The Pick Up

18 June 2018 – Of course you follow responsible pet etiquette.

You don’t need signs …

to remind you to carry plastic baggies when you’re out walking with Fido.

But suppose Fido isn’t a dog?

Suppose Fido is your pet elephant?

Well then!

maybe you’d better bring a backhoe.

 

 

Grey Power

10 June 2018 – A month of near-constant sunshine has convinced me that the sun is a trickster. All that zap-powie brilliance, explosions of colour in all directions — and meanwhile it’s hiding, I have decided, more than it reveals.

Hiding it the way any illusionist hides a whole lot of what is really going on: by distraction. We are so zap-powie focused on the colour, we tend to miss everything else.

Whereas, with a grey sky — which we had the other day — with a grey sky, you notice everything else. Line, form, texture, luminosity. Also colour, oddly enough. Grey really sets off colour.

I am walking east on West 1st Avenue, heading for Hinge Park and False Creek, umbrella under my arm, leaden sky overhead.

But it isn’t really leaden — or, not uniformly so.

And it dramatically sets off the disused warehouse beneath and that brave poplar, twirling its leaves green/silver/green in the wind.

Strong line of the roof, all those tones of rust, the twirling shrub. In bright sunshine, I wouldn’t have noticed all that. I know it.

Into Hinge Park. Transfixed by one small bird a-top the rusty pillar, silhouetted against the dark-dancing sky.

And now that sky patters down rain.

Drops form endless tiny concentric circles in the pond, a Mallard duck creates one arc of larger circles there on the left, and silver light bounces back from the rufffled surface of the water. Grey sentinel stones too, at water’s edge.

More rain.

I graduate from putting up the hood on my jacket to putting up my umbrella. And then, knowing when a tactical retreat is in order, I dive into an Olympic Village café.

(Time passes.)

End of latte, end of rain shower, but a still-dancing sky as I walk back home.

How it makes that mural pop! And how it plays up the march of the hydro poles down the alley.

Then I stop looking for examples of how the sky enhances what lies beneath, and I just … look at the sky.

Which stands up very nicely on its own.

Next day the sunshine is back, and guess what. I am still noticing grey. Suddenly I see that old trickster sun as a backdrop for grey.

Though not just any old chunk of grey concrete, I have to admit.

This is one arc of landscape architect/artist Don Vaughan‘s work, Marking High Tide, which stands at the seawall in David Lam Park on  the north shore of False Creek.

Vaughan also wrote the poem: “As the moon circles the earth the oceans respond with the rhythm of the tides.”

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.

 

It’s Chris-A-Riffic!

30 May 2018 – Well, I have some nerve. That is a totally misleading title for this post, Chris barely gets a walk-on, and not for ages yet.

I just like the name.

Even though I start with Caroline.

I’m prancing up Main Street, southward from False Creek, noticing tiny scraps of street art as I go. (Every now and then I am up to here with stunningly beautiful nature, and I have to go bang my head against street art instead.)

Though, mind, you, I seem to be noticing nature in the street art …

Witness that red flower above. And this blue bird below, bottom left corner in a parking lot mural at Main & E. Broadway (or so).

This is a detail of Community Tree, by the GHIA (= Growing Hope Into Action) Collective, a group of Emily Carr University students, one of the 2017 Mural Festival creations.

Yet more nature! Sunflowers!

This time an upper corner of Emily Gray‘s Cycle Mural at Main & E. 10th. I look her up later, pretty sure she is the engaging young artist who led a public-art tour I joined in downtown Vancouver last summer. And yes, not only that, she is also responsible for other murals & street art I’ve been enjoying around town, including all the gloriously loopy stuff all over Spyglass Dock. (“My” ferry dock. as I like to claim, on False Creek.)

This mural at E. 10th deserves its title, with cyclists & skate-boarder whooping around the scene, but it also pays whimsical tribute to False Creek, complete with dragon boat racers and the distinctive Golf Ball (oh all right, Telus World of Science) at the east end.

Not to mention all that asparagus and an eggplant or two …

At Main & E 13th, I back up for the whole shot rather than a detail.

Woman in all her languid glory, by Loretta Lizlo & Cam Scale, draped across the side wall of this Forty Ninth Parallel Coffee Roasters location.

We’re on to a bike theme now, have you noticed? First Emily Gray’s mural & now the real thing.

And a coffee theme as well.

I cleverly (but only in retrospect) combine the two by trucking west to Heather & W. 16th, where I order my latte in the Tandem Bike Café.

Coffee & treats this side; bike repair that side.

Along with the café menu and those bike tires looped overhead — genuinely for sale in the bike repair shop, not just for décor — along with the menu & the tires, as I was saying before I interrupted myself, yes, along with them, there is a poster for a Chris-A Riffic launch party.

We finally reach Chris.

Did you notice? Flick your eyes back up. Bottom left corner …

Alas, the party was two months ago. So much for a date with C-A-R.

I’m still into details, perky signs, and silly words.

Like this city-reg announcement barring cars on this stretch of Yukon …

with some citizen’s happy-face addition, and very polite words of appreciation. (Oh, he must be Canadian.)

One more bit of citizen action, this time on Cambie just south of Broadway.

Go for it.

Tug

23 May 2018 – I am again at the VanDusen Botanical Garden, one of my favourite places in the city. No, make that: one of my favourite places. Period.

I sit by the Cypress Pond in the Garden, I come back inside to take part in a class, I walk home.

I am entirely happy.

 

City-Busy

15 May 2018 – I’m busy returning library books and, all around me, this little wedge of city is busy being itself. It bubbles in every direction.

Poppies pop …

Colours pop …

A hydro pole struts the alley …

Motorcycles gleam …

A doorway dispenses wisdom …

Pedestrians time-out their walk along False Creek …

Junior dragon-boaters time-out their heats in a day of competitive racing …

A wedding couple poses …

And Tess turns 25.

I read the banner, grin, and carry on home with my new crop of library books.

 

Time Well Killed

11 May 2018 – Yes! You can kill time and still hold up your head in polite society.

(Credit, by the way, to Comedy Central, whose old tag line “Time Well Wasted” I have just appropriated.)

Select your location, open your eyes, and enjoy yourself.

Exhibit No. 1

I am in George Wainborn Park, smack by the walking/cycling paths along the north shore of False Creek. I’ve never noticed this park before, and it is not my destination: it is simply a meeting point. “By the fountain,” said my friend, as we planned our outing.

I am a few moments early. I kill time.

Admiring the fountain, of course.

Admiring all that “geometry at work & play,” as I like to think of it — vertical waterfall on the left; horizontal black fencing left to right; stone triangle on the right; great arch of the Granville St. Bridge overhead.

I watch a father carefully hold his toddler high enough to peer into the triangle. The child gurgles with delight, flexes his tiny starfish fingers in-out-in-out toward the spray.

I wait ’til they’re gone, then go and do the same. (Peer, that is, but perhaps even gurgle.)

Then my friend arrives, and we leave.

Exhibit No. 2

Next day, same need (same opportunity) to pace myself between appointments, and kill some time.

A quick visit to the Vancouver Art Gallery and then, because it’s a lovely day and I am in no hurry, I plonk down on the VAG steps terracing down into Robson Square.

Many others are on the steps as well, including one permanent resident.

Meet Bird of Spring, one of at least three authorized bronze replicas of a 14 cm. original by the Inuk artist Abraham Etungat, of Cape Dorset.

Bird and I watch the action below, in the Robson Square skating rink.

In season, well … it’s a skating rink, isn’t it? And off season, well … it’s whatever people want to make of it.

At the moment, it’s a studio for choreographed routines. Foreground, two young martial arts practitioners, with batons; background, a trio of dancin’ fools.

I stroll down around the rink, zero in on the dancin’ fools.

They are just a-shimmying their little hearts out.

Bird of Spring and I now bracket the rink, on the watch from opposite ends. The baton couple are still hard at it, in that sweet-spot combination of athletic precision and sheer flowing beauty.

Overhead, an audience of pigeons.

On I walk.

Still with some time to kill, but I have another destination in mind.

Exhibit No. 3

Another destination, with another overhead audience, if we may refer to inanimate objects in such terms.

It’s a tower of the Woodward’s Development on West Hastings —  the multi-use redeveloment of the old Woodward’s department store site.

The tower rises over, is visible through, the Atrium, which is a welcoming pass-through space open to all. Last summer I sat here & listened to a series of Hard Rubber Orchestra rehearsals; today I listen to the piano.

The  bright-blue piano chained to a bicycle, always there & available to anyone who wants to play it.

This intent young man is playing Chopin. He is very good, and we applaud when he ends a selection. He doesn’t look up, but, eyes still on keyboard, he does give one quick nod of the head.

He is playing again as I leave.

Nicely in time to meet my friend at our Purebread Bakery rendezvous.

 

 

 

The Dance of Light & Life

1 May 2018 – Day-length leaps ahead now, and nature leaps with it. We’re in the UBC Botanical Garden, a perfect place to join the dance.

Yes, of course, great bursts of colour smack the eye in every direction …

but our eyes skitter away. We look instead for tiny details, such as minute red dots on emerging white buds, for example …

and also for the the fresh green play of light and shadow.

A towering Gingko biloba, clothed in emerging baby leaves, is radiant in the morning sunshine.

There is luminous green everywhere we look.

In skunk cabbage leaves, shadows etched against light …

and in a mossy tree crotch, bouncing its textures back & forth.

All the contrasts of early spring.

New fern growth just starting to uncoil above existing mature fronds — the one so tiny, so baby-tender-green; the other coarse, dark, brilliant.

Defiant new growth, here one sprig shooting upright from the top of a lopped tree trunk …

and defiant old growth as well. Four or five centuries old.

This tree also wears its defiance at the tip — except here it is scorched and bare, not green.

We had already read the sign at its base.

A bit farther down the path, we turn back and pick out Eagle Tree in the canopy.

We stand there a moment, silent. For Eagle Tree.

For the whole great dance of light & life.

 

 

“Shh!”

26 April 2018

Previous post, I briskly get myself from the bridge to the fish & chips stand: “Off the south end of the bridge, around & down & eastward along the seawall…”

Well, it wasn’t quite as brisk as all that.

The “around & down” part takes me past the Burrard Civic Marina, with its lock-ups for assorted local clubs. I see poster after poster along the chain-link fence, clearly the work of young people, and all on the same theme.

Eagles are nesting. Behave yourself.

I move poster to poster.

I’m struck by the passion of these young people — and by their conviction that there is such a thing as standards of civic behaviour, and that these high standards may be successfully evoked.

Struck, too, by the imagery.

I look around, spy what I assume must be an eagle nest.

And now, you and I, now we enjoy a little loop of time travel — because here I am again, a few days later, this time with a friend.

I’m showing her the posters, people are walking by with canoes …

and we fall into conversation with a woman about to enter the False Creek Racing Canoe Club lock-up.

Yes, she says, gesturing at the tree I noticed two days earlier, that is an eagle nest. In fact, it’s the nest that started this whole poster campaign by youth members of the FCRCC.

“There was a loud party one night right by that tree. The mother eagle abandoned the nest — they do that, if they’re disturbed. We think she’s made a new nest over there — [arm wave] — and it looks like the male eagle is now caring for this nest.”

We thank her, grateful for the back-story, impressed at the way someone in that Club turned the incident into something positive.

A lot of the signs urge us to do more than behave ourselves. It’s also our duty to make other people behave properly as well.

These kids are operating on more than passion & indignation. They’ve done their research. “Did you know?” Fourteen species of eagle; a wing span of 3.2 metres.

We keep reading. We are touched, impressed, uplifted by every sign we read.

And then there’s this one. This is the one that melts our hearts.

Shhhh, everybody. Shhhh.

Geometry at Work & Play

23 April 2018 – I know it’s a stretch to think of bridges as geometry-made-visible; any mathematician (or architect) would blench at the thought. But still. The Cambridge English Dictionary defines geometry as “the study of space and the relationships between points, lines, curves and surfaces.”

Doesn’t a bridge quite wonderfully show us all of that?

So I hoof onto the north end of the Burrard Bridge, ready to be delighted by all those points, lines, curves and surfaces, and by the relationships that weave them together in space.

Oh, honestly … just look at this gateway. Towers and boat prows and heroic stern-faced gentlemen and a gallery running between, with windows that serve no purpose. And all so stylishly, so happily, Art Deco.

We enjoy it now, but imagine what a tonic it must have been to the Depression-weary crowd that watched the opening ceremony on 1 July 1932.

I’m amused to discover later that these gateways — one each end of the bridge — were created for a workaday purpose. They were not structurally necessary. The architect decided to build them in order to mask the network of steel that lies between them.

Geometry looking playful, but hard at work.

Never mind. Don’t care. I’m charmed by the gateway and the arches — but also by the way they bracket that network of steel in between. This is a steel truss bridge, after all.

Step through, and here’s an invitation for pedestrians to stop walking and take a moment for play — a whole line-up of black benches, tucked into place between the trusses.

Sit down, look up — geometry at work. Wouldn’t the Cambridge dictionary be proud? Line/space relationships galore.

Now look forward, through the railing.

More invitation to play: the curve of the seawall on the north shore of False Creek. It rolls away from the Aquatic Centre Dock close to the bridge, past Sunset Beach, past English Bay Beach, on to Stanley Park.

Enough lolly-gagging! I have to get up. I have places to go, things to do.

Off the south end of the bridge, around & down & eastward along the seawall on the south side of False Creek. I pause, look back at the bridge.

From this angle, doesn’t look soaring at all, does it? No, it looks impaled on all those bristling masts in the marinas below.

But those gateways still stand out, still tell the world: “Burrard Bridge.”

I walk on, properly intent on my things-to-do.

Then, as I pass the public fish market, I am diverted  by Go Fish, a tiny takeaway booth with a big view over the Creek and a bearably small line-up. (And the day is sunny & mild! And I’ve walked a lot and deserve a rest! And I want, I really really want, their salmon & chips!)

So I place my order, snaffle the last Creek-facing perch on the little patio, and have myself a blissful half-hour.

 

 

  • 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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