, it will happily grow on pretty well any wooden surface that presents itself.

Including the shingled rooftop of this temporary Festival of Lights kiosk, in stark contrast to the undulating lines of the Visitor Centre’s permanent rooftop just behind & above.

 

Dull Day Bright

1 December 2019 – Images from 30 November, a suitably overcast last day of a traditionally rainy month. But bright even so, bright with art and words that brighten the mind and spirits.

This great pop of art for example, lighting up a grey-scale alley just off West Broadway & Ontario Street.

A corner signature tells me the artist: Stefan Raupach — and later exploration tells me more. This is Morning Sun, created in 2015 in collaboration with the City of Vancouver and Tunari Gumi, a grassroots organization serving the Japanese-Canadian community. (Indeed, it is on the alley wall of the organization’s offices.)

No clear shot possible, such is alley art life, but lots to admire in bits & pieces. The flautist’s head and nimble fingers, for example …

and the morning sun itself, along with mountain peaks, waves and (inevitably) crows against the clouds still pink with sunrise.

I even like the sight lines up that staircase — a reminder that street art lives within its larger urban context. The macro urban-art installation, if you like. (Well, only if you like artspeak. Sorry.)

On I go, I am in fact heading for somewhere (though not with any sense of urgency). Next time I stop to cock my head, it is at a different kind of “macro urban-art installation.” (Smirk.)

It’s not the old house itself, particularly …

it is that parliament of owls on the porch roof. (Yes, “parliament” is the collective noun for owls. Isn’t that wonderful?)

I leave the owls to their deliberations.

Still heading west, now on West 8th between Ontario and Manitoba streets, the southern border of Jonathan Rogers Park.

Nothing macro about this next art installation, it is gloriously micro, eye-level and eye-scale.

I love this series — by now some 60 utility-pole plaques dotted around the city, an initiative of the Reading Lights program that publicizes B.C. children’s book authors & illustrators and makes their work available through the library system. This particular plaque brings us a snippet of Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin (by Chieri Uegaki, illustrated by Qin Leng).

I read the snippet …

and enjoy the illustration — and then I look north instead of south.

Straight across the park for another macro view of something bright on a dull day.

Very big, very bright — created during the 2019 Vancouver Mural Festival, the work of Germany-based “SatOne” (as Venezuela-born artist Rafael Gerlach signs his works).

Up there on the horizon, something even bigger: the Coast Range. Not particularly bright as yet, but look, there is that one vivid tongue of white on the Grouse Mountain ski run…

And, with that bright promise of winter, trot-trot, on I go.

 

 

Between Bands

17 November 2019 – Rain bands that is, not the musical kind. Rain behind us, just this morning, and rain ahead of us, starting this evening, but meanwhile …  meanwhile, the showers have stopped and the sun dominates the remaining few clouds.

Water beads still on metal surfaces, the droplets glittering …

glittering on plants as well …

and even without lingering droplets, newly-washed surfaces glow in the sunshine.

Here on a shrub …

there on Cosmic Breeze, Olivia di Liberto’s contribution to the 2019 Vancouver Mural Festival …

and, over there, on the face of this Mount Pleasant home. The day now feels as warm as that mustard yellow looks, and I am not surprised to see this young woman seat herself on the steps, wriggle into a comfy position and take up her smart phone, a wine bottle companionably to hand.

Closer to False Creek, among the sleek new post-Olympic condos, still-dripping eaves roll slow concentric ripples through the water feature below.

Another concentric circle at the Creek, in Olympic Village, where Musqueam artist Susan Point‘s sewer cover is perfectly static, yet ripples — with evolving light/dark patterns as different patches of the iron surface dry at different rates, and also with the life-cycle design below, egg to tadpole to frog.

A great long standing pool draws the eye from the Seawall bike path down to False Creek, across the water, all the way to those Cirque du Soleil tents on the north side.

And a perfectly crow-sized standing pool of water sits in a dip in this Seawall path divider. Mr. Crow has just dipped his beak, and is about to fly off again.

No need to search for a standing pool, these ducks glide along the tributary that winds through Hinge Park into False Creek.

The sun still shines, the rusty fall colours glow, but by the time I am home …

clouds are massing once again.

Strike up the band!

 

November 11: an Ordinary Day

11 November 2019 – A little cool, a little grey, but a perfectly ordinary, peaceful day. A good day to do whatever you want, go wherever you want.

Wander down to the south-east curve of False Creek, for example. Enter via Hinge Park, where the “Rusty Sub” sits in perfect camouflage amidst the rusty bullrushes of the adjacent tiny watercourse …

Or lead your dog into (or out of) the off-leash dog park that borders Hinge Park …

Eye the remaining produce in the Village Community Garden, but politely keep your fingers to yourself …

Cock a thoughtful eye at the public art atop that pedestal in False Creek or, if it’s not much to your taste, focus instead on the man peacefully sculling by  …

Eye the ferries (Aquabus left, rival False Creek line right) that just as peacefully share the waterway with scullers, dragon-boaters, kayakers, assorted yachts & each other …

Check the ferry schedule on Spyglass Dock …

Feel free to write a moving plea for gratitude on a nearby tree …

Or feel equally free to denounce the plea as vandalism …

Rest beside your bicycle in Olympic Village plaza, or perhaps hunker down behind one of its public benches in a game of Hide & Seek …

Indulge yourself with a selfie in Mollie Burke’s Unfolded art installation …

Or settle down outside an Olympic Village creek-side café, while you check your smartphone for messages.

But keep that Remembrance Day poppy (above) close to hand.

Because an “ordinary” day of peace, calm, safety, choice and good humour is an extraordinary gift.

Those of us fortunate enough to experience it should always be grateful, always remember all the people and all the effort and vigilance that make it possible.

So, as a whistle echoes across the water at 11 a.m., and the Fraser Blues fly overhead in tight formation …

look up, say thank you,

and remember.

 

 

Up the Mountain

29 October 2019 – Not the world’s largest, but very beautiful & just fine by us. We’re east of Vancouver atop Burnaby Mountain, in the Burnaby Conservation Area, with its 26 multi-use trails that cross-cross some 28 km within the park’s 576 hectares.

Good thing they’re multi-use, because we have multi uses in mind: two to go haring up & down on their serious bicycles, and two to go walkies at an altogether gentler pace, enjoying views from high up and connecting with this far-west end of the Canada Trail. (I’m in the walkies brigade, as if you had to be told.)

We start in the wondrous Playground of the Gods, more than a dozen wooden sculptures created by Japanese sculptor Nuburi Toko and his son Shusei, to honour the relationship between the twin cities of Burnaby and Kushiro.

The sculptures are dramatic, in a dramatic setting, views westward across Vancouver to Georgia Strait and even the Fraser River.

Many soar …

some angle …

and they’re all confusing for this Pileated woodpecker, who keeps tapping away, certain that somewhere in all this wood there must be an insect or two.

Onto a trail, into the woods, we play Spot-the-Nurse-Logs, and agree this one is queen of them all: six sturdy babies, climbing straight up.

After-the-rain rich smells everywhere, and the slightly acrid smell of late autumn, rustling leaves underfoot. Near our feet,  tiny-tiny mushrooms …

and ‘way far below our feet, over the cliff edge, down in Burrard Inlet, some freighters.

Orca whales through the trees, entirely out of place if you’re being literal about whales & water, but just fine if you can relax into their being in their part of the world.

And a happy rock, to send us back to town.

We catch up with the bicycling brigade. The visitor wins admiration for doing it on his gravel bike (not owning a mountain bike); the local rider wins admiration for choosing to bring us all to this location, and for being cycling guide.

We’re all as happy as that rock.

 

Ducks & Froggies

17 October 2019 – Well, that’s misleading. There are no ducks or froggies in this post.

But it’s only initially misleading. Think of it as my preamble.

When I was little, and the rain came pouring down, my mother would chant some nursery doggerel in my ear that began, “I don’t like the rain / But the ducks & froggies do…” and went through a long list of Good Deeds done by rainfall to conclude, “So I am glad there’s sometimes a rainy day / Aren’t you?” My dad would discreetly roll his eyes, but, see, the sentiment has stuck with me, if not the specific list of watery Good Deeds.

Still, you only have to look around to see candidates for the list.

Happy plant life, for example.

Fern fronds, new & old, glow in the pearly light …

So do these pieris leaves, new & old …

And this rhodo, with buds already set for spring …

And this yellow rose bush, not to be outdone, with buds popping into bloom right now.

And then, and then …

And then, even though there’s not a duck or froggy in sight, I can at least offer you some orange giraffes.

As good as a rainbow, yes?

Your eye follows rain-dark Main Street north-north-north right to Burard Inlet, and smacks into those dazzling cranes, set afire by a shaft of sunlight that — just for a moment — finds a gap in the clouds.

 

 

Water & Woodland

3 October 2019 – We’re in Stanley Park, that 400-hectare bulge of West Coast rainforest where False Creek swells into English Bay, Burrard Inlet and beyond that the Strait of Georgia, all of it part of the Salish Sea.

I get dizzy trying to grasp all that, but I don’t have to. We’re firmly on land, in the Park, and we have a more-or-less plan: Seawall for a while, then up onto Merilees Trail where we can overlook the Seawall and Burrard Inlet, then … ummm … then probably forest trails around & back down.

Which is pretty well how it works.

Fresh, breezy fall day, bright sun, sparkling water, then into the forest. It is terrific.

Somewhere past Second Beach, heading towards Fergusons Point, this circle of stones in the water. Not a random act of nature; too deliberately placed for that. Perhaps someone’s tribute to Don Vaughan’s Waiting for Low Tide installation in False Creek?

From mute, stationary stones to a noisy, busy dog. He is splashing furiously through the water just off Third Beach to chase — yet again! — the stick thrown — yet again! — by his patient owners. Another, lazier dog watches from the shore; we watch from our viewpoint high on Merilees Trail.

We stick with the trail, thank you, despite the passing (male) hiker who crisply informs us it is “boring” and we should immediately drop back down to the Seawall. Our choice rewards us, and eventually, with a bit of hacking about, here we are at Prospect Point Lookout.

We can look down-down-down to the water, and we do. We can look up-and-to-the-right to Lions Gate Bridge, and we do. We can also look straight overhead to watch a seaplane arc through the sky.

And we do.

Now we turn inland, away from ocean views to follow first Prospect Trail and then the Bridle Path, curving down through the heart of the forest.

It is quite, quite magic.

Nurse logs everywhere, their decaying old growth feeding voracious new growth in the forest’s endless cycle of regeneration.

They come every which shape. Sometimes a craggy island of stumps, rising from a sea of forest litter all around …

Sometimes a single shoulder-height remnant of trunk, silver-tipped …

Sometimes horizontal instead, smothered in mossy green …

with luminous white mushrooms glowing nearby.

Oh… I don’t know they’re mushrooms. Maybe they’re toadstools? I wasn’t rude enough to tip one over and check its gills (brown-to-black in a mature true mushroom, still white in a mature toadstool).

But maybe it’s just as well we keep our ungloved hands to ourselves. Later on, one online photo of Death Cap mushrooms — now proliferating in Vancouver, reports tell us — looks suspiciously like our guys. Though maybe not: Death Cap seems to have a silky smooth cap; ours are ruffled.

So I don’t know, and I don’t much care, because I think they’re beautiful, and all I want to do is admire them, not eat them. (Still, if you can identify them, please do.)

By now we’re obsessed with nurse logs, playing spot-the-hidden-nurse-log as we walk.

And look, there one is. A huge mound, a long-buried nurse log surely, with its new growth, now mature trees, rising triumphantly above.

There is a whole lot of “rising triumphantly” going on in this forest.

What’s the scale? you ask; how high would a human being rise against that vee?

This high.

Getting pretty far down the Bridle Path by now, soon we’ll hit Lost Lagoon and begin to rejoin urban bustle.

One more soaring tree before we go  …

and we finally emerge from the trails into the noise and parking lots — but also the amenities — where city streets butt up against parkland near Second Beach.

Into a brew pub! And into big bowls of clam chowder.

 

The Rough with the Smooth

26 September 2019 – Some days, you get it all.

We encounter the rough while walking westward through Thornton Park, just in front of Pacific Central train station  …

and later on I encounter the smooth while walking eastward again past David Lam Park on the north side of False Creek.

This is one of my favourite sculptures, Marking High Tide by Don Vaughan, and look — rising tide is just beginning to lap across the lowest of the stepping-stones.

A Loop Beneath a Rain-Rich Sky

14 September 2019 – Rich more in promise than delivery, though, as I write this, rain is pelting down.

Earlier, the sky is merely lowering, luminous grey, the air heavy with its cargo of rain. But I am now a Vancouverite, am I not? I put on my jacket, tuck a mini-umbrella into my backpack, and off I go.

A loop, I tell myself: down to the eastern end of False Creek, west up its north side to the Cambie bridge, over the bridge, back east to Creek-end once more, and home.

I’m not the only Vancouverite. Waving-cat Maneki-nako stops waving, wraps his paw around an umbrella instead, and turns into rain-cat.

Luminous sky means darker darks & punched-up colour, this rain-filled trench in a construction site suddenly a turquoise pond.

Site equipment rears dark against the sky …

as do hydro poles in a nearby alley, their attendant crows somehow even blacker than  usual.

Down on False Creek, an inukshuk seems to huddle against the chill …

and tide height turns rock tips into dark islands in the glittering waters.

A woman stops beside me, also contemplating the rocks. We chat, her small dog with butterfly ears yips at a passing gull. “I named him Napoleon for good reason,” she sighs. “Small Frenchman with big attitude.”

Just before the south-side ramp up onto the Cambie bridge, I pause again. A kid & his skateboard take a breather beside the mural with its large “Stay in school” message. It’s Saturday. He’s legal.

Over the bridge, and, starting down the spiral staircase at the south end, I hear music.

I look over the edge.

Some passer-by has pushed  back the protective tarp, and started playing the public piano that lives here on Spyglass Dock every summer. The music swells; the pavement murals glow in the mist.

A little farther east, I watch crows fly in to join their fellows in a favourite staging tree. Come evening, they’ll take wing for their nightly migration to the next municipality over, Burnaby. Night after night, they swirl past my balcony, dozens at a time.

 

Mist has turned to drizzle; drizzle is thickening to rain. One more line of hydro poles, as I cut south-east toward home. No crows here, just one bright saw-tooth line of pink warning flags.

And now… rain! I scamper.

(You’re right: this is not the post I semi-promised you last time around. This one seemed more here-and-now. That one comes next. Yes! I promise.)

Love That Dude

8 September 2019 – This is a love story …

about this Dude.

In 1991, the Vancouver Parks Board installed a handsome new cedar sculpture, Reclining Figure, in Guelph Park — a not particularly large or widely known park in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, bordered on its east side by Guelph Street.

By 2017, as you can see in that Georgia Straight photo above, the wood was busy repurposing itself. Just fine for the planet as a whole; not so fine for lovers of the sculpture. The Parks Board paid to have it returned to the artist, Michael Dennis, on Denman Island.

And then… what to do, what to do?

Because, you see, this wasn’t really about Reclining Figure at all.

It was about The Dude. And Dude Chilling Park. And a community icon.

A little back-story:

  • November 2012, local artist Viktor Briestensky, in tribute to the sculpture, puts up a hand-lettered sign renaming the park, “Dude Chilling Park.” The Parks Board removes it.
  • February 2014, after an online petition gains some 1,800 signatures, the Parks Board thinks, Why not?, and puts up a Dude Chilling Park sign next to the Guelph Park sign. The park is still legally Guelph, but has dual-sign status.
  • The park’s alternate name gains international media attention; the “Dude” sign keeps being stolen as a souvenir; lots of people visit the park; and on we go.

And then it’s 2017, and the Parks Board finally removes decomposing Cedar Dude from the park, and reunites it with its creator. Guelph/Dude Chilling Park has lost its soul.

What happens next is a grassroots campaign to “Save the Dude.”  The Mount Pleasant Community Centre is a driving force in the campaign, local media get behind it, people and various societies chip in, Michael Dennis adds support — and, finally, there is money to back the public will to save The Dude by casting it in bronze.

Mid-August this year, Bronze Dude is triumphantly installed. (But I only catch up with it today…)

We love our Dude!

Fibre-art on the park’s tennis court fence proclaims it.

More fibre-art, twined around nearby tree forks, illustrates several more reasons why people love this park.

One reason, the park’s large community garden, visible behind that tree.

Spin about, sight along one of those two wrappings for another reason.

See? There to the left? People laughing and story-telling around one of the park’s many benches.

Just chilling with The Dude.

 

  • 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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