“All the Possibilities…”

17 April 2022 – Wisdom courtesy of Eeyore, who was always my favourite in the Hundred Acre Woods cast of characters (and as drawn by E.H. Shepard, thank you, none of that Disney nonsense). Not that Eeyore was even remotely in my mind, on either of the Friday-Saturday walks I’m about to show you.

But later, looking at photos with their various camera angles, two references came to mind. One was that corporate stand-by, the 360 Review: assess from every angle, not just a chosen few. The other reference, which amounts to pretty well the same thing, is the advice Eeyore gave a flustered Piglet and eaves-dropping Christopher Robin, back in 1928:

“Think of all the possibilities, Piglet, before you settle down to enjoy yourselves” (The House at Pooh Corner, chapter 6, by A.A. Milne).

I love it, I’m glad I remembered it. Because … that’s what we’re all doing, isn’t it? There it is, in your posts and mine: we bounce around, full of curiosity, we notice all those 360-possibilities, and we enjoy ourselves.

On Friday, heading north-west down an alley, my enjoyment is distinctly vertical. I’m captivated yet again by a line of H-frame hydro poles.

I look up …

and up …

and finally away, as my eyes track those wires off into the sky.

Saturday has me walking north again, but this time veering east not west, down to Great Northern Way by the Emily Carr (University of Art + Design) campus.

Where I look down, not up.

Construction for the Broadway Subway is all around my neighbourhood. This mammoth hole in the ground, nicely framed for sidewalk-superintendent convenience, will eventually become the Great Northern-Emily Carr station on the new line.

From eyes down to eyes up, as I pass Emily Carr. Skateboarders are clacking away on an unseen obstacle course to my left, while Kandis Williams’ Triadic Ballet silently unfolds on the wall screen to the right of a building entrance.

Just east of the university, in front of the Digital Media Centre, I literally do a 360 review. First, I am in front of this striking red heart. Striking, but awkward in its placement.

Then I circle around, and read Ron Simmer’s explanation.

I think it’s wonderful, and I no longer care about the ungainly placement. It’s all part of the vulnerable charm of this survivor (and the dotty determination of the man who rescued it).

On east along Great Northern Way, and then eyes all over the place as I head north on Clark Drive.

Below to my left, protective arched screening over the Millennium Line tracks, beyond that railway tracks with all those colour-block shipping containers rolling past; straight ahead, only slightly upwards, the Expo Line as it crosses Clark; and ‘way beyond that, very up indeed, those Coast Range mountains.

Plus — back to right here in front of me — an old-fashioned street lamp. Charming, and still part of the mix.

Nothing charming about the next bridge I cross, which I meet after exploring northward-then-eastward and finally back south again on Commercial Drive. The best you can say for it is, it’s functional.

Until you read both plaques. (“Explore all the possibilities…” Thank you, Eeyore. Got it.)

Plaque on the left announces the civic factoids of this Commercial Drive Bridge. Plaque on the right is a whole other, human story.

One last spin-around when I’m back in my own neighbourhood, as I cut through Guelph (aka Dude Chilling) Park.

To the north, the cherry trees that line East 7th Avenue (Kanzan cultivar, the Blossom Map tells me) …

while to the east, there are members at work in the Brewery Creek Community Garden, children playing on the swings, and over toward the south, a group of seniors just hanging out.

Meanwhile, on his plinth by the southern park edge, the eponymous Dude is also hanging out. Just chilling, right along with the rest of us.

I look back over my shoulder, catch this fresh new baby Kanzan blossom emerging from a mossy old tree trunk …

and walk on home.

Cherry Blossoms & Goose Bumps

11 April 2022 – Vancouver is in the grips of its annual three-week Cherry Blossom Festival. It is all the more magical because, after several years on hold, we are again able to hold public events to mark the phenomenon.

It’s a phenomenon worth marking. The whole city is fluffy with blossoms, and no wonder: 54 different cultivars, and more than 43,000 trees in total. I can spout these factoids because of the Festival website, with its historical backstory (first festival, 2006) and its list of events (from the kick-off Big Picnic, to the international Haiku Invitational contest, the Tree Talks and Walks, and the Sakura Days weekend at the VanDusen Botanical Garden). Plus its mammoth DIY resource, Discover Blossoms. Here you can learn a very great deal about cherry trees and the significance of cherry blossom festivals, pinpoint what is blooming where, right here, right now, and download your very own Cherry Compass app.

Unfortunately, the city is not only in the grips of cherry blossoms, it is also in the grips of a prolonged cold snap. We therefore head for the VanDusen on Sunday bundled up in more layers of clothing that we think ought to be necessary, this time of year.

Mother Nature, of course, doesn’t care. The blossoms dance merrily in the breeze …

though some of the Haiku contest entries, like this one, allude to the tricks that weather can play.

We will head downhill a bit later on for one of the outdoor cultural performances — but first, we really, really want to warm up.

So we cruise the line of food trucks, each with its own offering of Japanese street food. How about Teriyaki Boys (their trucks a fixture in Squamish, Whistler and Metro Vancouver)?

Perhaps… But first we’ll explore a little more, on down the line.

Aha! Perfect comfort food for a bone-biting day: okonomiyaki, or cabbage pancake. We join the line-up and gossip with the people just ahead of us, who widen their eyes as they describe the length of the Japadog line-up a little earlier in the day. I am nostalgic: back in 2018, new to Vancouver, I was introduced to the iconic Japadog menu at this very event. Today, though, temperatures are low and wind is high and we want to wrap ourselves around those pancakes.

So we do.

Fortified, we head down to the open-air stage, in time for the performers we want to see, the Southern Wave Okinawan Music and Dance Society. There are a few rows of chairs, and we manage to snaffle two seats. We watch as the musicians and this stately dancer (captured by my friend’s quick eye and superior camera) celebrate the arrival of spring.

We celebrate right along with them. For a while.

Then we leave, drive back north, and celebrate Flat Whites and delicate Financier almond cakes in the warmth of my favourite neighbourhood café.

The Wisdom of the Raven

7 April 2022 — On the end wall of the Raven Song Community Health Centre, here in town:

I think, some years back, I included this wise observation in a post. But it bears repeating, does it not?

Not that the raven is known only for wisdom.

“Trickster” is the frequent label, so I looked around for some further information about the cultural importance of this physical creature. My happiest discovery was an article on the website of an organization called Raven Reads. The more I read, the more fascinated I was — with both the raven, and this organization.

First, the raven. Specifically, the raven in Haida culture, as reflected in a 2018 article they ran with comments by Eden Robinson about the latest book in his Trickster Trilogy, Trickster Drift.

Robinson points out that while Raven is central to how Haida see the world, he is not thought of as a god per se. “He symbolizes creation, knowledge, prestige as well as the complexity of nature and the subtlety of truth. He also symbolizes the unknown and is there to show that every person sees the world in a different way as another.”

From raven to Raven Reads: what is this organization? “Indigenous and women owned,” it says; founded by Metis (BC/Saskatchewan) entrepreneur Nicole McLaren, it is “the world’s first indigenous subscription box.”

Subscription box? That is what a small book club can become, if its founder is determined to raise awareness, spread knowledge and literature, and support other indigenous businesses (more than $300,000 so far). Subscribe to Raven Reads, and four times a year a literal, physical (and very beautiful) box will be delivered to your doorstep. It will contain a book by an indigenous author, a letter from the author or the box curator, and some giftware items from indigenous businesses & craftspeople. That’s the adult box; there are also children’s boxes, corporate subscriptions, and giftware separately available.

I like everything about this, both the business/advocacy model and the content, and having discovered the organization by accident I am quite delighted to tug your sleeve and make you aware of it as well.

One more image to close with, this one from some homeowner’s fence over on Quebec Street. I can’t guarantee he is a raven, he may be a crow …

or we can simply allow him to “symbolize the unknown.”

Mood Swings

30 March 2022 – Not my mood, you understand.

No, wait, come to think of it, indeed my mood — but only in response to the mood of my walk. Which just keeps bouncing around.

From gritty-graphic …

to a juxtapositional joke …

from nature’s beauty, among the trees …

to a child’s eager spirit, upon the sidewalk.

And then, after adding some books to the East 10th community book exchange, I check the display on the adjacent tree, which always sets a seasonal theme, supplies art materials, and asks for comments.

The mood dictated by this current theme is helpfulness: suggest an activity or an attitude that will help you, your community, the world. Write your helpful idea on one of the hand outlines provided, and peg it up for all to see.

There are lots of suggestions. Some, like this one, point to an activity …

others recommend an attitude.

And yet another sets my own mandate for the walk back home.

I’d been striding along — Walking Warrior, that’s me! — now I slow right down. I turn my attention from my surroundings to my own physical self: my alignment, my pace, my footfall.

And … I … just … breathe.

Sticks & Stones & Bees & Crows — and a Unicorn, a Shady Cat & Destination Fish (& 24,000 Km)

26 March 2022 – And even more than all that. The fish is indeed my destination — the Go Fish! seafood shack just off Granville Island that (dammit) owes me a salmon burger — but, as always, once you choose a direction, all sorts of other discoveries pile on.

Errands bring me to Burrard & West 6th, close enough to False Creek to make Go Fish! my walk magnet for the day. But first I detour west, because here I am crossing the Arbutus Greenway, and why would I resist?

There’s a whole long tangled history about the Greenway, involving land from False Creek to the Fraser River, which the City bought from the CPR in 2016. Final green space development yet to be determined let alone implemented, community garden rights unclear — but meanwhile, let’s enjoy the approx. 9 km of asphalt pathway, the community gardens (including Cypress, where I join the Greenway), the benches, the sheer delight of this green ribbon running right through the city.

I pass Mason Bee hotels …

and City-provided “benchlets”…

and, along with hikers & joggers & walkers, scavenging crows. Of course.

I cross Cypress Street, with this hydro-pole reminder that some epidemics are to be encouraged, not fought.

Garden plots are still at the tidy-up stage, making even more apparent their underlying hardscape. Jean (doyenne of Jean’s Garden), like her allotment colleagues, favours lots of natural elements — sticks & stones, of varying sizes and shaped either for art or functionality. Here a small bowl containing pretty pebbles sits beside the sweep of a driftwood bench. I love benches in general; I love this bench in very particular.

Other side of the pathway, a garden with beehives. This doesn’t look like one of the community-based allotments, it may instead belong to a home just to the north — a reminder of how narrow the Greenway ribbon is, in this part of town.

And then there’s City Farmer.

This archway of repurposed metal implements leads into their quarter-acre site, where they demonstrate the mandate that has guided their work since 1978: to show people how to grow food in the city, compost waste & care for their home landscape.

The gate’s vines and flowers are still barely visible this early in the season, making it all the easier to spot the folk-art jokes in the metalwork.

Like this unicorn.

Enough detour, I decide: time to leave the Greenway, head north and zig-zag my way to Fisherman’s Wharf just west of Granville Island. It is home to the public fish market — and the Go Fish! metal shack.

I may already be thinking salmon burger but first, as I turn onto Maple Street, I discover a shady cat.

Talk about security: this home has it three-deep. A dog, a shady cat, and even — check that Orca Security signage in the lawn behind — a “killer whale.”

Please note those quote marks. Because when I search the phrase, I discover the Orca is something else entirely. Not even a whale, let alone a killer whale. It is instead a dolphin, and a whale killer. The descriptive phrase somehow got turned around over the centuries, and the Orca family should sue. (I bet lots of you already knew all that Orca lore, but I didn’t.)

Another block or so down Maple, and I meet a ghost barber. The saga of a ghost barber.

Or something like that. I have no idea. I shake my head and let my mind return to thoughts of salmon burgers.

Another 10 minutes or so, and here I am. About to join the line-up for Go Fish! — which today is open for business, unlike the day I brought a trusting friend here in an act of pilgrimage, our mouths already gently salivating.

Founded in 2004 by local chef Gord Martin, devoted to local & sustainably harvested seafood, all of it freshly prepared, Go Fish! is a Vancouver landmark with an international reputation. You are guaranteed really good food. After a really long wait.

So I have time, while in line, to empathize with the little boy killing time, peering over the wharf rail.

And I have time, while waiting for my order, to notice and wonder about the Spanish slogan on each staff T-shirt. (Later I discover that Martin was, maybe still is, exec chef & cofounder of a restaurant in Carmen del Playa, Mexico.)

Full of salmon (plus shrimp mayo & Japanese style pickled cucumber), I walk the perimeter of Granville Island — a kind of bonus loop, before continuing east along the Seawall toward home. The loop takes me past floating homes & busy ferries & busy shops & kiddies on swings & even the sight of two large seals repeatedly arching out of the water to grab scraps thrown their way by the fisherman gutting his catch overhead.

And then, just where Sutcliffe Park is about to lead me back over to the Seawall, I see a Trans Canada Trail pavilion on the point of land. I step within its embrace.

More than 24,000 km of trail, the signage tells me; “the world’s largest network of multi-use recreational trails,” the website later tells me. I think, with pleasure, of bits of Trail that I have walked here & there in the country. I can imagine sections of the Trail; I cannot imagine all 24,000 km.

The map does it for me:

So I look at that for a moment, and then turn east, to add a few more klicks to my very own, my cumulative, my life-long “Penny Trail.” Seriously??? I laugh at the sheer pretentiousness of the concept, but then decide to forgive myself. If birders can have their Life Lists, why can’t we walkers?

Comforted, reassured, and vastly amused, I walk on.

Rain. Drops.

22 March 2022 – It is raining.

And raining, and raining.

But the rain drops pose so very prettily, for anyone who cares to look.

Trafalgar!

12 March 2022 – No, no, not Battle of — that event sits several centuries and various oceans distant from my Trafalgar. I’m on a street in the Kitsilano district of Vancouver, not floating around just off Cape Trafalgar, Spain. Mind you, there is water a kilometre or so to the north of us, and by carrying on down Trafalgar, we’ll hit it.

Which is the plan.

We already have a nautical reference point.

Not particularly well made, but so very cheerful. Intriguing, too. Why is this little boat perched on the roof of that front yard lean-to? Surely too high for any resident toddler to see… Ah well, it’s fun for passing adult pedestrians.

More gratuitous fun (always the best kind), another block or so to the north.

Why? But again, why ask? Just enjoy it.

Each little peak shelters its own ornament. In this case, a truck…

but others display everything from shells to toy animals to pretty pebbles to a plastic leprechaun, perhaps specially installed for St. Patrick’s Day.

Sedate good taste comes next: this fine balcony banner with its leaping salmon.

And right after that — side yard of the same Good Taste home, I think — comes another hit of nonsense.

Not that you’d be seriously tempted to ride it, but the draped fairy lights do emphasize that this bicycle is decorative, not functional.

Right at the next intersection, prayer flags and a plaque.

Well-worn flags — just imagine how many thousands of prayers they have fluttered into the breeze by now! And an equally weathered plaque, erected (it says here) in 2013 by “Friends of Siri” — their tribute to long-time resident Siri Kidder Halberg, who “loved to trade books.”

Thus, the little community book exchange these friends have created, right next to the bench.

This resonates for me, in many ways. First, I admire and support take-one/leave-one street libraries. Second, I am a huge fan of author Colin Cotterill‘s novels about the 1970s adventures of another Siri — Dr. Siri Paiboun, “the national and only coroner of the People’s Democratic Republic of Laos” — and indeed I am reading one of them right now (The Merry Misogynist). And, third, when I dive into this little library, I discover an unread novel (This Poison Will Remain) by another of my favourite authors, Fred Vargas. I snap it up.

A few more blocks and we’ve walked as far north as we can go, right into Point Grey Park. Trafalgar finally meets the water — in this case, English Bay.

‘Way out there, some freighters waiting their turn to carry on down Burrard Inlet and unload at the port (yay! supply chain at work!); in close, dozens of Barrow’s goldeneye ducks, obeying no schedule but their own.

Like the ducks, we’re on our own schedule. We turn east, curve with the land mass onto Kitsilano Beach, backed by Kits Park. My favourite swimmer is up there, flutter-kicking like mad.

I do mean up there:

Meet Wind Swimmer, and could she be better named? I see basic credits on the plaque — by sculptor Douglas R. Taylor, installed 1996 — but that’s not the half of it. Ohhh, the adventures she has known.

The prototype created in 1993 and installed in Stanley Park, but smashed by a log; the current version created in a collaboration between the sculptor, the Parks Board and donors (the Auerbachs) and installed on Kits Beach in 1996. Then came the wind storms of August 2015. The swimmer literally took a dive, and was again badly damaged and removed.

Three years go by… Repair work (largely by the Parks Board), and safety upgrades. In 2018, she is re-installed, finally back home and swimming again.

I like her even better, for knowing all this.

Both/And (Again)

8 March 2022 – I’m walking along West 8th, not a single philosophic thought in mind — in fact my mind pretty well free of any thought, truth be told, perfectly willing to let my feet have all the fun.

And then the street takes me in hand. “Pay attention!” it scolds. “The old both/and of life, right here in front of you, yet again.”

Both the loving beauty of this ornament, tied to a shrub next to the sidewalk …

and the weary decrepitude of the building behind it.

Both a tinder-dry Christmas tree still littering someone’s side yard …

and first daffodils, bursting through the soil right beside it.

And then, one more block down the street, a whole both/and tableau entwined on a single tree branch:

both winter’s lichen & moss, and spring’s urgent new buds.

(Plus, bonus, the constant pleasure of that colour-wrapped building behind, a veteran of the very first Vancouver Mural Festival, in 2016.)

To Beat the Deadline

27 February 2022 – It turns out to be a false deadline — but who knew, at the time?

The morning weather mavens are all serious faces and urgent voices: Merely cloudy now, they tell us, but by 1 p.m., it’s atmospheric river time! Snow, rain, high winds, ugly-ugly — and set to last for 3-4 days.

Suitably motivated, I zip out the door. If I want to say hello to False Creek, right now is the time.

No lingering to admire Animalitoland’s winsome lady (VMF 2020) as I zigzag north-west.

On to the Creek! Where I find everybody full speed with their morning agendas.

Paddlers getting organized, down on their dock just east of Olympic Village Square …

jogger jogging over the inlet, far side of the Square …

ferry boat bustling eastward to the Village Dock …

and an improbable bird house out on Habitat Island, just off Hinge Park, glowing gold against the surrounding grey.

No real live bird would give that creation a moment’s thought, but it’s not there for the birds, is it? Some human being built and hung it there to amuse and charm the rest of us. And since it harms no-one, I am charmed.

As I am by my next discovery, looped into the chain link fence just west of Habitat Island.

“Draw someone you love,” says that glossy red sign — and look at the display.

Most of the drawings are of humans …

but not all.

On I go and on I go, and out there past Spyglass Place, closing in on Leg-in-Boot Square, I see another drawing of love. This one.

I know. It’s just another, yet another, yet another generic old boring old smiley face. Please.

Except… it’s wearing a mask. So this is a drawing of love in action: love for each other, for our community as a whole.

I’m still cheered by that thought as I turn back east — and further cheered by the fact that the dread 1 p.m. deadline draws close, but there is no sign yet of snow/rain/wind/general mayhem.

Anyway, what’s wrong with rain?

I will not argue with Thrive Art Studio and their alley wisdom (VMF 2018).

Alley Art 1-2-3

25 February 2022 – There’s art, and there’s art. And there’s art.

1 – Window art

Jennifer Chernecki

… with a baleful stare.

2 – Wall art

Makoto, VMF 2016

… with a pointed beak.

3 – Objet d’art

Time, just… time

… with accessories.

First, standing there, I saw the rust. Now I see the tire. The perfectly placed tire!

  • 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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