Good-bye / Hello

31 December 2022 – And on we go.

May your 2023 be a year of health, exploration, discovery and joy.

High Tide + Wind + Rain

27 December 2022 – Back from Abbotsford (yes! I made it to the Valley for a magical few days with layers & layers of family), I wake to the consequences of nature’s switcheroo from snow to rain.

“Moderate to elevated” risk of flooding in low-lying areas near the ocean, warns the City of Vancouver, due to exceptionally high tides plus strong winds plus rain. Sections of seawall along Burrard Inlet have been closed as a precaution, and False Creek is named as an area of possible flooding.

I pull on my Seriously Waterproof Coat, and go take a look.

In behind the BC Dragon Boat dock, the channel is full to the brim…

and every woofer in sight sports a raincoat.

I cross that same little pedestrian bridge over a water channel west of Olympic Village, and close in on the stretch where gravel and stepping-stone blocks link Hinge Park to the offshore Habitat Island.

No gravel, no stones. Lots of water.


Normally (and thank you TripAdvisor for this handy comparison photo), the pathway looks like this…

but not today.

I gawp at the sight, stepping stones gleaming ghost-pale from the depths. I also wonder whether nature threw that log across the submerged pathway, or workers placed it there earlier, to prevent people from making what could become a dangerous crossing.

Doubling back toward Olympic Village, I peer at more submerged stones…

and rain drops imitating the rain-drop sewer grate…

and then, heading south, I enjoy the comic relief of a Peep-Show Moment On Ontario Street. I am outside an industrial laundry facility, looking in.

It’s a huge, rambling, and pretty old facility — dickensian-derelict on the outside, but still heaving great bright-white hammocks of laundry loads around on the inside. I can hear motors grinding away, and the window panes shimmy to the beat.

And then!

And then I stop off at Pâtisserie Melo for hot chocolate…

and finally walk back home.

“Sun slant low”

21 December 2022 – I’ve shown you this photograph before; don’t care, here it is again, because — back in Toronto’s Trinity Bellwoods Park in November 2016 — it was some sidewalk artist’s tribute to the winter season, the season of the low-slanting sun.

And here we are, 21 December: shortest day, lowest slant of all; the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere.

Yet in Vancouver, this particular solstice, the story is not the slant of the sun.

It is the snow, and the cold: 32 cm right in the city itself, and a high today of -10C. This, of course, is nuthin’ in true snow country. Just ask two of my favourite bloggers: Sarah McGurk, the British veterinary surgeon living in Arctic Norway, or Lynette d’Arty-Cross, who backs & forths between British Columbia and Canada’s own high Arctic. They can tell you about snow and cold.

But here in the Temperate Rainforest, this kind of weather is unusual. Enough to make today’s solstice less vivid than the days leading up to it. Enough to give even fortunate residents of this city a war story or two, to exchange with friends.

Here’s mine!

Two days ago, as temperatures and snow both fell across the region, my until-now splendid building handed us a hat trick of problems: no heat, no elevators, and no electricity. I stuffed my jammies in a backpack, took transit & SeaBus across Burrard Inlet to North Vancouver, and fell into the welcoming arms of dear and generous friends.

Their property, halfway up a mountain, backs onto a provincial park. Just to look out the patio doors is magical.

Magical for the trees, magical also for the birds that flock to their feeders — thrushes, towhees, chickadees, jays, even non-migratory hummingbirds. I spent a restorative evening, night and morning with them, and then, alerted by email that my building was once again behaving itself, I made my way back home.

SeaBus back south across Burrard Inlet…

SkyTrain from Waterfront Station, its “snow alert” good warning for what proved to be a long wait for a train…

followed by the speedy arrtival of a holiday-happy #19 bus.

.Snow heaped all over my balcony, of course. Offering, if not the grandeur of snow-draped fir trees, than at least the oddly magesterial grandeur of a snow-draped garden chair.

And now, today, the shortest day — but a dazzling day.

And so the seasons turn.

Invitations

16 December 2022 – It’s barely a kilometer from the east end of False Creek back to Olympic Plaza, but it is chock-full of invitations along the way. We are encouraged to…

Help design a park:

Get involved with East Park, now in its consultation/planning stages.

Watch the changing tides:

Say yes to any or all of multiple invitations in Olympic Plaza:

  • Salute the site itself, a from-scratch construction project, “North America’s first LEED Platinum community,” completed in time to house athletes for the 2010 Winter Olympics and subsequently converted to more than 1,000 condo units; or…
  • Enjoy (but not climb!) Myfanwy Macleod’s The Birds art installations; or…
  • Admire the sleek industrial-functional lines of the 1931 Vancouver Salt Co., built to process unrefined salt shipped in from floodplains near San Francisco; or…
  • Indulge a thirst for beer not history, and visit the building in its present incarnation as CRAFT False Creek (“where everything is on tap”).

Go for the gold:

This gentleman, in largely legible and fairly grammatical prose, states that the CIA has buried two tons of gold in a secret location beneath the City of Vancouver — and he knows where it is. (Which, he adds, is why the cops shot at him the other day and CSIS is pursuing him.)

Or...

in a final invitation discovered up on West 2nd Avenue…

submit!

Ahhhh, well… or maybe just get cobbled instead.

“Mount Pleasant Station”

12 December 2022 – Not yet Mount Pleasant Station, that’s still years from reality. Not the purpose of my walk either. But this block-long construction site neatly bookends my walk — a rectangular path that takes me purpose-driven south on Main to East 18th, then whim-happy west to Quebec and north again to Broadway.

The planned station so tidy on the map! It’s our local segment of the Broadway Subway Project — the 5.7 km extension of the Millennium Line west beneath Broadway to Arbutus Street.

And so appealing, so welcoming and soothing, in this early-stage conceptual illustration!

But in the reality of right-now, here at Broadway and Main, it looks like this.

Pedestrians scurry past. Only the mannequins in the vintage shop window opposite pay any attention…

and they are unimpressed.

I visit a few shops. I achieve my holiday-season purposes. Yay! So I am ready for amusement by the time I hit East 18th.

I think I am familiar with both visual treats at this corner, but I learn something new about each. (I only learn the somethings-new later, and that’s directly thanks to you, as it always is, because I look things up to share with you.)

This Vancouver Mural Festival project on the S/W corner, I later verify…

dates from 2020, the work of indigenous artist Steve Smith ~ Dla’kwagila.

And these great bendy arches in Sun Hop Park on the N/W corner, I later learn to my delight…

reference the drinking straws in the Palm Dairy & Milk Bar that stood here 1952-89. Nearby seats, I now realize, are bottle-top shaped, and everything is painted Palm Dairy’s signature bright red. (See what you cause me to learn? Bless your boots.)

Around the corner onto East 18th, and another treat: a surviving Vancouver Special. Arguably not a visual treat, but I think an icon worthy of respect — vernacular architecture from 1965-85 that helped address the housing crisis of the day and has continued to serve city residents with the flexibility that was always a core intention of the boxy design.

Another visual icon, at least of this Fairview/Mount Pleasant neighbourhood — street-side swings. So simple, so friendly, so… neighbourly. I am charmed, every time.

Right-turn north onto Quebec Street, and a great smack-up of colours: designer-red on that house opposite, nature’s own moss green up and down this magnificent tree and, beneath it, the careless gold of autumn leaves.

One block farther south, more of nature’s colour palette: black.

What you see when someone rakes up all those sodden leaves to reveal naked soil below.

Down at East 12th, yet more seasonality: St. Patrick’s Secondary School is in the Christmas tree business.

Then more trees, but street-side, and firmly rooted. I stand mesmerized by the play of colours and texture. (And that one stubborn leaf!)

Thump.

I am back at Broadway. West end of the Mount Pleasant Station site, and just as busy a jumble as the east end.

More fun, though.

All those leaping salmon in the mural (apparently climbing the wall, as real salmon climb a waterfall), and that silver bear, one paw raised in benediction. You’d think he’d be busy nabbing salmon for lunch, not blessing the street…

but perhaps his sun glasses obscure his view.

Sun. Flower

4 December 2022 – Well… there is sun. Today, yes there is.

But, flower?

I balance on the ice-slick Scotia St. sidewalk, and anthropomorphize like mad.

Two stalks. Remnants of the rampant bright leaves and companion seed head of a big old summer sunflower — not in anybody’s garden, but right here at sidewalk’s edge.

Oh good grief, look at it now.

“I am a sunflower,” I hear it growl. “It is now winter.”

“Barely any sun. What do you expect?”

I salute its defiant, bedraggled survivor-splendour, and walk on.

“To explore…”

1 December 2022 – “To explore,” says Stephanie Rosenbloom in her book Alone Time, “we need only put one foot in front of the other.” And the best part of that is… you and your feet, you can do whatever you want! You can stop your feet, reverse them, loop around, hesitate, scratch your head, get lost in thought. Your feet don’t care, and you don’t need to find a parking space.

All of which links with an observation in my very own About comments for this blog, and with my theme for this post.

In About, I explain that until August 2012 this blog concerned training for and completing an Arthritis Society charity trek in Iceland, and then, as of August 2012, I walk on. “With my feet, and in my mind as well.”

In two recent walks, I was struck by how my feet explored very limited physical spaces, while my mind spun through decades of time and a whole world of continents.

The Alley, Manitoba south of West 5th

I’m walking east in the alley, almost at Manitoba. My eye snags on this turquoise/yellow reflection, a bright flag in an otherwise entirely boring window in an equally boring building.

And here’s the source, the mural on the side wall of that building on the left. I like everything about it, from the mural itself to the hydro poles and their play of shadows, and the far view of one of my favourite VMF (Vancouver Mural Festival) murals right across the street.

Close-up to admire the new mural…

and then I peek around the corner, to discover it’s on our friend, the snazzy new 2131 Manitoba building (cf. Taking the 5th) with snazzy new tenants like AbCellular Biologics.

No attribution for their mural, which I find disappointing, but there is attribution for the 2019 VMF mural across the street.

It’s the work of Beijing-born, Vancouver-based artist William Liao. I think his website’s use of the phrase “fine arts” is entirely justified — both for what you can see online, and for this haunting face.

Tender, traditional, very fine-arts, yet entirely at home in its alley context.

I backtrack to the west side of Manitoba and south to the corner of West 6th, for one last look at the “2131” mural through the security fencing for yet another of the new builds transforming this neighbourhood.

This hole in the ground will become the new home of Ekistics, I learn.

And that, my friends, stays my feet and launches my mind.

Ekistics is a multi-disciplinary design and consulting studio, specializing in “sustainable planning, architecture, landscape architecture and land development” — and who can argue with that? I’m all in favour.

I just think this Vancouver firm, founded in 1992, might at least give a passing nod to the pioneering work of Greek architect and urban planner C.A. Doxiades, who first coined the word “ekistics” and laid out the elements of its science and study in an October 1970 article in Science magazine. Doxiades, who was active in the Greek underground during World War II and helped lead the country’s reconstruction post-war, went on to found a firm of engineers, architects and urban planners that in time had offices on five continents and projects in more than 40 countries.

I was interested in these things, in the 1970s, and followed his work for a while. This Vancouver team owes him some respect…

The Plaza, Cambie south of West Broadway

Another day, and different weather: a snow-heavy sky about to dump all over us.

I’m just south of the Skytrain station on Broadway, about to cut south-east toward home, and find my feet slowing down. Perhaps in sympathy with all these feet.

Walking Figures, they are called, the cast-iron last survivors of a group created in Poland by Magdalena Abakanowicz and erected here as part of one of our Vancouver Biennale exhibitions.

I circle them, look at the hollowed back views marching toward the transit station as cranky gulls wheel through the grubby sky.

And I walk my own feet the other way, up the “Welcome to City Hall” (top riser) steps just beyond.

Walk-walk, admiring as I always do the architecture of this building: a Depression-era project, opened in 1936, and visually somewhere in that transition from the vertical, highly ornamented lines of Art Deco to the simpler and more horizontal lines of Moderne. Admiring also, that in our recent civic election that saw a major shift of voter sympathies, all the defeated candidates conceded quickly and gracefully. (I am only appalled that I have to be grateful for behaviour I used to take for granted.)

My feet stop at this rock, one of the City’s millennium-project incised rocks still to be found in landmark locations. Annoyingly, I can’t decipher the name or later find it online, but as I stand there, feet stilled, the words set my mind walking.

My mind and my mental ear as well. Spread the image, try to catch more words, but here’s the gist of it. It’s all about everyday sounds we no longer hear, and they are picked out in the equivalent of bold face: clickety-clack (push lawnmower), cock-a-doodle-do (rooster), clip-clop (delivery wagon horses), ah-on-gah (early car horns), whack! (the smack of a wooden frame screen door). I particularly like that whack!, it shoots my mind back to Dorval Island and our cottage there of the 1940s & 50s. That is exactly the sound.

It is still in my ear as my feet move on, just a little, carrying me across the winter-desolate plaza whose empty picnic tables bear witness to the weather. (Where are the mountains? They should be out there… All hidden.)

My busy feet scamper off the far side of the plaza and then stop me before this plaque, set my eyes reading and my mind again hard at work. This plaza bears a name. It’s a name for us all to honour.

I had never heard of Helena Gutteridge! Food for continued thought, as my feet pick up the pace, urge me back home in time to beat the snow.

Which, that evening…

comes thumping down.

3 Things About P-D Rain

22 November 2022 – There are surely many more things to know about seriously pissing-down rain, but here is your starter’s kit of three.

1 – In Nature

The Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus) still deserves its nickname.

2 – In Shops

The doorway umbrella stand is chock-full.

3 – In Pedestrians

Here you have to take my word for it. As we cross paths on the sidewalk — splish-splosh in our wellie-boots, zipped up in our Seriously Waterproof Coats — we wrinkle our noses at each other in amusement.

“Isn’t this the silliest weather ever?” our noses ask each other, and we beam agreement as we walk on by.

Surprise!

8 November 2022 — So there we all were, we downtown Vancouverites, tucked up in our little beds and minding our own business… and this morning we wake up to snow.

Surprise!

We should not have been surprised. We were warned. Yesterday, we woke up to proof that winter had arrived — the freezing level was again drawing its sharp horizontal line right across the Coast Range Mountains. Bright above; dark below.

“Freezing level,” as in, the altitude at which the temperature is currently 0 C, causing precipitation to land as rain below the line, and as snow above.

But surprised we are anyway, because we always are.

This bicycle, for example, did not take cover in time.

And most of the city’s deciduous trees & shrubs are equally surprised, since they haven’t yet had time to shed their leaves.

It makes for magical combinations, as a friend & I discover in a mid-day visit to the VanDusen Botanical Garden. There wasn’t that much snow to start with, and by now some has melted, but despite blazing sunshine the air is still crisp, and snow still lingers.

Peer over the walkway edge into a gully and, look, dark pebbles gleam snow-free but the ground plants are entirely white and even the conifers play white-against-green.

West side of the Cypress Pond pedestrian bridge — star of my deosil walk — where a distant Red Maple blazes bright, but is outshone by the moss in the nearby Cypress. This is such a neon-green smack in the eye that I almost miss the traces of snow, still smudging some of the branches.

Neon green moss? I don’t know how neon neon can be, until we walk farther west, toward Heron Lake. A bush shines red, over there beyond the snowy grass by the lake, but I am transfixed by the neon green outline of the mossy tree branches right in front of me by the path.

(Sorry, I can’t account for that turquoise flash in the tree trunk.)

Finally, just as we’re about to head indoors to warm up, proof that gold can be just as punchy as red or moss green — especially when all wrapped up in white, for contrast.

We stroke the Larch’s silky needles, and go find ourselves some hot chocolate inside.

Deosil, Around the Pond

30 October 2022 – I have neither pond nor this extraordinary word “deosil” in mind as I pick my way through the Woodland Garden, one of the areas within Vancouver’s VanDusen Botanical Garden.

Instead, I am looking for a very specific image — the visual echo of one of my recent stacked-stone photos in Stanley Park.

This is the photo I have in mind.

There they are, a stone couple stop their rock, looking out across English Bay to the far freighters.

And here I now am in the VanDusen woods, where — yes!– I find what I am seeking….

a red cedar couple atop their knoll, looking out across Livingstone Lake to the Visitor Centre.

Different scale, different material, and a known sculptor, but there’s my visual echo, and I am happy.

I circle the installation before moving on.

It’s one of my favourites: Confidence, 2012, by Michael Dennis. (Among his other works, one I show you frequently: the eponymous Dude, aka Reclining Figure, in Dude Chilling Park.)

I decide to go walk around the Cypress Pond, partly because it’s near-by and mostly because I just plain like it a lot. Quickest way there is back through the Woodland Garden, where nature’s dramatic fall colour contrasts punch me in the eye…

before I emerge onto the path just south of the pond.

If we think of the pond as hat-shaped, its crown to the north…

I’m now at the lower right, eastern edge of the brim.

Purely on whim, I decide to walk clockwise, water to my right, rather than my usual counter-clockwise.

“Widdershins!” I think happily to myself. Such a ridiculously wonderful word and now I can actually use it. “I am walking widdershins….” Oh, um, oops. Which way ’round is that? So, later, I look it up and, thanks to the Waning Moon website for southern-hemisphere “lovers of Earth’s mysteries,” I discover the etymology and definition, not just of widdershins, but of deosil as well.

Deosil! In all my decades of life, I had never heard that word. Now I not only know the word, I am able to tell you that, in choosing to walk with the pond to my right, I am walking deosil, not widdershins. The persistence of language! From their Scottish Gaelic/Middle Irish/Lowland Scottish/Germanic origins, through their centuries of misspellings and re-spellings — they are still with us today, two ancient words to distinguish right-turning from left-turning.

All that book larnin’ comes later. Meanwhile, back here at pond’s edge, I soon forget fancy language, and just start my loop.

There’s the pedestrian bridge to the north, as I set off from the pond’s south-east corner.

I follow that southern edge, and then make a right turn onto a trail cutting north through the woods on the pond’s west side. It offers me more dramatic fall contrast of colours, this time in a Lebanese Cedar.

Talk about colour-blocking! I walk close…

and then really close…

and finally back off, back to my trail.

Nobody is sitting on the little bench just south of the bridge, not in today’s chill, and no turtles are sunning themselves on the rocks either.

About to step onto the bridge, I pause to enjoy the reverse view, west to east, and the way drooping tree branches frame the view (Sweet Gum on the left, Bald Cypress on the right).

Droplets from the morning showers still glisten in the Cypress needles, and a Red Maple beckons from the far side.

Off the bridge now, into the Eastern North America woods to the east of the pond, with more bright blaze from some Red Maples.

Completing my deosil loop, I’m back where I began. I give the pond one last glance…

and head indoors.

I’ll approach the cafĂ© either deosil or widdershins, and who cares? Either way, there will be a latte at the end of the loop.


  • 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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