Into the Stream

1 September 2021Getting close! I think, spotting this traffic circle with its mosaic accents.

I’m looking for Mosaic Creek Park, something I mentioned in my Long Slide to Dusk post, after my online search for mosaic-art info coughed up a reference to this wonderfully named parkette. So here I almost am, on Charles Street in Britannia neighbourhood, but not quite sure whether to turn right or left on Charles at this intersection.

I opt for right, for no particular reason. This takes me east to Grandview Park, perfectly fine & good, but not what I’m after. So I spin around, and, as I head back west, have two encounters in close succession.

Sunflower, and plums.

Sunflower is metal, on a hydro pole, no longer framing whatever it once contained, but perky good fun all the same.

Soon after come the plums, not that I immediately know that’s what’s on offer.

I’ve exchanged a few complimentary words about his garden with a gentleman just stepping back onto his porch; we do the chit-chat and then he asks, “Got a bag?” I tilt my shoulder, revealing my knapsack. He beams, holds up a handful of plums — “Just picked them!” — and slides them into my knapsack for me.

So I am in even better humour than ever as I walk the last block on west to Mosaic Creek Park. Talk about “random acts of kindness”!

And there’s the little park, with one outlying chunk of mosaic to welcome me in.

Just a tiny corner of land, but with a big, wonderful story behind it.

The Britannia Neighbours Community Group wanted to do something with this vacant lot; project coordinator Sarah White pulled in artists Glen Anderson and Kristine Germann, who ran mosiac workshops for interested community members; more than 300 people took part, and added their handiwork to the stream of mosaics that make up the “creek” giving the park its name.

And added their names as well.

Individuals, school and other groups, and even neighbourhood animals — all part of the stream. “Topsy,” I’m guessing, is a dog, and Maggie & Pat’s cats are as involved as their humans.

I wander along the stream. Look! there’s a cat …

and here, just to the right of a sweetly cuddled mother and child …

… are those dogs?

No need to puzzle this next one. A heart, universal and eternal symbol, placed here pre-pandemic but even more meaningful now.

I’ve walked the stream, I’m at Charles & McLean, and look back at it, admiring the curve.

I also admire Stonehenge-on-Charles at the far corner (oh all right, a basalt-pillar playground) …

and then settle on a bench for a while. And eat one of those plums.

That’s the end of the Mosaic Creek discovery, but not the end of discoveries — all because, as I walk back home, I notice this musical notation over somebody’s front door.

On a whim I photograph it, and on a further whim, send it to my friend Jeff, a writer/musician/translator with a quick & curious mind. Does it say something? I ask, or is it just pretty?

“Well, there’s music here,” he replies, “but also a technical error.

  1. A piece with one flat (the bulbous little guy after the treble clef) is in the key of F, which takes B flat. The flat here is E flat. So the key as notated, at least by western standards, does not exist! (B flat and E flat together would give you the key of B flat, however.)
  2. There is a cute little tune here, but not exactly that of any doorbell I’ve heard. I attach a recording.”

Jeff also notes (unintended pun, sorry), Jeff also comments that the actual key seems to be A Minor, which has no sharps or flats.

So it’s all a bit of a mishmash, but pretty to look at, and offered to the world (by homeowner, Jeff and me) with cheerful good intentions.

Call and Response

28 August 2021 – But not musical, not this time.

Think… ceramic/botanical/neighbourhood garden.

Call …

Response …

Call and response!

And that’s all.

Beach, Beach, Beach (& a Bunny Rabbit)

25 August 2021 – Temperature down, air quality up, perfect day to walk my way from one Burrard Inlet beach to another.

So I do.

Spanish Banks Beach eastward to Kitsilano Beach is my target, and the transit company trip-planner says take #84 bus to Blanca, walk north on Blanca to the end … and … um … Spanish Banks will be right there in front of you.

Which is why I’m in this leafy cul-de-sac at the north end of Blanca Street, admiring the painted bear that signposts the gated home there on the right …

but aware that I am still high above beach level.

It’s down there somewhere. Here-to-There is the challenge.

Then I see a dirt path into the trees with guardrail on one side. It doesn’t say “This way to Spanish Banks” — but it doesn’t say “Trespassers keep out” either. I give it a shot (and trust nobody will shoot me.)

It works! Down & down I go, curve upon curve, and yes, here I am at NW Marine Drive, and yes, that’s the east end of Spanish Banks Beach right opposite.

Everybody’s having a good time — freighters lolling about at anchor out there in the Inlet, waiting their turn to enter Vancouver Harbour, and humans of all sizes and inclinations lolling about each in their own chosen way, armed with tents, umbrellas, kites, chairs and blankets.

I start walking. I’m not certain, but I’m pretty sure that between bike & pedestrian paths I can chain my way through a trio of beaches — Spanish Banks, Locarno & Jericho — and then have only a relatively brief hit of city streets before dropping onto beach once again, all the way to Kitsilano.

And yes, I’m right. That first trio works out just like the post title promises: beach, beach, beach.

The title also promises a bunny rabbit, and here he is in Locarno Park, completely at home as he nibbles grasses behind a path-side bench.

“They’re European rabbits,” explains the young man checking his smart phone from the bench, “let loose when their owners got bored with them. They live under the marina over there, and they breed like crazy.” We sigh about the damage done when people dump unwanted pets into the wild. “Like gold fish in park ponds,” I grumble. More head-shaking, but then he brightens up. “Yes, but! Coyotes eat these rabbits, and otter eat the gold fish in Lost Lagoon.” That’s mildly cheering, and after we share some final philosophic shrugs, I go on my way.

On through Jericho Beach Park (stopping for a salmon-burger at the waterfront café, oh bliss), a few city blocks as anticipated, and then down some steps onto the so-called “Wilderness Beach,” the stretch of Point Grey foreshore that connects on east to Kitsilano Beach, but is itself entirely undeveloped.

I’ve never been this far west on the Wilderness Beach, and I haven’t seen this sign before. I stop to read it.

The People’s Castle?? I have no idea; don’t ask. But after the human irresponsibility documented by those European rabbits, how agreeable to see this call to responsibility about our noise levels and trash.

Oh, I do like it down here!

Whole carpets of mussels in front of me, as I look across the water to the north shore and that glorious spill of Coast Range mountains beyond…

and, here at my back, glistening rocks, mosses and seaweed.

It’s an absolute delight, and I’m happy walking all the way to Kits.

(Where, truth be told, I find I am happy to stop walking and sit down for the bus-ride home.)

Out the West End

21 August 2021 – “Out”? “Up”? “Into”??? By any preposition, the West End is where I’m headed as I walk north across the Burrard St. Bridge, with False Creek beneath me.

It’s a wonderful bridge, its steel-truss functionality wrapped up in Art Deco flair — all the more wonderful that they bothered with flair, given the bridge opened in 1932, deep in the Depression. And flair abounds. Just look at that ochre-coloured horizontal “gallery” down there, for example …

yes, that’s it.

Stylish as all get out, and purely decorative. It exists solely to hide some of the superstructure.

I’m not here for the bridge; this is just my entry-point to the “West End,” loosely defined as the chunk of Vancouver north of False Creek between Burrard Street and Stanley Park. I’m partly attracted by the promise of a few new murals, as part of this year’s Mural Festival, but, mostly, I’m just enjoying the fact that it’s finally good walking weather. Temperature has dropped; air quality has risen; West End … why not?

First mural hit, practically right off the bridge, just west of Burrard & south of Davie St. in Pantages Lane.

Thank you, artist Christina Boots: LOVE & a flamingo head, out on the restaurant patio.

On down the lane, between Thurlow & Bute by now, and two more heads — strictly B&W, and not a flamingo to be seen, but equally exuberant.

I head north on Bute and, right there at Davie Street, meet yet more faces. A whole line-up of faces.

This time, the faces have names. I’m looking at Elizabeth Hollick’s tribute to jazz greats in a mural that clearly has been here for quite a while. The likenesses are not all that terrific, but you can’t argue with her choice of musicians.

L to R: John Scofield, guitar; Charlie Mingus, bass; Max Roach, drums; Dizzy Gillespie, trumpet; Charlie Parker, sax; Benny Goodman, clarinet; Ella Fitzgerald, vocals; and Dave Brubek, piano. I pause a moment in tribute, but also to remember a cat named Mingus I once knew, and then continue my rambling north-west progress toward English Bay.

North now on Jervis from Davie, and I stop for this aqua butterfly, tacked to a utility pole in the lane.

This is See-em-ia Lane, and I again thank the City for its decision to add a brief fine-print explanation to each laneway sign.

You see? This lane honours Mary See-em-ia, a Matriarch of the Squamish Nation. (Thanks to the fine print, I can also tell you that Pantages Lane back there is named for Peter Pantages, Greek immigrant & restaurateur, and founder of the Vancouver Polar Bear Club. The sign doesn’t add, but Wikipedia does, that he was also nephew of Andrew Pantages, the vaudeville-circuit theatre giant.)

It’s pretty well just a head-swivel from the butterfly on up to the corner of Jervis & Pendrell, and St. Paul’s Anglican Church.

The doors are open (unexpected, in these continuing days of pandemic), and I seize the chance to go inside. It’s a heritage building, the 1905 replacement for the little 1889 church moved onto this site in 1898. The church has evolved with its times, and now embraces the LGBTQ community along with the more bourgeois middle-class of earlier days — and everybody else, for that matter.

A week-day communion service is just ending as I enter. I am struck by this. Today’s walk seems to me a continuation of the “quiet pleasures of the perfectly ordinary” that I celebrated in a recent post, an attitude powerfully expressed by John O’Donohue in a couplet in The Inner History of a Day (from, To Bless the Space Between Us).

He wrote: “We seldom notice how each day is a holy place / Where the eucharist of the ordinary happens.”

The eucharist of the ordinary! It has been all around me, all day — and here is a religious eucharist, to join it.

The rector welcomes me, invites me to stay for the post-communion coffee gathering and is smilingly gracious when I explain that, thank you, I plan to keep on walking. But first, I want him to tell me about this glorious organ, and he is happy to oblige.

Yes! a Casavant. I am a groupie for Casavant Frères, the Quebec company that has been building organs since 1879, and I start squeaking with excitement. Known as Opus 264 and installed in 1906, this one is the oldest extant Casavant in BC. It is not in use today, but I don’t care. It is enough to know it exists and, like its sibling in St. James in the downtown east side, it has been meticulously restored & revoiced and will have a long life yet.

Back out to the street, back to working my way north-west, and here I am at Broughton & Henshaw Lane.

I love everything about this building: its architecture, its community-centre function, its artwork, its welcoming signage. And I love the laneway signage too, you bet, which explains that this lane honours Julia Henshaw — author, botanist, and alpinist.

Eventually I make it to Davie just off Denman, right at Morton Park (home to A-Maze-ing Laughter) and English Bay.

A new tower is rearing up just over there, across the street, with artwork top to toe.

And I can’t tell you anything about it! I don’t weave through enough traffic to snoop around its base for any possible info. I don’t think it’s Mural Festival, and the Festival map is maddeningly vague, so we’ll just have to let the visuals speak for themselves.

One more mural, just a block or so away. This one is indeed a 2021 Festival addition, the work of Coast Salish artist Sinàmkin (Jody Bloomfield). Since he belongs to the Squamish Nation, it is fitting that his mural is right at the Denman end of See-em-ia Lane, which we’ve already learned is named for a matriarch of that Nation.

I turn back. Time to head east once again.

I look up at the neighbourhood banner with appreciation.

To again quote John O’Donohue, the West End has offered me “the eucharist of the ordinary” all day long, and I am grateful.

Murals & Time Travel

10 August 2021 – I have murals on the mind and in my eyeballs; the 2021 Vancouver Mural Festival is underway. I am wandering around Mount Pleasant, epi-centre of the Festival that began as a small movement in 2016 and now — with a magic happy combination of civic, social/artistic and local business support — has 300+ murals to its credit in 11 neighbourhoods, with another 60+ due to be created this year.

But not created yet, so my time travel is spent with works already in place.

And it starts with one that, far as I can see, has no connection with the VMF, no signature of any kind. Well, that doesn’t matter, does it? Especially since I’ve never noticed it before.

I prowl around it happily for a while, and then notice, down in the lower-left corner, that its sight-lines shoot my eye on down West 7th toward a flash of colour near Ontario Street — colour that I know is another mural, and one that definitely is part of the VMF family.

See? ‘Way down there?

But there’s another mural treat along the way, two tucked into that same block between Manitoba & Ontario.

We’ll get to the one on the right; first please admire that garage door. Like the first mural I showed you, not signed, but isn’t it terrific? It belongs to Green Works Building Supply, and seems a logical fit with their environmentally responsible sensibilities. I’m especially fond of the slogan on the door:

Enough of that, on to Cosmic Breeze down at Ontario, the work of Olivia Di Liberto for VMF 2019.

This next image is not a mural, doesn’t in any way fit my apparent theme, unless you’re generous enough to slide with me into my larger “city-as-art-installation” theme. If you are that generous, we can make a case for “berries ripening on wild vines climbing all over chain-link fence beside barbed wire & scruffy wall.”

Back to murals. I’ve loved this one since I watched Atheana Picha painting it during VMF 2018, love it still, and love viewing it in its alley-corner framework, here on Ontario south of West 6th.

This next one is streetscape, not mural — wall plus front façade, framed sides/top/bottom by textures of grey and photographed through construction fencing. The only ID is that austere Tierney Milne lower right, so elegant I wonder if this is the branding of a design house.

No it’s not, I later discover: she is a Montreal-born, Vancouver-resident designer/artist. She also, I further discover in the VMF Mural Gallery, has participated in several of the festivals, though this building seems unrelated to all that.

That diversion had me back on West 6th between Ontario & Quebec, now I’m climbing south on Ontario toward West 7th, taking in the whole long frantic madness of an epic 2018 creation by a collective with the world’s best team name: Phantoms in the Front Yard. The work is the whole side-wall length of this long building, jammed with people, cats, dogs, wine glasses, action & attitude. I’ve shown you bits before, and I see new bits every time I walk past.

This bit, for example, bottom left corner, with the woman all thumb’s up in gesture but thumb’s down in face:

Always so satisfying to see something new!

I look across the street, and while the image isn’t new for me, I’d guess by body language that is both new and fascinating for that lanky pedestrian just entering frame on the left.

He is puzzling out Animalitoland, a VMF 2020 creation by Graciela Gonçalves Da Silva, which features — along with that puckish face — an A-Z list of neatly printed adjectives, running the gamut of our emotions as we lived that year of isolation and pandemic.

In describing her mural, Da Silva comments: “Street art is so much more than paint on walls. It has a unique way of connecting people…”

I don’t know this quote when I pull out my camera again, deep in the alleys S/W of East 7th & Main. I’m not thinking murals at all at this point; I am just captivated by that H-frame, rearing up into the sky. (I love them all, you know that — but this one especially, the way it pivots smartly at a 45° to accommodate the intersection.)

Then I’m back in mural-gear, because a mural wraps that corner as neatly as the H-frame beside it.

This is Why Can’t They See Us? by Doaa Jamal, VMF 2018, the rendering in Arabic square Kufic script of a verse from the Qur’an: “We have created you from male and female and made you into tribes and nations that you may know each other.”

Connection. Despite tribes and nations and pandemic: connection.

Back to Baffled Brains

Several people were kind enough to send me definitions of blockchain, including Lynette d’Artey-Cross. Here’s an excerpt from her contribution (which you can read in its entirety in post comments): “essentially a digital ledger of transactions that is duplicated across the entire network of computer systems on the blockchain.” Since that post, the Vancouver Biennale has been advertising for volunteers to train on the AR/blockchain aspects of Voxel Bridge, who will then serve as serve as hosts at the installation, and help the rest of us enter into it more fully.

Beauty & Baffled Brains

3 August 2021 – Important distinction about that post heading! I am merely observing the former, but I fully posses the latter.

I’m halfway-ish in a walk around my end of False Creek. Over on the north side of the Creek, I’ve seen all the usual shifting combinations of participants. On the water: ferries, boats, dragon boats, sculls, kayaks, paddleboards, ducks, geese & cormorants, plus one hugely fluffed heron on a pillar, his neck reeled in to negligible. On land: volleyball & basketball in the parkette and out in the pathways individual cyclists, joggers, runners, walkers, dawdlers, dogs, children & bum-on-benchers, plus one stringy old guy in a T-shirt proclaiming “Old Lives Matter.” (I laugh out loud, he thumbs-up’s me as he goes by.)

It’s truly a wonder nobody smacks into anybody else, on land or sea, but somehow good luck — and brains, and courtesy — prevail.

All that was over there. Now I’m over here, under the south end of the Cambie Bridge. Nothing particularly beautiful or remotely baffling about my immediate surroundings.

No, let’s be more generous than that. These please-chalk-on-the-walls pillars and sturdy, plain, entirely functional table-tennis and picnic tables are beautiful, in a civic beauty sort of way. They are kind. They provide space for public rest and enjoyment.

But the major beauty (and bafflement) lie just to the south. Straight on down this long underpass space beneath the bridge.

The Vancouver Biennale Voxel Bridge installation is coming to life. I love this art, and I think it beautiful. There is more signage, as well as more art, so I move in to learn what’s happening.

I am baffled. I get the concept of AR, I’ve even clicked on it a bit, but I have yet to make even the slightest sense of blockchain. A decades-younger woman is reading as well, Aussie by the sound of her as we exchange ???s, and despite youth she is also baffled. We circle the pillar, read more on the other side.

Still ???, in both Canadian & Aussie accents. This is neither complaint nor confession, just a statement of fact. I don’t get it.

So I give up on all that, and settle down to just enjoy what I see. Like this …

and this …

and this …

and finally, drop-to-my-knees ground-level this. (Which causes a passing young man, noting my white hair, to ask if I’m all right. I reassure him, and thank him for his concern. It’s another example of “civic beauty”!)

And that’s enough of all that, so I stand up, dust my smudged knees and carry on east along the south side of False Creek.

My route takes me along 1st Avenue. As I approach Hinge Park I again enjoy the juxtaposition of Sole Food‘s garden beds on the left (netted now against hungry birds) with that defiant old relic of the Creek’s industrial days, still proclaiming it’s the Ist Ave. Plant of something long departed.

And yes, in my eyes that heap of rusty metal is beauty.

On & on some more, into Olympic Village Plaza, and look at this!

I have to go literally look at this, because although I can read the name, I don’t know who she is. My guess is that it’s all to do with the Olympics.

And I’m right.

North Vancouver’s Alannah Yip, engineer & sport climber, is also Gold Medallist in the 2020 Pan Am Games, and about to compete (August 4) for Canada in two women’s sport climbing events: speed, and bouldering. I think all this is pretty darn beautiful.

And this sign’s level of technology does not baffle my brain!

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.

Old Haunts

22 July 2021 – “Down to Strathcona,” I decide, my first return to this east-of-downtown neighbourhood since COVID reined in my travels. First visit since 9 February 2020, in fact, a walk celebrated with the now-ironic title of “And then the sun came out.” Who knew the metaphoric sun was about to go in?

Off I go.

North down a favourite alley, H-frame hydro poles overhead and a DATA-face levelling her eyes at me above the dumpsters.

Bounce east from False Creek, cut through False Creek Flats (the still-scruffy end, spelled with a final “s” not yet the snappy “z”), with a couple of murals on the wall and two sea gulls overhead. Who are almost certainly not levelling their eyes at me.

Another bounce, this time off the east corner of Chinatown and then east-east along E. Georgia to Princess, where a beautifully restored/maintained home demonstrates that, yes, Strathcona is the oldest residential neighbourhood in Vancouver.

More east along East Georgia, over to Hawkes and the brick-laid circle at a south corner of MacLean Park, with its benches and a mosaic that possibly links Strathcona to the nation-wide Communities in Bloom organization. (I try, but can’t quite track it down. Oh well.)

Another pedestrian & I exchange “Good morning’s”, then cock our heads as the first four notes of O Canada fill the air. Aha! The 12-noon ritual, courtesy of the Heritage Horns at Canada Place. We giggle and amend our greeting. “Good afternoon!”

On north along the east side of MacLean Park, already anticipating a latte at The Wilder Snail café up at Keefer. I pause at this alley corner en route, delighted that this workshop is still here, still vividly painted, still adorned with industrial art…

including this tribute to cycling embedded in the sidewalk: chain, gears & even an upright bike pedal.

On up to Keefer, about to cross the street to the café, and… whoa! This is new. The drop-dead sleekest community book box ever created.

No, not part of the Little Free Library chain that I admire so much; this (the discreet sidewalk plaque tells me) was brainchild of the Strathcona Community Centre Association, funded by some civic Neighbourhood Small Grants program.

I peer inside. On offer, Easy Songs for the Beginning Baritone/Bass. Also on offer — in case you’d rather read about a musician than be one — Life, by Keith Richards. (Isn’t this perfect? The autobiography of “Keef,” right here on Keefer Street.)

Enough of that, I want my latte. Except, once inside The Wilder Snail, I succumb to the day’s heat & my own curiosity and instead choose something cold called (as I recall) Turmeric Sunrise. Or something like that. Anyway, tart & citrus-gingery and perfect for the day.

I sit outside, and watch the woman in the red dress kitty-corner, inspecting offerings in that book box.

(D’you suppose she walked off with Keith Richards under her arm?)

Now it’s my turn to walk off, still heading vaguely northward, until I find myself in front of this wonderful mural of North Strathcona Pre-WWI.

I am at Campbell & East Hastings, and I know this because there’s the intersection, in its bright turquoise lozenge.

Once again I have cause to admire the perfect symmetry of location and language: the eponymous George Campbell was part owner of the Hastings Sawmill.

I start thinking about looping my way toward Commercial Drive and, eventually, a bus back home.

But meanwhile, still lots to look at. Mad animal cyclists in this mural near Woodland Park, for example.

And in this Venables/Victoria alley, a garage with a mural and some life-lesson instructions.

The life lesson? How to be an artist.

I’m particularly fond of “Make friends with freedom & uncertainty” near the top, and, closer to the bottom, “Listen to old people.” (Well, natch.) Also: “Play with everything.”

Fine, I think, that’s it. Camera back in my pocket.

But then I see this: garage-top garden, complete with sunflowers and an apiary.

Okay, I think. This time that’s it. But a few blocks over, I see this: wonder woman flexing her muscles.

And then?

That really is it.

The Long Slide to Dusk

18 July 2021 – The few brief times I lived near the equator, I never quite got used to the abrupt transition from day to night. As if it were on a toggle switch: day ON!! day OFF!!

Here in Vancouver, we’re on a dimmer switch, with a long, long slide.

So I set out in the relative cool of late afternoon, knowing I have a comfy few hours before night fall. A loop, I think, north downhill & east & see what happens.

I’m touched as always by the many small ways people add beauty outside their own front door, a gift to the rest of us. This little street corner arrangement, for example, the grass scorched but the flower-petal birdbath glossy-bright (though empty).

This isn’t one of the Park Dept’s sponsorship arrangements; it’s something set up by somebody in the condo building right behind me. Just… because.

Or here, a few blocks farther north-east: a dip in the ground, with greenery that does not appear to be currently tended, but look, someone has placed a gleaming red chair next to that weathered bench.

Neither of these spots is, from a landscape-architect perspective, particularly impressive. They’re modest, straggly even — but full of good omens: generosity of spirit, playfulness of spirit, comfort with being who they are doing what they want to do. And with reasonable expectation that the objects they place for public enjoyment will not be vandalized or stolen. It’s an encouraging reality, when so many other current realities are painful.

Another discovery, look:

I do not click, I want my own unguided walk thank you, but later I look up the St. George Rainway project. It falls within Vancouver’s much larger Rain City Strategy and while I uneasily suspect both lag in implementation I wish them success. “Heat Dome” ought to provide new impetus.

I take myself down to Great Northern Way (now roadway, originally tracks for the railway line, up from the USA), walk along and decide it’s finally time to try to solve the mystery.

The mystery being: what is the story of these grand steps back uphill, their style worthy of an Aztec temple? And what are those statues all about?

So, finally, instead of wondering about them from the far side of the road, I climb the steps.

The statues are not only incoherent in style & apparent inspiration, they are all badly damaged & vandalized.

No street art here worthy of admiration – but at least, in this one message, a mini-story that I’m glad worked out well for the grateful “D.”

As I climb, and later up at the East 6th & Prince Albert top end of the steps, I ask passers-by if they know the story. They don’t.

But at least I’ve finally climbed those steps!

Back down to Great Northern Way, on east, across Clark St. and on some more, and I dipsy-doodle toward McLean Drive. It lands me on this extraordinarily rustic few blocks, hard to believe there is city all around and a Sky Train line just down the hill. (Wheels screech at me as a train goes by — again I honour Montreal’s Métro system for the courtesy of its silent rubber wheels.)

And around, and I start upward/southward again.

I see a cat poster on a utility pole, and my heart sinks, because we all know what they always say, and it is always so desperately sad.

But not this time!

We do not need to worry about poster-girl Zazu or her floofy brother Geronimo.

This really has it all: good-news reassurance for neighbours, plus a way to contact the owner if any given neighbour thinks the cats’ presence is more nuisance than joy.

And right here on the ground, next to the cat poster, a fish.

Damn, I wish I could identify the artist for you. There are a lot of sidewalk mosaic projects in the City, many of them identified, but not this one. Still, along with the frustration of not being able to ID this one, I gain the knowledge of a place called Mosaic Creek Park, and you know it is now on my list.

Zazu & fish are right on the corner of W.C. Shelly Park. The sign tells me so.

It also reminds me we have a lot of serious work to do, here in Canada (ditto USA/Australia/NZ).

By the time I’m up on East 11th, again crossing Clark but this time westward, the long slide on the dimmer switch has finally reached dusk.

Time to go home, and I do.

After a moment’s companionable pause with the Dude in his park.

Again!!

5 July 2021 – False Creek again! Ah, but, not the same-old.

I jump an Aquabus ferry close to home, and ride west to Granville Market. For the first few stops, it’s just the young driver and me — he’s a Vancouverite home from his first year of university at Queen’s, in Kingston, Ontario. For assorted reasons I know both Queen’s and the city well, so we chatter about all that for a while. One other passenger joins us at the David Lam Park dock, and conversation shifts to dealing with the heat.

The driver and I are masked, this passenger is not; all within Stage 3 guidelines, and — given current COVID trends, and our open-air breezy location — I’m comfy with it.

We approach the Granville Market dock, with the Granville St. Bridge there to the west beyond us.

My plan now is perfectly simple. Walk west, hugging the Creek and its parks and trails. Until I don’t feel like doing it any longer.

Busy marinas all along this stretch, plus this soon-to-be-busy public fish market. I’m west of the Granville Bridge by now; the Burrard St. Bridge looms up ahead.

Still pretty early in the day, but already cyclists, joggers, dawdlers, people with kids and people with dogs and people off in their own ear-bud universe. Parks & parkettes are contiguous all along the way, put me in mind of the parks that chain their way along Lake Ontario on the Toronto waterfront.

A mini-bump of parkette immediately east of the Burrard Bridge …

its scorched grass mute testimony to our dry spring and hot summer.

Under the bridge, on and on, rounding into Vanier Park, home to assorted institutions (Academy of Music, Museum of Vancouver, MacMillan Science Centre and the Maritime Museum) as well as landscaping and lots of open space. Some of that open space sprawls across a raised central knoll, favoured home of kite-flyers.

I stand under the protective shade of a tree, watching the flight of the most beautiful kite I have ever seen.

Had I a better camera, I would show it to you properly. But I don’t, so I can’t. (From the plaintive subjunctive mood, to the resigned indicative.)

Away from the shady tree-on-the-knoll, back down to the waterside trail, drawn by those vivid kayaks. Beyond them, the floating maritime heritage museum, tucked into Heritage Harbour.

By now I’m sloping into the long curve of Kitsilano Beach and Kitsilano Beach Park. Pick-up basketball here, net upon net of volleyball there, and the usual range of ages and types and interests walking, cycling, dawdling, chattering, studying their phones, reading their books, walking their dogs. I watch all this from a shady bench. (You’ve figured it out by now: my own westward progress is shady-spot to shady-spot.) My favourite dog is the three-legged one — as nimble as his four-legged leash-mate, and considerably more so than their two-legged leash-holder.

Off my bench! On down the Kits Beach Park trail!

Into the trees just east of the Kits Yacht Club … and I pause again. My ears pick up the faintest tones of sitar music. I look around for someone with a radio, but no… it is live.

I go sit on that bench to their left and, entranced, listen in. The woman is playing so softly, so delicately, that the sound merges with all the other sounds that wrap around us — breeze and waves and sea birds. Then my ears sharpen again, because I suddenly recognize the melody. She has segued into O Canada. She plays it right to the end, just the simplest possible, entirely unadorned, melody line.

Then she segues again, flows on into some raga, and I walk on.

Yes! I had this in mind.

“Wilderness Beach,” as the sign proclaims, is one of the last natural — un-managed, un-developed, un-manicured — beaches in Vancouver. It stretches west from Kits Beach on out to Jericho, and we are implored to visit it of course, but to change nothing about it while there.

There is a narrow trail, with pricey homes high above looking out over the water. Trail users move gently, careful with the space and friendly with each other.

(Look centre-top of that tall dead tree. One crow. There had been a whole squabbling murder of them as I approached, but one by one the others flew off. This guy, triumphant, now owns the tree.)

I drop down more steps, down onto the beach itself, currently very low tide. This enormous stump! And how beautiful the colours and textures of its patterns.

All the usual beach vocabulary of sand, pebble, stone, rock, seaweed, and storm-tossed wood. Sometimes rock rears up on the landward side, a natural wall.

Some of the homes have their own gates to the trail; this one has intricate ladders to bring its residents and their toys right to the beach.

Farther along, human-built breakwaters replace nature’s own rock and proclaim the homeowner’s tastes (as well as bank account). Some sport commissioned murals, such as this run of wild salmon.

There are also stretches of distinctly unofficial decoration, as on the near end of wall below! This is relatively infrequent, and, as here, quickly yields to something planned, like these bright blue bands.

I’m interested in the blue bands. A kilometre or so back, I’d asked someone if there was an exit farther west? Or would I have to double back? A nod, a chuckle, a pointed finger: Just beyond that blue band down there, I was told.

Yes indeed. Steep steps back up to the residential world. I wait while a young man patiently coaches a very young Husky puppy in the intricate choreography of step-climbing.

It gives me time to admire one last mural, rising vertically to the left of the steps.

A mad flamingo? Dancing with dandelions? Well, who knows, and we’re free to dance our own dance of imagination with it.

Up the steps. Back to the world of street corners. (I take my bearings: Point Grey Rd & Balaclava.)

Back to the world, also, of Little Free Library kiosks. Just look at the range on offer!

On the Road, Kerouac; Call of the Wild, London; Manon des sources, Pagnol; even Alpert Ellis and his Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy.

And! And. Esther the Wonder Pig.

A bit more walking and a few more conversations before I grab a bus home — but, enough.

How can I top Esther the Wonder Pig?

  • 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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