No King. But a Springbok & Some Dragons. And Assorted Birds

26 November 2018 – I never need a reason to go walk False Creek, it’s reason enough all by itself, but today, I do have an objective. I want to see the King Tide in action.

King tides (local media explain) occur when the moon is closest to the earth, the gravitational pull of sun & moon reinforce each other, and tides rise to their highest levels. Vancouver has just begun a run of king tide: November 23-30.

So I go looking, but obviously I’ve arrived at the wrong point in the cycle. Things look darn normal.

No king.

I don’t care. I’ve already had a springbok!

Maybe a springbok? This guy’s horns don’t have that lovely springbok heart-curve, so perhaps he is something else. The text above his head says “Sea Power” and by his hooves says “the natural law”, so that’s no help. Oh well. He’s lovely, whatever he is.

I’m angling down to the water just west of Main Street, a route that zigs & zags me into “Main Alley” — something I had thought just a pretentious name for an alley, but which I now know marks the block where an entire new tech campus will arise.

It already sports the Main Alley Urban Park.

So says the pink sign beyond this shaggy greenery, all that’s left now that summer’s planters have been tidied away for winter. and the café tables &  benches neatly stored.

And “shaggy” is the word, isn’t it, for late fall? Even here in mild Vancouver, summer’s botanical opulence by now is on the weary side …

But.

Farewell summer, yeah-yeah, so what. Look! Hello winter, first snow on the mountains.

I saw the peaks glistening from my own windows early this morning, and felt quite exhilarated by it all. New season, new energy.

Winter up there; here on the water, ferries as usual. And a dragon boat team, also as usual. (OK, you’ve got me. No dragons. Just dragon boaters…)

I’m approaching Hinge Park, but I am distracted by a labyrinth. It glistens quite eerily, as if floating on its own skin of water.

Am amateur job, surely. Masking tape is my bet — and by now in no better shape than the leaves that have landed on it.

But I like it a lot. I like that it’s wonky, and disheveled. I even forgive the fact that you can’t navigate it without cheating a bit, here & there …  (Yes, I walk it. Of course I do.)

Out of the labyrinth, past Hinge Park, & here’s Habitat Island — the man-made island designed to follow nature’s own recipe and provide additional wildlife habitat within False Creek. Two great dead trees anchor the island, spear the sky, and are topped, as always, with live birds.

I go read the plaque, and discover those dead trees are a deliberate part of the plan.

“Raptor Perch” indeed. No raptors at the moment, just gulls & crows — but perched. Definitely perched.

Starting to loop back east takes me along the little creek through Hinge Park that feeds into False Creek. At the moment it’s full of Mallard ducks, bright against the soft grey light.

Heading back up Main Street, one last tribute to birds, at the corner of East 6th.

The leaves have fallen, no shade here until next spring. But I do pause. A moment of appreciation is always in season.

 

 

“We remember them”

 

10 November 2018 – I am in a hurry, pressed for time, just striding down the Cambie Street hill: “Out of my way! I have things to do!”

And I stop flat at City Hall, not for the architecture I love so much, but for this:

Almost Remembrance Day, and isn’t this cascade of poppies a touching & wonderful sight? How could I power on by, oblivious?

I step into the installation, begin to read its signs.

I keep reading. There is history.

I nod, like these children, to the Tower of London project — but, above all, I nod to Lieut.-Col. John McCrae, the Canadian surgeon, poet, author and artist who enlisted at the outset of the War, in August 1914, despite being 41 years of age. He served as Medical Officer with the 1st Brigade of the Canadian Field Artillery.

In April-May 1915, he tended the wounded at the Second Battle of Ypres, the first battle in which poison gas was used. During that prolonged battle, he wrote the poem that has made poppies a world symbol for remembrance.

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow…

All of it is powerful, but I am most touched by this very human stanza part-way through:

We are the dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders Fields.

The poem has been recorded by Leonard Cohen, another author/poet/global Canadian.

Here at one precise intersection in one city in one province in one country in a whole world of remembrance, I read the words of the children who created this installation, this year.

Stepping gingerly around poppies, careful not to step on a single one, I keep reading.

They should feel good, about their own craftsmanship, along with everything else.

And so history lives within us, and through us, generation to generation, and we interpret present meaning from past events.

John McCrae survived the Second Battle of Ypres, but not the war. His asthmatic lungs further weakened by the poison gas, he died of pneumonia in 1918, in Boulongne-sur-Mer, France.

He lies in the nearby Wimereux Communal Cemetery, one of 2,847 Commonwealth soldiers to share that final resting place. If you’re ever in Guelph, Ontario, visit his childhood home, now museum.

 

Lake. Klezmer. Ghost Lake. And a Bunny-Rabbit

24 October 2018 – Not calendar-Tuesday, but honorary-Tuesday. So says the founding Tuesday Walking Society, reunited and out in full twosome force.

We jump on the southbound Spadina LRT and bail at Queen’s Quay,  just where the train does its dog-leg to the left and starts its run eastward along Lake Ontario.

Once, decades ago, Toronto parks encouraged visitor use by pegging little “Please walk on the grass” signs into the turf. Now, in all the lakefront parks and many others, the welcome is even brighter and more functional.

We walk right past those Muskoka chairs, though. We pay only the briefest attention to the Spadina Quay Wetlands — once mini-carpark, now home to a whole ecosystem of frogs, fish, birds and butterflies — and to the Toronto Music Garden, its layout co-created by cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

We skirt a bike path intersection …

and follow the waterfront west & then south to just below the old Canada Malting silos. Our goal is the tiny, deeply moving park tucked between silos and lake.

Ireland Park.

These emaciated figures are the work of Irish sculptor Rowan Gillespie; this park is the new-world companion to the famine memorial in Dublin, for which he also sculpted the figures. Together, they commemorate the Great Famine of 1845-51. I never knew the impact of this famine on Toronto until I read the stats: in the summer of 1847 alone, more than 38,500 desperate migrants landed here. At the time, the city had a population of 20,000.

We stand behind one of the five figures (two less than in Dublin, to represent deaths en-route), and follow her gaze. The scene is not as migrants saw it, obviously, this is just our attempt to imagine their relief at being still alive, and on land.

Now we head east, to walk all these enchained lakefront parks toward the heart of the city. A first goal is to decipher the name on the red tugboat — it doesn’t look like a tourist vessel, yet despite all that bright red, doesn’t seem to be on government service either.

Tug-side, we learn she is the Radium Yellowknife. What a pan-Canadian world she represents! Named for the capital city of the Northwest Territories, registered in Vancouver, tied up right here in Toronto.

And working here, too, we learn, thanks to the guy who steps aboard to unlock a door and retrieve his bicycle. Once, in some vague past, she was in the NWT; now she helps shunt barges & whatnot from hither to yon, as needed in Toronto Harbour.

On past the yellow umbrellas of  HTO Park, enjoying the punning name as always. I wonder who first saw the possibilities in Toronto’s nickname and the symbol for water?

On and more on, enjoying water and waves and strollers and dogs and still-brave plant life and the whole happy mix. Past the first quay-side Wave Deck, then the second, then a pause to salute the third and loopiest of them all: the Simcoe Wave Deck.

For Phyllis & me, all this is a reunion with sights we already knew and wanted to see again — park after park, garden after garden. Then, boom, right in front of Queen’s Quay Terminal, a tiny park we knew nothing about: the Toronto Book Garden.

The zig-zag path is studded with the names of authors, and dates.

Ondaatje, plus Dionne Brand, Anne Michaels, Timothy Findley, Margaret Atwood, Morley Callaghan, Robertson Davies … you get the idea. Each has won the Toronto Book Award in a given year. The author needn’t live here, and the book may be of any genre, but it must contain some clear Toronto content.

Still heading east and now, we agree, we’re into a boring bit, with concrete towers to both sides. As always, construction. As almost-always, a CAUTION sign. Suitably red. And, as-sometimes, one of the jokes people like to play when the City hasn’t specified what to be cautious about.

Ho-ho, we agree, and soon after that, we part ways — Phyllis off to vote in the municipal elections, me to wander a few more parks before joining another friend mid-afternoon.

Next up, the refurbished Berczy Park at Front & Wellington, just behind the city’s flat-iron building. I knew about its two-tier dog fountain — multitudes of life-sized dog sculptures, each squirting water (from the mouth, I hasten to add) back into the ever-receptive fountain. The dogs all look upward, to the bone topping the fountain. There is one cat statue slyly tucked into the mix, but he is looking sideways, eyeing a bird.

There is now another sculpture in the park, a pair of giant arms & hands thrusting skyward from the earth.

There are no “do not climb” signs, so I relax & enjoy the kids’ enjoyment.

Up to King & Church now, into the Toronto Sculpture Garden just opposite St. James Cathedral. The current installation is a cheerful steel structure called Pigro, the work of Tony Romono, its loops further be-looped with lights.

“It’s even better at night when the lights are on,” says a voice behind me, a man at peace on a bench. Signage tells me it’s meant to evoke Italian festival lights, which are strung along streets and illuminate church façades as they go. How perfect here, against the Cathedral spire.

I’m now making tracks for my friend on Church Street, deep in territory where I first worked decades ago. All is familiar.

Except for this, on Church just south of Front.

Shoreline Commemorative, by Paul Roff, reminds us that Front Street — now well inland — once deserved its name. Infill, not natural processes, have moved the shoreline farther south, and it’s good to remember where lake once touched land.

I salute the ghost lake, and go meet my friend.

And now for that bunny-rabbit

Time-jump. It’s now calendar Tuesday, the Tuesday Walking Society is again on the prowl, and I have decided to put away my camera. Let nothing stand between me and this walk through Moore Park Ravine! Let me be fully present; eyes, ears, boots, nature and dear friend are more than enough.

But out comes that camera,  just once.

Hello, Poser-bunny.

And on we go into Evergreen Brickworks, for lunch and latte and elbows-on-table conversation.

 

X-Power

22 October 2018 – I’m not sure how to pronounce it, but I for-sure like the results when womxn street artists are invited to paint up a storm in a particular city alley.

I’m here thanks to a tip-off from Chloe, another onetime AGO colleague who has turned into a continuing good friend. She’d have cause to know about this 2018 project: apart from anything else, it’s virtually across the street from the Art Gallery of Ontario — in the alley on the north side of Dundas, between McCaul & D’Arcy streets.

So right after Anthropocene, I cross the street and left-turn into the alley from McCaul. First up, a big black blank canvas — probably not part of the project, but something Chloe told me to check, since it is regularly repainted with another quote. Current version is:

One other person is prowling the alley, camera in hand. I mean, a real camera, with attachments and everything. Backpack Guy and I dance around each other very agreeably all the way down the block.

And there’s lots to see.

Down at the end of that long shot, you’ll see the multi-coloured suggestion of this (I think) leopard, who leaps right at me once I reach that particular garage door.

He’s in high contrast with an image more often associated with women …

I particularly like the jaunty angle of the needle.

There are eyes, twice over …

and dancing cranes …

and dancing water-babies. A splashy great mix of diving styles, complete with a couple of exuberant cannonballs.

As I head back to Dundas West, one final message.

Life philosophy all wrapped up in a tongue-twister. I twist my tongue around it a time or two, as I wait for my streetcar.

Time With Grit & Grime

15 September 2018 – Grab it all, drink it all in, right? Revel in eco-sculptures one day, but go prowl alleys & street corners the next …

And so here I am, back in Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, back on Main Street. Where I discover another click-clack-fall-is-back:

This street piano is still on the street, but locked up tight. (Only later, looking at my photos, do I see that piano keys are painted on the padlock.)

A silenced piano, but fair enough. There are not many people still patio-lingering to enjoy it, even had it been open for use.

I’ve been pretty sketchy about discovering this year’s Mural Festival contributions to the neighbourhood, so I double back onto Watson — looks like an alley, but it’s a legit street with its very own name — to go see what might be there.

If there is a new mural nearby, I don’t see it. I’m struck instead by this hopeful message — I interpret it as hopeful — on a dumpster.

Bit farther north, and I get to pay tribute to one of my all-time favourite Mural Festival offerings, this one a veteran from 2016.

Oh, I love this wolf. (And the companion wolf, out of frame.) It’s more than aesthetic appreciation, I realize: I stumbled on the 2016 crop of murals by accident, while visiting that year, not even knowing that a Mural Festival took place. So there’s a whole serendipity-lucky-charm current of warmth I feel, every time I see him again.

More wandering, and eventually I’m on E. Broadway (aka 9th Ave.), just west of Main. I side-slip into the alley & bend myself back-back-back, peering up-up-up, to pay proper attention to this glorious fire escape, with its entirely improbable cross-stitch of artwork, top to bottom.

All that, and one of those big boxy Vancouver hydro poles to complete the image.

I straighten up, and discover a Millennial right next to me, busy taking the same shot. “I saw you & wondered what you were looking at,” she confesses once she too is again vertical. “It’s cool.”

Farther west on Broadway, and a tattered poster I don’t understand, but the devil-baby graphics suck me in. Then I decide I like the larger composition even better: Manhattan Project + devil-baby + “Faro” +  the battered, barricaded windows + assorted scribbles.

The city — any city — just keeps throwing up these random art installations, the elements assembled by chance and disparate hands & intentions. Some cohere, some don’t. (Oooo, aren’t I playing the Deep Thinker! I’ll stop now.)

I don’t have any of these Deep thoughts at the time. I am immediately distracted by a bright red poster next to the devil-baby ensemble, and move in to read the fine print.

Later I find Expressions of Belonging online, and discover these events are being organized by a local Master’s student, not as part of her studies, just as a way to encourage human connections within the urban web. Coming up 23 September, so you still have time to mark your calendar if you’re local– but note the venue has moved to the Kitsilano Community Centre.

One last citizen of the urban web who demands our attention — a creature of many roles but, at this exact moment, playing parking vigilante.

There is always a crow.

 

Brown Trout & a Whole Bunch of Frogs

11 September 2018 – First, the frogs. We aren’t looking for brown trout at all.

Come to that, we aren’t even specifically looking for frogs, but we welcome them — the whole dancing tug-of-war of them — with a whoop of delight.

A whoop & a sigh or two of relief. Because we are searching out Burnaby’s eco-sculptures, and, despite an astoundingly confusing map, we’ve just made our first sighting. So who cares if it’s raining?

Burnaby, an adjacent municipality to Vancouver, launched this community eco-sculpture project in 2005, and has been developing it ever since. Each summer, to the delight of residents and tourists like us, the City’s parks, event floats and public spaces show off the current crop of birds/bees/eagles/whales/pollinators/frogs/cranes/owls/etc-&-so-forth.

Summer drought and heat took their toll, but recent rain and some judicious replanting have given the works a new — if necessarily brief — lease on life.

The details are just terrific.

On down the way a bit, and look! a trio called the Pollinator Series. Complete with a caterpillar …

a lady bug …

and a spider. (Not shown. Use your imagination.)

Some confused driving around while we try to sort out where to go next. My Vancouver-born friends consult maps, sat-nav and smart-phone apps up there in the front seats; I sit behind and keep my newbie mouth shut. No back-seat driving from this girl!

We whiz past a grouping of owls. They’re on a triangle of lawn surrounded by busy streets; no possible place to park and enjoy them; we circle around; there must be a way — and, yes, there is. If you don’t mind pretending you’re in that school parking lot because you’re about to visit the school.

Two adult owls, three baby owls, and absolutely worth that bit of vehicular trickery across the street.

Each baby owl has his own, very Canadian, underpinnings. This guy: snowshoes. His siblings: snow boots, and a toboggan respectively.

These sculptures are magnificently detailed on all sides. Check out mama’s back!

And while you’re there, check that red umbrella in the background, being held over someone in a yellow jacket. We can see they’re City maintenance workers, fiddling around with an open sewer grate. We’re curious.

Us, smiling: “Hi, what’re you doing?” Yellow Jacket, also smiling as he spools more wire into the sewer: “Fishing for brown trout.” Ho-ho-ho all around. Us: “Oh come on, what’re you really doing?” YJ: “Okay. We’re checking a repair we made.” Us: “Did it work?” YJ: “Yup.” Us: “Well, you’ve earned your trout.” More ho-ho-ho all around.

More sat-nav (etc) consultations and off we go, headed for Deer Lake Park. Miss Bossy-Boots on the sat-nav tells us to go here, and go there, and we do, and end up parked on a residential street, hoping Miss B-B got it right. Well, it’s right enough, and after a few human directions from passers-by we embark on the Deer Lake Trail.

But not before reading the Wildlife warning.

Isn’t that fun? Not enough you have to watch out for bears and coyotes and cougars — even the black squirrel is on the loose and dangerous. (What? He’ll chatter you to death?)

The Trail is lovely. And we don’t meet a single black squirrel. Or bear. Or cougar.

This brings us to Deer Lake and, over to one side, the Century Gardens and the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts. Where we again ask eco-sculpture directions. Fortunately, these Gardens are being given some early-fall TLC, and the crew help us out.

Good, thank you, got it: a couple of whales just down the road. But we are happily diverted en route. First by the three 14-ft ceramic poles in the Gardens, labelled Past, Present and Future.

They are the result of the Burnaby Community Clay Sculpture Project, which used Shadbolt Centre facilities and resources to engage professionals artists with students, seniors groups and other community members to create the three poles, each rich with imagery for its own theme.

The future, I discover …

will include Cloning.

Another diversion: we go into the Centre, expecting to indulge idle curiosity nothing more — and come out having pounced on the up-coming concert by Martha Wainwright. I’m more the era of her mum, Kate McGarrigle (as in Kate & Anna McGarrigle), but yes, my interest does extend to Martha and her brother Rufus. We buy tickets.

So that’s a big bonus to the day, and we don’t much mind that the eco-sculpture whales, when we finally get to them, are … underwhelming.

Back down Deer Lake Trail, enjoying the feather tucked into a post as we go …

and into the car, for the trip back to Vancouver.

“Look!” we cry, as we zip along the highway, and see Burnaby banners dancing on light standards …

“There’s the owl!” Now it means something to us. We feel good.

And the sun even comes out.

 

 

 

 

Click-Clack

5 September 2018 – August tumbles into September and, click-clack, fall is back.

“Back” is the word. Families back from holidays, children back in school, cultural seasons back in action.

“Gone” is also the word. Summer pleasures — click-clack — disappear.

“The piano is gone!” cries the little girl, obviously a regular visitor to Spyglass Place on False Creek. She stops dancing around the deck chairs long enough to peer over a chair back at the empty space …

where, all summer long, the brightly painted piano invited us to sit down and make music.

Summer colour begins to disappear as well, partly accelerated by drought, but also just the normal exhaustion of end-of-summer.

Yet even as grass, leaves and flowers wilt and fade, other colours explode into life.

The stream running through Hinge Park into False Creek, for example, is now a solid carpet of emerald green. All that pond weed, at its bravura best, after a full summer of unimpeded growth.

Good news for the ducks. They may have to paddle a little harder, to push their way through the greenery, but feeding now takes no effort at all. No diving needed: they lower their heads to water level, open their beaks, and let the nutrients flow in.

Meanwhile, we humans now find ourselves seeking, not rejecting, the sunny side of the street.

Click-clack

 

One, Two, Ruckle My Shoe

24 August 2018 – “R” not “B” — my shoes have laces not buckles, and they’re walking me through Ruckle Provincial Park. At 486 hectares, it’s the largest park in the Gulf Islands.

Getting here is part of the fun: first a bus from Ganges to the village of Fulford, then 15 minutes or so before another bus comes along for the trip across this south-easterly knob of Salt Spring Island, on over to the park.

The village is clustered close to Fulford Harbour, its shops geared not only to residents but also to transients waiting for one of the ferries than run from here to assorted other islands. I hang out on the dock, slowing down & settling into all this space and beauty. (Marred still by wild fire haze.)

Our bus arrives, and away we go.

I’m looking forward to Ruckle, even though I know nothing about it other than that it exists, and it can be reached by public transit. That’s enough for me! So, with lunch & water in my daypack, off I go. It becomes a figure-8 sort of exploration that keeps me close to water, first ranging well beyond Beaver Point going this way, and then looping back that way as far as Bear Point.

But really, I don’t care exactly how many klicks I walk or which landmarks I reach. As far as I’m concerned, everything is a delight.

The park offers dirt trails, here with the flourish of a tree-gate …

dirt trails with a footbridge …

rocky climbs …

and clearings with picnic tables.

The path in front of this table …

leads on to a secluded cove.

 

There are peek-a-boo views of the Swanson Channel …

and panorama views from high rocky ledges (with a sailboat and a ferry ghost-visible in the haze).

While well out beyond Beaver Point in my first loop, I realize I am coming to a camp ground. Tents only, no looming RVs, but I’m still working up to a pout. I want Nature, not campers.

Oh, all right, says Nature. Here!

If he’s not bothered, why should I be?

So I calm down, and promptly discover a second reason to appreciate the camp ground.

Isn’t this the best? I have to wait a moment to meet the host, though. At the moment — and you can almost make it out, in the shadows under the tent awning — he is pouring a bucket of rinsing water over his wife’s freshly washed hair. I wave at him to take his time, and a few minutes later he and his be-turbanned wife join me, smiling and happy to talk.

Turns out they are a retired couple, not islanders but quick to join other volunteers who take turns camping here each summer, living among the visitors, answering questions, generally being a helpful (and watchful) presence on-site.

They are typical of my day. Everyone I meet is affable, happy, having a good time and up for a moment’s chat. Just the right number of day-trippers, I decide: plentiful enough for the occasional exchange about where-are-we-now and what-a-great-day … but rare enough that there’s lots of time to enjoy the solitude.

Mid-afternoon I’m on the bus and back to Ganges. It’s a small  community, but after a day in the park’s tranquility how bustling and big-city it seems!

And then it offers its own enchantment.

I pass another of those painted pianos, watch two little girls fall under its spell, and promptly fall under their spell. Plink, plunk… giggle, giggle …

Then it’s up the hill toward my Airbnb, walking along the playing field by the school yard — and look, it’s a village soccer game. A couple of islanders have hunkered down to watch, I find a convenient spot on the edge of the skate park opposite, and join them.

It’s Yellow Vests vs. The Other Guys, all ages on both sides, and a female ref, her thick black braid bouncing on her back as she keeps up with the play.

I am a tourist, just another in the endless chain of tourists that come and go, doubling the island’s population each summer.

But, just for a moment, I feel like I belong.

Across the Salish Sea

21 August 2018 – I wouldn’t say this sign could only be found on an island, but it does have island DNA woven through its message — a cry of welcome, an invitation to adventure, and a reminder to behave yourself.

Read the fine print: I’m on Salt Spring Island, one of the Southern Gulf Islands scattered so generously across the waters of the Strait of Georgia between Vancouver Island and the B.C. mainland coast.

The waters may be a constant; their name is another matter. In 1791 Spanish explorers named the expanse for Nuestra Señora del Rosario la Marinera; in 1792 British explorer George Vancouver promptly renamed it in honour of King George III. And so it is still officially named.

On its own, that is.

But it is now also collectively identified with Puget Sound and Juan de Fuca Strait as a larger maritime entity, which is officially recognized — by both Canada and the United States — as the Salish Sea.

photo credit: straight.com

Long before those 18th-c. explorers came around, long before Spain or Britain even had empires, the Coast Salish peoples populated this area and sailed these waters.

When BC Ferries ordered three new ships (to replace two aging ones named Queen of This-and-That), all three had Salish embedded in their names. And so I arrive at SSI’s Long Harbour terminal aboard the Salish Raven.

She may have been built in Gdansk, Poland, but her imagery is the work of the young Coast Salish artist Thomas Cannell.

One more bit of name-game: Ganges, the main community and the one where I’m staying, is a nod to the Royal Naval battleship HMS Ganges, which conducted land surveys in the area on and off in the mid-19th century.

All good to know, but I’m thinking about nature, not linguistic politics, as I accept that “Everybody Welcome!” invitation. I start down the stairs, paying due attention to slippery/uneven surfaces as I go. Which they are. And who cares.

The view into Ganges Harbour, as I come ’round a staircase angle … well, it’s just what a Vancouver tourist hopes to see.

(Except for that milky sky. It’s the wildfire haze that still blankets the province, & will for a while yet.)

Back up the steps, on down Lower Ganges Rd.

Show me your village! I want shops & cafés, galleries & produce outlets, all the wonders of this amazing island of micro-business and nature. A total of some 11,000 residents and, boy, do they ever punch above their weight.

A quick reconnoitre into  artcraft, a showcase for Southern Gulf Islands artists & craftspeople, run by the Arts Council. I almost stop for an early latte at the outdoor café right beside it, but instead only slow down long enough to admire its painted piano and vow to return later on.

I ration crafts-shop visits once I hit town; one could overdose. I wander along the Harbour edge of Centennial Park, no such thing as overdosing on nature. More boats, more haze, and — thanks to the arbutus trees — lots of blaze as well.

I am always mesmerized by the arbutus…

‘Round the next bend, and look, another painted piano.

Bunnies, this time.

I come closer, the lid is up — showing its polite request to keep it closed, to protect the keyboard from rain.

I close it.

More bunnies. Cute as can be. (My old Toronto self thinks for a moment of street artist Poser-bunnies. Whole different genre…)

The grass in the park, like grass everywhere here, is parched to pale yellow. Doesn’t matter. I know how quickly it rebounds. So I don’t fuss about that for even a moment, I focus entirely on the fibre art hanging from the tree branches.

Later, next to Transitions thrift shop — run to support Island Women Against Violence — another decorated tree: the Gratitude Tree.

You’re invited to write your own message of gratitude on one of the leaves. Lots of messages, from a single word (e.g. “Hope”) to long descriptions of specific events.

And this one …

My sentiments exactly.

I visit Transitions, buy a couple of paperbacks, and set off for that café next to artcraft. Where, at a companion food truck, I buy a compose-your-own salad to go with my latte, and settle down to enjoy both …

with the painted piano and a leaping recycled-steel & cedar orca (Breachin Orca IV, Carl Sean McMahon) to keep me company.

 

 

 

Another Day, Another Alley

18 August 2018 – An alley was not the plan. The Tuesday Walking Society (Vancouver Division) was out in full twosome force, and the plan was to improve our minds with a hit of heritage architecture.

Specifically, a tour of the interior of this theatre, the largest in Canada when it opened in 1927 …

and once again a sparkling major theatrical presence in the city, following its restoration in the mid-1970s.

Scheduled tours all summer long, arrange ahead or just drop in; all fine.

Except when there is a film shoot that same day. As a polite little notice in the window informs us.

Never mind. We can adapt. If the theatre’s heritage interior is not available, we will console ourselves with its heritage alley right next door.

Welcome to Ackery’s Alley, nick-named for Ivan Ackery, who ran the Orpheum 1935-69 and helped visiting celebrities slip out a side door into the alley when they wanted to avoid adoring fans. Like the theatre itself, the alley deteriorated over time, and stayed scruffy a lot longer.

Until this very summer, in fact, when it became the second of the City’s downtown paint-the-alley projects. It may still be a service alley, but it’s now snazzy as all-get-out.

Good information, yes? Though perhaps you didn’t really need to have that last bit spelled out.

Great waves of colour undulate their way right up the walls …

and all over the recycling bins.

Anti-pigeon spikes are firmly attached to every horizontal surface.

Which, as Mama Pigeon discovers, makes them the perfect fence to support her nest and keep the babies from tumbling out.

I am not sympathetic to pigeons — the sight of them has me humming Tom Lehrer’s ditty, Poisoning Pigeons in the Park — but I catch myself applauding Mama P. for her ingenuity.

We repeatedly have to stop gawking at the alley’s paint job and leap out of the way of delivery trucks, threading their way through the narrow space, guided by Useful Guy working the film shoot.

He gets a moment to breathe between vehicles; that gives us a moment to admire his arms. He’s as snazzy as the rest of the alley!

And then finally away we go, Frances & I, walking on north through town, vaguely planning to reach Burrard Inlet somewhere around Canada Place, where we will then — probably — follow the seawall west for a bit.

An hour or so later, the time accounted for not by kilometres walked but diversions enroute, we reach Canada Place. The cranes on the Port of Vancouver’s Centennial Pier punch a dramatic orange through the haze, but the Coast Range Mountains, just across the Inlet, are almost totally obscured.

It is not a romantic mist, it is not Rain City about to have a rainy moment. It is wild fire smoke.

More than 500 fires are burning province-wide as I write this. We pause a moment, think about all the displaced people, all the exhausted fire fighters, all the terrified wild life, all the trees … all the loss.

We are sombre as we walk on.

Our mood doesn’t lighten until we pass this notice on a blocked staircase.

Oh! Sorry! is that one image too many? Am I boring you?

I apologize…

  • 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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