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.

 

Doin’ the Details

1 April 2019 – It’s a day for details all right, out here in the Strathcona neighbourhood of east Vancouver, first solo and then with Frances.

A black bird (crow?), for example, riding high above a doorway, with an artist’s brush in his beak.

Riding high above other doors as well, including the one on the white house on this cheerful line-up of homes along Keefer St. approaching Hawks.

But, cheeky/charming as crows are, there are many other ways to express yourself.

With a toboggan above the door, for example …

or a great wave of metal and glass in the doorway itself.

Or, instead, you can throw yourself into repurposing mode, and plonk a bathtub in the sidewalk verge, just waiting for spring plantings.

Why stop at a bathtub? There must be an old wringer-style washing machine lying around somewhere … or, if you’re lucky, two of them.

Behind the tubs, the red awning marks the home of The Wilder Snail Neighbourhood Grocery and Coffee, right at Keefer & Hawks.

Frances & I meet here for lunch before heading off to the day’s one planned event: a visit to the Catriona Jeffries Gallery, farther south and a bit farther east, on East Cordova.

We’re looking forward to visiting the Gallery, not least for the opportunity to see how Patkau Architects (the same Vancouver firm that designed the Polygon Gallery in North Vancouver) has repurposed the old Pilkington Metal Marine workshop.

The patio entrance to the Gallery has a severe, calm beauty, tucked behind a tall black wall that shields it from the sidewalk, and echoing other corrugated metal claddings all around.

After that, it’s back out to fun on the streets.

Lookit this trompe l’oeil mural, for example! Those apparently structural yellow beams and pink alcoves frame blue paint, not blue sky; that is all solid wall.

Later, we play Spot-the-Special — after my walk up Sophia Street, my eye is in for Vancouver Specials. We see a number of them, all somewhat modified over time and well maintained.

This one on Union shows how the street cuts across a slope — the houses on this side are below sidewalk level, but on the north side rise well above it.

And now … and now I offer you an exceptionally boring grey bird house, on a politely pin-striped tree.

Hmmmm, you say.

I’d’ve passed it without a second thought, but for the plaque beneath. (Ever since the years of marching around Toronto with Phyllis, my Tuesday Walking Society colleague, I’ve been a great reader of plaques.)

This isn’t any old pin-striped tree, it is a Snake Bark Maple.

And it isn’t any old Snake Bark Maple — it is in the Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery, though cared for by the City’s Parks and Recreation Department.

Why?

Because it is part of the Palas Por Pistolas project of Mexican artist Pedro Reyes. In 2007 he began trading food vouchers for firearms, which are then melted down and turned into shovels, which are then used to plant trees. Ours, planted in 2008, was the first installation outside Mexico.

Speaking of installations-on-the-street … One last example, back at Main Street, under the Georgia Viaduct.

“Blank walls invite graf. Let us put nice art instead,” says the tidy block lettering — and, after thanking the city for this “fresh new canvas,” that’s exactly what the artist does.

A very satisfying last detail, to crown a very satisfying day.

DTES

14 January 2019 – DTES. I had to see the initialism a few times before it quietly spoke its identity into my mind.

Downtown East Side.

Vancouver’s downtown east side, where it is all on display — all the contrasts that remind us what a messy business it is, being human. All those juxtapositions that chill us, warm us, frighten us, shock us, delight us, inspire us, touch our hearts. All the dimensions.

A church, with the Madonna and Child, the Stations of the Cross … and a Fentanyl poster. We are asked to remember the City’s street nurses in our prayers, along with all the other first responders.

Later, this mild late morning, I walk south on Gore Street, an historic part of town now largely identified as part of Chinatown, but resonating with layers of Japanese, Afro-Canadian and indigenous history as well.

Every now and then, the wail of an paramedic ambulance screaming by.

Life on the sidewalks, shop after shop, service after service. A barber shop, for example …

with sidewalk displays stretching south beyond it. And each sidewalk display opening into an enclosed shop as well.

The lure of shop names …

and of product samples. Ginseng! All the way from Wisconsin.

Martial arts studios …

and alley art …

sometimes with a disposal bin or two, for punctuation.

Then more art-in-the-alley — but not like the others.

This is Designer Alley Art. The demographics must be changing.

And indeed they are, indeed they do, as I turn the corner westward onto Union St.

People and pooches relaxing in the warmth, drinking their specialty coffees outdoors as they tilt their faces to the sun.

Right across the street, though, a reminder of Vancouver’s housing crisis. One of the City’s temporary modular housing projects is nearing completion.

Budget approval for 600 units in 2017; a budget request for another 600 in late 2018. Each unit to provide its occupants with health & social services, two meals a day, life skills training, and ways to connect with community organizations.

Back here on the north side of the street, a tidy little plaque that fits its gentrified surroundings, announcing as it does that Semi-Public will soon mount another commissioned public art installation in this fenced-off space.

But the website, like the housing units opposite, reminds us of other realities, weaving up through history into this present moment, tying each with the other.

Semi-Public’s programming is informed by the contested spatial politics of its location on traditional ancestral and Unceded Territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations, in the neighbourhood of Chinatown, adjacent to what was the largest civic concentration of African-Canadians families and businesses before their displacement for a major automobile corridor in the 1970s, and within one of the most speculative and expensive real estate markets in the world.

I look down the line-up of shops and services, here on the fortunate side of the street. (I am not mocking or reviling this world or its inhabitants; I am well aware I am one of them.)

Just beyond the bike shop, the white sign wiped blank by sunshine invites us to come in for this café’s speciality: crème brûlée.

I almost veer in, but don’t. I’m caught instead by the noodle bowls on offer right next door, in Harvest Community Foods. They not only serve good, local food right on the spot, they sell prepared bags of “urban agricultural produce” each week.

I slurp up my bowl-of-the-day (mushroom/miso broth, ramen, tofu, mixed mushrooms & greens, wakame) and shamelessly eavesdrop on the conversation one table over. They first compare favourite ginger teas, but move quickly on to the relative merits of Rocky Road vs. Hazelnut-Espresso ice cream. I make a mental note to go hunt down the latter.

Full, happy tummy. On I go, on south out of Chinatown, back into Mount Pleasant, and — by chance wandering — past another example of community food production.

A triangular lot, nicked into the streetscape. The air is spicy with evergreen mulch — maybe they’ve just been chipping some Christmas trees? Signs propped here & there tell you what is being grown. Plot “Y” for example, lists cucumber, chard, purslane, zucchini & eggplant.

I take a picture of the intersection signs, a lazy way to document location — and later discover it’s another Vancouver Moment, all on its own.

How handy, that big command to STOP! Back in Toronto, I’d seen the signs highjacked to urge us to stop assorted politicians (Rob Ford and Stephen Harper being then high on the list). But this is Vancouver, and a different priority.

Another Message, Perhaps

My thanks to my friend Linda, who points out that the lime-green hair in my previous post might not be an anti-boredom message after all. It might be an extension of the movement to wear different colour ribbons as support for people with various forms of cancer — in this case, lymphoma.

 

 

 

 

 

How To Avoid Conflict With Links

8 December 2018 – Thank you for noticing. If only I had noticed!

Wrong link, in yesterday’s post.

No, indeed. A Vancouver beer crawl — even through the artisan-iest and boutique-iest of artisan, boutique breweries — will do nothing to reduce human interaction with coyotes.

Being given the correct link might be a start.

Please try again. This time, it really does talk about how to avoid coyotes, not how to  encounter beer.

(But at least you now know one more thing to do on a wet day in Vancouver.)

Sorry.

 

Marching Orders

4 July 2018 – I am not exactly marching down the underside of the Cambie Bridge on-ramp, but I am certainly striding right along. It leads to Spyglass Dock on False Creek, and once again, this is my starting point for the day’s exploration.

I ignore the large, City-sanctioned chalkboard, with its invitation to add what makes you happy to the already long list of contributions. (“You,” “weed,” it goes on like that.) But I do break stride for this entirely unsanctioned little message, right down at ankle level on one of the on-ramp pillars.

Entirely appropriate marching orders for the day, I decide.

Life-in-general deserves a smile, as the sign points out. So does life-in-Canada, something we’re all aware of on this final day of the Canada Day holiday weekend. And … and … who knows what this walk will offer?

The first offering arrives just moments later — the public piano, freshly repainted and as usual being played, right here on Spyglass Dock.

The boy is playing Beethoven’s Für Elise as I arrive, segues into Mozart’s Rondo alla Turca and, after some mad riffing on Turkish March themes (all very riffable), slides into the Beatles’ Let It Be.

And I do let it be. I sink into one of the dockside Muskoka chairs, and watch life roll/skate/walk/sail/paddle/fly by.

A couple sinks into adjoining chairs. “Free music and free chairs!” marvels the woman.

Finally, I bestir myself, & head for the spiral staircase between seawall & bridge. I do not exactly smile at the staircase, it will demand exertion …

but I appreciate how very neatly it delivers me to where I want to be, namely on the bridge  — and, in due course, to where I next want to be, namely heading west along the north side of False Creek.

Quite different, this side: imposing condos, practically to water’s edge; imposing boats crowding the public marinas, smack at water’s edge. But in between, at least a ribbon of bike/pedestrian pathway, expanding at intervals into parks.

I’ve passed these kiosks before, not paid close attention, simply registered them as backdrop to the False Creek of here & now, paying elegantly artistic tribute to all that has vanished.

Today I step close, read words engraved on the kiosk itself and frost-lettered into the glass railing. I’m not from here, these words cannot evoke for me what they can mean to others, but even so … Even so, I am moved.

Each lettered kiosk panel has its visual partner, silhouettes and cut-outs of all that has lived here, some of which still does. Wading birds, for example …

And there is signage. Lots of signage.

We are instructed to Thank Todd …

who, having provided the poop bags, points out we now have no excuse not to do the right thing.

Another sign, this one official, repeats at intervals along the pathway centre line that divides cyclist lanes from pedestrian.

This version alternates with one warning cyclists about pedestrians. Like Todd, preventable.ca now expects us to do the right thing. I suppose, in a way, it amounts to the same “right thing,” doesn’t it? We are to use our brains, think ahead, & avoid preventable messes.

So despite the wagging finger overtones, I do smile.

And smile more as I approach Waiting For Low TideDon Vaughan‘s wonderful circle of boulders that enclose a tidal pool.

It is the companion installation to his equally remarkable Marking High Tide, just a little farther west. Vaughan is a retired landscape architect and — is this not wonderful? — a fellow WordPress blogger. So follow that link.

A woman sits on the seawall near the boulders, her small dog next to her, his Canada Day kerchief of red maple leaves neatly tied around his neck. Canada Geese bob nearby. O Canada!

I circle back to the ferry dock in David Lam Park, stopping for a looney’s-worth of lemonade as I go …

and watch others also reward this boy’s entrepreneurial spirit. (His vendor’s permit, you ask? Don’t be silly.)

Onto a ferry, and on to Granville Island …

with its line of houseboats, their flags aloft for the holiday, and, beyond that, the sky-punching silos of the concrete company.

I eat a slice of spinach-rice pie, exhale with relief as I slide away from the crowds, then duck through a parking garage and enjoy its line-up of murals.

Colour everywhere, art galleries and other artisan shops — here a whole wall of scarves / hats / jackets that spill out from Funk Shui Felt. (Yes. Funk-with-a-k.)

I’m about to leave — but first I detour waterside again to pay tribute to the colours that drench Ocean Concrete. Colour, defining a concrete company worksite? There it is, before your eyes.

The 21-metre-high figures transforming the six silos are one installation in a global series called Giants, by the Brazilian twins known as OSGEMEOS, and a legacy of the 2014 edition of the Vancouver Biennale. No credit given for the cheerful cement mixer drums on some of the trucks — see that strawberry, there on the lower left? —  but I think they are perfectly swell, whoever painted them.

And that’s it. Smile!

 

Love in a Temperate Rainforest

5 June 2018 – I am climbing a steep path up through the woods in Queen Elizabeth Park, and then I stop climbing. I play the game of “No! no! I just paused to admire the view!”, but really, I am catching my breath.

And then I do admire the view. Well, you have to, don’t you, when you see umbrellas popping up above the trees?

I resume the climb, motivated now to find those umbrellas.

Which, I discover, are being held by four figures — frozen in the moment, but somehow conveying an elegant, interactive pirouette.

I come closer, and discover that each figure is two figures.

Two heads, four arms, swirled into one body.

And it all makes perfect sense, once I read the plaque.

This is Love in the Rain, a 2016 work by Bruce Voyce, and the Vancouver Park Board’s first love lock sculpture. Like other cities around the world, Vancouver is attempting to protect its bridges and railings by creating a purpose-build place for people to proclaim their love by locking a padlock in place and throwing away the key.

Vancouver being Rain City, it has chosen an art installation that “speaks of love in the temperate rainforest.”

I step in even closer, to admire the locks. Some are work-a-day, but many have clearly been chosen to honour the commitment being made, whether through the beauty of the lock, or the message it carries.

There’s the elephant lock ..

and the battered, but very handsome metal heart lock …

and the art-heart that transforms an otherwise pedestrian lock …

and the pretty red lock with its beautifully engraved names.

There are messages. Sometimes attached to the padlock …

and sometimes right on the lock itself.

But whatever the lock, whatever its message, each has been attached to the sculptures for the same reason, strong in the same belief:

Which is why the installation includes this beautiful receptacle for the keys.

I watch others explore the keys and messages, I take a photo for a young Québécois couple to commemorate their visit, and then I walk on up into the gardens.

I enjoy the stunning gardens, and I revisit, as I always do, Henry Moore’s Knife Edge sculpture that fits so handsomely, so perfectly, with the fountains to the south side of the Bloedel Conservatory.

But the best part of my visit is Love in the Rain.

 

Legs & A Twofer

27 January 2018 – It’s the grin that stops me. As if this Borealis knows it is one hot-damn velomobile.

It’s posed outside this bike shop because it is for sale, but I am impervious. I have leg power.

And those legs are about to carry me through a big rectangular loop that will deliver — or so the plan goes — a botanical twofer.

First up — and I do mean up, as I climb my way south on Cambie Street — is the delightful Bloedel Conservatory. It sits atop Queen Elizabeth Park, which is also the highest point in the City of Vancouver. But despite today’s brilliantly clear sky, I’m not ogling the mountains, I’m looking across the gardens to the Conservatory’s iconic dome.

Inside that dome, says the literature, more than 120 free-flying exotic birds, in a universe of some 500 exotic plants and flowers.

No mention of the koi, but they’re there too, darting about in the ecosystem’s clear-running streams.

Outside — and why have I never noticed this before? — a Henry Moore sculpture. It’s called Knife Edge, but for me, its lines are more flowing than edged, and beautifully reflect the lines of the dome and the mountain range that serve as its backdrop.

Giddy with sunshine, I walk west, heading for number two on my list, the VanDusen Botanical Garden.

Two bonus attractions along the way.

I indulge my fascination with the textures & tones of  tree bark, rich with moss and lichen.

 

A passing couple pause, try to figure out what I’m staring at, exchange a couple of tentative comments about the way some branches have been pruned … maybe? … and move on.

I move on too, and don’t stop again for a couple of blocks.

Then I discover Vancouver’s Nectar Trail. Well, first I discover the Insect Hotel — which, if you look closely, you will recognize as a repurposed telephone booth.

The idea is to provide additional habitat for pollinators, with naturalized, pollinator-friendly plantings and “hotels” for their long winter sleep. First stage of the trail: the stretch between the sister institutions, VanDusen and Bloedel.  First stop on the trail: right here in Oak Meadows Park.

No flowers visible, in mid-winter, but this cheerful wooden curtain, the work of local grade-8 students, brightens the day year-round.

(Honesty demands I add that the project links are years old, and some are non-operative. It is possible that the project never got beyond this first installation. I hope I’m wrong.)

On to the VanDusen. I love this place, any season, and it feels alive and growing, any season. Fountains jet their water high in the air; the spray turns into a pointillist painting as it falls back to the lake.

And mossy trees gleam emerald-edged in the afternoon sunshine.

Eventually I head for home. As happy as that grinning velomobile.

 

 

  • 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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