sʔi:ɬqəy̓ qeqən

31 July 2021 – I’m on the UBC campus for one tribute, and end up walking another one while there.

First tribute: the Chaconne concert at the Chan Centre, the second performance in this year’s EMV Bach Festival and dedicated to Jeanne Lamon — the renowned violinist, concert master, early music pioneer and mentor, shockingly dead barely one month ago. During my Toronto years I benefited from her role with Tafelmusik, and here in Vancouver benefitted again, when she retired to Vancouver Island and immersed herself in the musical community out here.

So I sink into this concert for more than its music alone, and then walk across campus in a contemplative mood.

My path takes me to the intersection of University Blvd with East Mall, at the foot of a cascading water feature. It is also home to this 34-foot Musqueam house post of the double-headed serpent.

I’ve seen it before, had forgotten where it was, am delighted to discover it again. It is the work of Brent Sparrow Jr. (son of another fine Coast Salish artist, Susan Point), his gift to UBC, and a tribute to his people and their culture.

Yes! The double-headed serpent, sʔi:ɬqəy̓, whose home was, is, the Camosun Bog.

After living here a few years, I have the beginnings of some personal cross-connections. I’ve visited the Bog a number of times, and I’ve taken you there with me more than once. In July 2020, my post included this larky on-site map …

and on Christmas Day I looked out over bog and pond sparkling with misty rain.

No rain today, alas (more than 40 dry days, and counting), and a lot more heat. But it’s walkable heat, and I decide to visit the serpent.

I walk up one side of the incline, passing these women striding down …

pivot at the viewing hut at the top …

enter the hut for the long view back downhill with the water course …

and then walk my way on down to the bottom.

Once home, feet up, I revisit another favourite tribute to the serpent. It’s an animation I first viewed at Museum of Vancouver, but can now enjoy any old time on vimeo.

And so can you.

Unhappy Canada Day

1 July 2021 – This is surely the unhappiest Canada Day in our history. Yet if we seize the opportunity, it may also be the most important, and make the greatest contribution to the future of everyone who lives here.

Although we begin to emerge from COVID, with most jurisdictions in their final re-opening stages, we are not celebrating.

Across the country, events have been muted, changed, postponed or cancelled. The country’s flag continues to fly at half-mast — everywhere, at every level and in every circumstance, from the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill to this local flagpole outside a False Creek condominium.

The national mood ranges from shock to rage to bewilderment to shame to — oh yes, this as well — scape-goating.  But with enough reflection and recognition in the mixture, we may yet be grateful for this sombre day.

The Immediate Shock: +1,100 bodies in unmarked graves

Within the last month, most recently yesterday, three different First Nations have announced that the use of ground-penetrating radar has detected the presence of children’s bodies in unmarked, unacknowledged graves at the sites of three now-closed Indian Residential Schools. The numbers now total more than 1,100.

I have to repeat this slowly to myself, to take it in. More than 1,100 indigenous children, removed by force from their families, dead while in the hands of the religious authorities charged with their care, and then simply … disposed of. Not even honoured with hallowed, marked graves, let alone returned to their families with a full accounting.

The Barest-Bones Background

Right from first contact, religious and political authorities assumed their right — their duty — to convert the indigenous peoples. The first residential facilities were established in Nouvelle France, but the term Residential School generally applies to the system established after 1880. Some 150,000 indigenous children were forcibly taken to 139 Indian Residential Schools across the country; most schools were closed by the mid-1970s, but the last did not close until 1990. It was thought that an estimated 6,000 children died while at school — a number we shall clearly need to revise.

“Residential schools,” says The Canadian Encyclopedia in an entry last edited June 2021, “were government-sponsored religious schools that were established to assimilate indigenous children into Euro-Canadian culture.” In developing the system, our Prime Minister John A. Macdonald commissioned journalist/politician Nicholas Flood Davin to study the American model. Davin recommended that Canada follow the U.S. example of “aggressive civilization” of the children.

And that’s what we did. The founder of the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania said, “Kill the Indian and save the man”; our Prime Minister said, “Take the Indian out of the child.”

Today we officially — as recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada — describe this as “cultural genocide.”

We don’t yet know whether any other definition of genocide also applies.

Reaction / Response

There are the easy reactions, all the way from smooth words to angry gestures (e.g. toppled statues). But none of that changes reality. What happened, happened. We cannot change past events. We can only change how we view those events, and what we now do about them.

Indigenous and other leaders have made statements, this Canada Day. For example:

  • Perry Bellegarde, Chief, Assembly of First Nations – “…I urge everyone to reflect on the darkness of the past and commit to doing better as a country. Every single Canadian and government has a role to play and we must all work together…  We cannot lose the momentum. We must continue to see action for transformational change…”
  • Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada – “… We as Canadians must be honest with ourselves about our history… The truth is, we’ve got a long way to go to make things right with Indigenous peoples, but if we all pledged ourselves to doing the work, we can achieve reconciliation…”
  • Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault – “Our history has been stained with painful atrocities and too many people continue to face racism, violence and hatred every day. Working towards building a Canada in which everyone has every opportunity to flourish requires active listening, acknowledgment and collective action…”
  • Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society – “…We do need to learn from the history, but we need to understand that the injustice is not over… And therein lies the opportunity for every Canadian to demand from the government, to demand from the churches, and to demand from ourselves the full implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action…”
  • Roseanne Casimir, Chief, Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation Kukpi7 – “…Our hearts go out to the communities who have recently confirmed unmarked grave sites and missing children on the grounds of other residential sites. We stand with you in this harsh truth which is part of the history we need all Canadians to acknowledge… The best way to honour our country, and the diversity of its citizens, and, in particular this year our future generations, is to understand our real collective history… And it is not just First Nations that face the ugly face of racism… Canada is about diversity. We should be standing together in solidarity, regardless of our background…”
  • Marco Mendicino, Minister, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship – “…It’s often said that Canada is an unfinished project that every generation of Canadians shapes anew…”

And Now?

The Government of Canada will fund up to $27 m. to support Indigenous partners and communities in a range of activities, including school-specific research into the children who died at residential schools and their burial sites.

The Roman Catholic Church in Canada (responsible for most but not all of the residential schools, and responsible for all three schools where unmarked grave sites have so far been identified) has pledged neither funds nor action. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops — while pointing out that each Roman Catholic diocese and community is corporately and legally responsible for its own actions — has expressed “deepest sorrow for the heart-rending loss of children.” Pope Francis has agreed to meet with a delegation of First Nations, Métis and Inuit, though not until mid-December.

Ultimately, I believe, it is up to every resident of this country to take responsibility for the future of this country: not to cancel anything, but to recognize everything, including the realities we each find most unpalatable — and then to act, and to demand action, to build on that recognition.

My final quotation is not fresh from today’s news. It is 106 years old, the words of Lt-Col John McCrae, the Canadian doctor who served as Medical Officer with the 1st Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery, in World War I. 

McCrae is better known as the author of In Flanders Fields, which he wrote during the sustained carnage of the 2nd Battle of Ypres (22 April – 25 May, 1915). The poem is all about the dead, honouring the dead. “If ye break faith with us who die,” he wrote, “we shall not sleep…”

Let us keep faith with our dead, and — through the actions we take and the changes we make — honour them, and the country, and the future of everyone in it. 

We all deserve to sleep acknowledged, respected, and safe.

My Sources and Some Other Links

History of Residential Schools

The Unmarked Graves

Canada Day Statements

The Roman Catholic Church

and finally..

Guideposts to the Future?

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission / National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation

To China & Back

5 June 2021 – In a manner of speaking. More precisely, to China Creek North Park & back — only a few kilometres from home, so a post-breakfast loop I can walk & still be back in time for a 10 a.m. Zoom with friends in the East.

Approach from East 7th Avenue, and it looks like Park-in-a-Bowl: steep slope with some 3 hectares of parkland below.

Not even all that interesting, right? A baseball diamond and a whole lotta grass. Yawn. Except that grass covers a lot of history, including the now-invisible China Creek.

In 1888 settler Charles Cleaver Maddams bought 5 acres of land on what was then still the south shore of False Creek, which was then still being fed by a lesser, but powerful creek that drained a whole watershed of tributaries through the ravine into the Flats and ultimately False Creek itself. Maddams called this waterway “China Creek,” because of a nearby Chinese hog farm. (There are other stories; this seems to be the one most widely accepted.)

In the 1920s, Maddams sold the land to the City, which didn’t develop it until the 1950s. Meanwhile, this final bit of False Creek was being filled in, China Creek was buried, and the ravine was being used as a garbage dump. Oh yes, it became one of those stories.

But then, it all got turned around. Today China Creek North Park sparkles in the immediate after-effects of its latest (2019) refurbishment. The slopes have been / are being naturalized, and the kiddy playground has bright colours and fun equipment atop the gentle surface of munched-up used tires.

So let’s look again. There are people in every direction, of all ages, doing all kinds of things, very happily. Five of those people appear in that first photo above, on this near edge of all that boring grass.

Guy on left chinning himself on the exercise equipment; another guy watching; guy on right coaching two young female boxers.

And if you turn your head to the right & look south, it’s even more interesting.

Down there bottom of the slope, turquoise stripes mark the playground; between up here and down there, the fast-naturalizing slope, shaggy with flowers & grasses & surely full of unseen little critters as well; and, visible here and there amidst all that exploding nature, a spiral pathway up/down the slope.

When they used to cut the grass, it was just a boring path; now that it plays peek-a-boo with nature, it is irresistible.

Of course I’m going to walk it, down & up again. I head that way at a clip, but stop long enough for a brief conversation with the gentleman on that bench at the right edge of the photo. It’s just one of those magic moments: we’re both delighted with the day, with the park, and want to share it with somebody. So we do. We also share some how-to-be-a-senior-citizen thoughts, largely about gratitude, qi gong and tai chi; then we nod pleasantly at each other and I’m off to walk the path.

Poppies, clover and cornflowers!

Grasses!

Beserk buttercups!

Perfect spheres of dandelion fluff!

And lupins! (“Your life or your lupins,” I growl, channeling Monty Python, and then soften into memories of wild lupins filling ditches and hedgerows in the Maritimes.)

As I spiral gently to the bottom of the slope, I see one of the female boxers doing it the hard way — full-tilt, straight line.

Meanwhile, her partner is sparring with their coach (while Onlooker Guy from my very first photo is here again, doing a few stretches).

As I head back up the path, I stop to watch a father tuck his son between his legs and set off from the top of the slide to the soft-landing playground below. Father & son laugh as they go, in baritone-soprano duet. I listen, and admire the red poppy here by my foot.

Then I check my watch, and see it is seriously time to make tracks for home!

Hoof-hoof-hoof.

(I make it in time.)

Soft Side

31 October 2020 – I know she’s a ghoul …

but she has her soft side.

She loves her teddy bear.

Even though he only has one arm. (And, perhaps, only one eye.)

Happy Hallowe’en.

Following Fall

2 October 2020 – Fall leads the way, and I follow.

Past a spray of gleaming leaves (magnolia is my guess) that guide me onto a path leading to the VanDusen Botanical Garden …

under the gleaming overhead ribs that guide me into the Visitor Centre …

and, tickets displayed to the masked attendant behind plexiglass, on through the Centre and out into the Garden with my friend.

We pause long enough to enjoy the mum dancing with her toddler by Livingstone Lake …

and then head into some woodland pathways, where we giggle at the white Doll’s Eyes (Baneberry, Actaea pachypoda) …

who are suitably shocked at the sight of all these Naked Ladies (Amaryllis belladona) stretched out in dishevelled languor.

“Red Maple” says the handy label on a tree next to Cypress Pond, and a tiny little red leaf obligingly displays itself on a mossy branch.

Decades of flaming fall colour in Ontario & Quebec leave me only mildly impressed by the foliage here — but I am wowed every time by the moss!

Also by the footbridge across Cypress Pond …

and, this time around, by the seasonal contrast of yellowing lily pads among the green.

A Bald Cypress at the far end of the bridge flaunts both its needles and its knees, the former due to fall off any day now but the latter there in delightful permanence.

I dance around for a bit over by Heron Lake, lining up a glimpse of fountain spray through the autumnal foliage …

but soon move on, to stand enchanted by the sight of yet more tree branches draped in moss.

We are both enchanted by what we see next: a profusion of this startling yellow flower (no identifying label, sorry), with numerous multi-hued, iridescent buds about to take their own turn centre-stage.

The Garden is also host to the annual Artists for Conservation Festival at the moment, so we pass some tents with relevant displays, like this one explaining a breeding program for the highly endangered Northern Spotted Owl. Squint hard enough & you’ll make out the owl on that female volunteer’s left wrist.

“Look like giant rose hips,” says my friend, eyeing this shrub as we head back along Livingstone Lake, and they do, don’t they?

Turns out to be Medlar (Mespilus germanica), not rose — a fall fruit that is ripe “when it turns to mush,” says the delightfully named Gardenista website. Also known, adds the website, as “cul-de-chien,” and if that doesn’t set you sniggering, it’s time to wish you spoke French.

Eastern Redbud leaves do their stained-glass-window impersonation when viewed against the sun …

and a helpful sign near the artists’ display tent teaches us yet another way to measure two metres of social distance.

Goodness, the things you learn. Two metres = 20 Ulysses butterflies = 1 Bald Eagle’s wingspan = 1 cougar, nose to tail tip. Also = six feet, but how boring is that?

One latte & much conversation later, I’m primed for a meandering walk home. It leads me through the neighbourhood where I saw all those swings a while back, but this time around, it yields a teddy bear.

Made of stone, but wearing his heart on his sleeve.

About Those Otters…

16 August 2020 — I am delighted to say: I was wrong.

And you are going to enjoy this correction as much as I enjoy posting it.

Last image of my Hallelujah! post, I showed you charming otters painted on a utility box — but expressed serious doubts that they hold hands in the water, as claimed in the accompanying text.

Well.

I have been very gently, but very promptly, set right by both a dear relation over in England and a dear friend right here, the one who was my companion on that walk. She included with her email a YouTube link, with proof.

While I’m making amends, let me give belated credit to the creators of that utility-box magic, both images and text.

For all that’s dark and threatening, these pandemic days, there is also this: otters hold hands as they rock gently in the waves.

 

 

 

High Knees (+ 18)

13 April 2020 – Turn off Netflix; leave Zoom; renounce YouTube. (Even, gasp, say good-bye to WordPress, but, there-there, only temporarily.)

Pull on your exercise clothes; lace up your shoes; meet me on Gore Street, half a block south of Union. Face north. Do a few preparatory stretches.

Ready?

JUMP.

RUN around the corner onto Union.

Now SHUFFLE until …

it’s time to HOP and then BALANCE.

WALK

up the ante with some ZIGZAG

and GALLOP!

SKIP for a bit …

Now SPIN WALK, taking your directional cue from the spirals, and next — but only once your head stops spinning — WIGGLE.

Gauge SOCIAL DISTANCE, measured in hearts …

take a running jump at HOP SCOTCH

DANCE your way to LEAP FROG

and then flash those HIGH KNEES of yours on every star.

Walk BACKWARDS (oops, trust me on this one) …

and soar into the SKI JUMP.

Finally! It’s finally time to SLITHER

sssskillfully ssslither …

your way to two-block, 19-station, sidewalk exercise …

ssssuccess.

Now cool down, pat yourself on the back, down a celebratory whatever-you-celebrate-with, and go buy some chalk.

There has to be a two-block stretch of sidewalk near you, eager to host your very own community exercise event.

 

Left, Right, & Over the Tracks

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

but it still seems a good idea to check.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mudflats, oh yes, all along the Inlet …

and boardwalks, at strategic locations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

“True Story” Boards the No. 58 Bus

14 October 2019 – Terry (Araneus1) accepted the tribute/challenge at the end of my previous post, and morphed True Story into his own deft, thoughtful world of fiction. You can board the No. 58 yourself, right here.

(Since I’m talking with you anyway, let me add: “Happy Canadian Thanksgiving, everybody!” I’m thankful for many things, and my interaction with all of you is on the list.)

 

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"

  • Recent Posts

  • Walk, Talk, Rock… B.C.-style

  • Post Categories

  • Archives

  • Blog Stats

    • 106,510 hits
  • Since 14 August 2014

    Flag Counter
  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,899 other followers

%d bloggers like this: