Water & Woodland

3 October 2019 – We’re in Stanley Park, that 400-hectare bulge of West Coast rainforest where False Creek swells into English Bay, Burrard Inlet and beyond that the Strait of Georgia, all of it part of the Salish Sea.

I get dizzy trying to grasp all that, but I don’t have to. We’re firmly on land, in the Park, and we have a more-or-less plan: Seawall for a while, then up onto Merilees Trail where we can overlook the Seawall and Burrard Inlet, then … ummm … then probably forest trails around & back down.

Which is pretty well how it works.

Fresh, breezy fall day, bright sun, sparkling water, then into the forest. It is terrific.

Somewhere past Second Beach, heading towards Fergusons Point, this circle of stones in the water. Not a random act of nature; too deliberately placed for that. Perhaps someone’s tribute to Don Vaughan’s Waiting for Low Tide installation in False Creek?

From mute, stationary stones to a noisy, busy dog. He is splashing furiously through the water just off Third Beach to chase — yet again! — the stick thrown — yet again! — by his patient owners. Another, lazier dog watches from the shore; we watch from our viewpoint high on Merilees Trail.

We stick with the trail, thank you, despite the passing (male) hiker who crisply informs us it is “boring” and we should immediately drop back down to the Seawall. Our choice rewards us, and eventually, with a bit of hacking about, here we are at Prospect Point Lookout.

We can look down-down-down to the water, and we do. We can look up-and-to-the-right to Lions Gate Bridge, and we do. We can also look straight overhead to watch a seaplane arc through the sky.

And we do.

Now we turn inland, away from ocean views to follow first Prospect Trail and then the Bridle Path, curving down through the heart of the forest.

It is quite, quite magic.

Nurse logs everywhere, their decaying old growth feeding voracious new growth in the forest’s endless cycle of regeneration.

They come every which shape. Sometimes a craggy island of stumps, rising from a sea of forest litter all around …

Sometimes a single shoulder-height remnant of trunk, silver-tipped …

Sometimes horizontal instead, smothered in mossy green …

with luminous white mushrooms glowing nearby.

Oh… I don’t know they’re mushrooms. Maybe they’re toadstools? I wasn’t rude enough to tip one over and check its gills (brown-to-black in a mature true mushroom, still white in a mature toadstool).

But maybe it’s just as well we keep our ungloved hands to ourselves. Later on, one online photo of Death Cap mushrooms — now proliferating in Vancouver, reports tell us — looks suspiciously like our guys. Though maybe not: Death Cap seems to have a silky smooth cap; ours are ruffled.

So I don’t know, and I don’t much care, because I think they’re beautiful, and all I want to do is admire them, not eat them. (Still, if you can identify them, please do.)

By now we’re obsessed with nurse logs, playing spot-the-hidden-nurse-log as we walk.

And look, there one is. A huge mound, a long-buried nurse log surely, with its new growth, now mature trees, rising triumphantly above.

There is a whole lot of “rising triumphantly” going on in this forest.

What’s the scale? you ask; how high would a human being rise against that vee?

This high.

Getting pretty far down the Bridle Path by now, soon we’ll hit Lost Lagoon and begin to rejoin urban bustle.

One more soaring tree before we go  …

and we finally emerge from the trails into the noise and parking lots — but also the amenities — where city streets butt up against parkland near Second Beach.

Into a brew pub! And into big bowls of clam chowder.

 

The Rough with the Smooth

26 September 2019 – Some days, you get it all.

We encounter the rough while walking westward through Thornton Park, just in front of Pacific Central train station  …

and later on I encounter the smooth while walking eastward again past David Lam Park on the north side of False Creek.

This is one of my favourite sculptures, Marking High Tide by Don Vaughan, and look — rising tide is just beginning to lap across the lowest of the stepping-stones.

Door to Door

19 September 2019 – Two walking women meet one walking man.

Not any old walking man — this is Walking Man (Howard Street, Glasgow), by Alex Tedlie-Stursberg.

Thing is, we’re not in Glasgow. We’re in Eihu Lane, downtown Vancouver — specifically the two blocks of this commercial laneway, wedged between Alberni & Robson, that lie between Burrard & Bute.

It is a very busy commercial lane.

More than once, we have to summon our inner gazelle & leap to safety. (Not as gracefully as the gazelle, perhaps, but with the same sense of urgency.)

It’s worth it. We are walking the City’s new Canvas Corridor — 45 murals adorning back doors and vents, in a laneway project involving downtown business associations, the City of Vancouver and 27 artists (culled from hundreds of applicants via the Simon Fraser University School for Contemporary Arts and the Vancouver Mural Festival).

There are delicately haunting doorways (I Hate Rain, Nadia So) …

vibrating doorways (Holy Mountain/Man, Adam Rashid) …

two-fers …

and even four-fers.

There’s a city on the tip-tilt (City, Jag Nagra) …

and a sraight-up heart …

with, just like it says …

Enough Room For One More (Justine Crawford).

We laugh and point and compare/contrast and leap out of the way of trucks and leap back into mid-lane and, finally, realize it’s time to put on our skates (with Skatemail man, Graeme Kirk) …

and leave the alley.

So we follow that cement mixer as he pulls away …

and get one final treat.

Just look what he was obscuring

Hello Malayan Tiger, thank you Elaine Chen.

(And yes, this is the twice-promised post, about the rendezvous I was rushing to keep when that panel of VSE hand signals slowed me down.)

 

PR, Right & Wrong

4 September 2019 – I’ll start with Wrong, and work up.

Wrong PR

Prince Rupert is the wrong PR. When I described and showed you my 2 km walk along the Salish Sea (previous post), I took great pains to sort out Malaspina Strait / Georgia Strait / Salish Sea … and then calmly located it all in Prince Rupert.

When, of course, I meant Powell River. That PR. I really did know where I was, I promise you, and I was not floating on any interesting substances at the time.

I put it down to “a fit of absence of mind.” If this explanation is good enough for John Robert Seeley, when describing how England came to conquer half the world (The Expansion of England, 1883), it is surely good enough for me.

Right PR

PR now in the sense of follow-up publicity for Silver Donald Cameron’s book, The Living Beach.  He wrote it after a conversation with a Canadian coastal geologist about beach behaviour caused him first to exclaim, “You talk as though the damn thing were alive!” — and then go learn a whole lot more about beaches, and share it all with us.

Never mind those other online sources: go to Silver Donald Cameron‘s own website, check out the book, buy it if you wish, and start exploring what else is on offer.

A long-time author and activist, Cameron is currently the first Farley Mowat Chair in the Environment at Cape Breton University, and host and executive producer of The Green Interview — the online home for conversations with “thinkers, writers and activists whose ideas and work are leading the way to a new era of sustainability.”

David Suzuki on the west coast, Silver Donald Cameron on the east: lucky Canada, to have the country bracketed by such a lively, thoughtful and enjoyable pair of environmental thinkers and communicators.

How about one last Powell River beach photograph? Seems only appropriate. Here we are,  overlooking Willingdon Beach, a-glow with the setting sun.

 

I am now back in Vancouver. (And, I think, my mind is back as well.)

 

 

2 Km Along the Salish Sea

2 September 2019 – But let us be more precise.

(Deep breath.) The Powell River Sea Walk Trail runs for 2 km south from Westview Wharf along the intertidal areas of the adjacent Malaspina Strait, which lies between Texada Island and this mainland coast and is a subset of the Strait of Georgia, which (another deep breath) in turn and in combination with the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound, comprise the Salish Sea.

One more bit of commentary and then, I promise you, I’ll get on with the walk. I never thought about intertidal zones or what truly constitutes a “beach” until I read Silver Donald Cameron‘s remarkable book, The Living Beach. First published in 1998, it’s still available (check the usual online sources) and if you’d like to know why you should try to seek it out, read this review in Quill & Quire. Whatever the date of the review (not given, tsk tsk), the analysis is not dated.

On with the walk!

I very slightly already know Westview Wharf. I stood here several evenings ago, transfixed like other strollers by the late-day sun as it began its descent to the ocean below.

But now it is today, and noon-ish, and the blazing sun is having a high old laugh at the weather forecast that promised clouds.

There has been habitat amelioration along the first part of this Trail, notably to enhance the eelgrass beds and the salt marshes. Shore grasses and wildflowers have that late-summer, exhausted look about them…

The Trail pamphlet urges me to watch for Harlequin ducks, Great Blue Heron and Harbour seals, but makes no mention of vigilant pussycats.

I do later see one GBH, but no seals and only generic (to my ignorant eyes) duck-ducks, no identifiable Harlequins. Mind you, I get to watch a black & white stand-off, gulls vs crows, much squawking and flapping as they argue some choice bit of carrion.

There’s another wharf mid-way south, a marina offering more private docking. I see, overhear & chat with some of the visiting mariners, some strolling the Trail and others briskly returning to their boats with provisions.

The beach becomes rockier, gradations from sand to boulders, no more marshland.

Many benches along the way, most strictly utilitarian (wood on metal frames, sturdy & comfortable), but with a few stand-outs, including a trio by First Nations carvers (Tla’amin or Shishálh, I don’t know which).

One is brightly coloured …

and the other two incised but unpainted, giving the design itself that much more impact.

I look north again across the trio, my eye shooting past the heart of town, right up to the mill at the far end, with its plume of smoke rising to join those cloud-puffs on the right. (And we know, don’t we, that The Hulks are up there as well, a necklace of protection for the mill and its activities.)

Rocky beaches always mean inukshuks.

No surprise there should be one right here, along with the driftwood “gate” …

at the end of the Trail.

 

 

 

 

PR Fauna (Visible & Invisible) and a Candle

1 September 2019 – This was not the plan. I meant to be up in Lund today, truly end of the road, soaking up sights & thoughts to share with you in a post to be so-cutely entitled, “197 Km from Home.”

Turns out Info-Centre Lady was wrong. She had assured me I was just in time: today would be the last run this summer of the seasonal Sunday bus service to Lund. No. My unrewarded vigil at the bus stop proved that when the Transit authority said it was a July-August service, they meant literally that. And today is September, isn’t it?

So (in my very best mature/philosophic traveller way) I thought to myself, Never mind… let’s just see what Powell River wants to offer me today instead.

It offered me fauna, visible & invisible, and a candle.

By “fauna” I do mostly mean animals, and I bet you’re waiting for at least a bear. Maybe no cougar, no elk, not here in town, but at least a bear.

I will show you an invisible bear.

You can’t see him, and neither did I.

But while I was taking this photo at the Log Dump the other day, a couple stopped their car long enough to tell that that I was standing exactly — exactly — where they had seen a bear just the day before. I thanked them politely, and later wondered whether they’d been hoping for a more excited reaction than that.

On to the invisible wasps.

A practically invisible warning, too, thanks to the day’s intermittent showers. Still, I appreciate the City’s efforts to prevent any collision between human skin and wasp stingers.

Enough invisibles, on to the visibles.

Polecrows! (If we can have Polecats, why not polecrows?)

Speaking of cats, a cat named Spot …

and a dog named No! …

and a … ummmm … an owlcat.

Beak of owl, ears of pussycat, all we lack is the pea-green boat. But, look, owlcat is pea-green. So Edward Lear would approve, after all.

On to the candle.

To my delight, the Powell River Forestry Museum is open today, down there on Willingdon Beach.  I go in, not just to see what they have, but also to tell them how much I enjoyed the trail through the forest (another project of the Powell River Forestry Heritage Society) and all that it taught me about the history of the industry and the equipment that has been part of it.

So here I am, walking around, and I meet a candle. The Swedish Candle, sometimes aka The Finnish Candle, or even, The Canadian Candle.

You will suspect me of showing you an invisible candle, out there somewhere with the bear and the wasps, but no … that log is the candle.

Lund would have been a whole different day. But this one was just fine.

 

 

2HOT4U

15 August 2019 – No, no, indeed not. Never 2HOT4 you.

Allow me to broaden the claim: never 2HOT4 us.

That’s just Vancouver graphic artist Alex Joukov having his little joke …

tucked into his contribution to the 4th annual Vancouver Mural Festival.

We’ve just emerged from the 10-day event (1-10 August), which this year added another 25 or so street murals to the 97 created in previous years, all of it carried out through the not-for-profit Create Vancouver Society.

The epicentre is my own Mount Pleasant neighbourhood. I wandered into the festival by accident that very first year while doing an Airbnb stint in this part of town — talk about serendipity! — and I’ve loved it ever since. This year it’s a mix of local artists (of various backgrounds, including indigenous) plus ones from Australia, Japan, Argentina and the USA.

There’s a whole clutch of new works right around Manitoba and West 7th, including Alex’s car-on-fire, in a great range of styles.

Everything from William Liao’s haunting face down an alley …

to Pablo Zamudio’s dramatic play of colour & line, in a neighbouring alley.

We watch murals take form, from one day to the next.

One day, there’s the barest whisper of sketch marks on the wall …

and next day, bold colour owns the wall.

Artists work in all sorts of ways. Up on an accordian-pleat Skyjack, as you’ve just seen,

or …

on a vast multi-storey scaffolding grid,

or …

 

on a human-scale wooden ladder,

or …

up in a cherry picker.

Through whatever combination of mood, temperament, and work pressure, the artists either ignore the onlookers, briefly acknowledge their presence, or — as with the Argentinian artists who comprise Medianeras (above) — engage with us, rise to our interest.

The women field our questions, talk about what they’re creating, and point out the footprints they have helpfully painted into the pavement below, showing us exactly where to stand for the best possible view.

We comply.

And we see just how, as intended, the human being on the side of this entrance-way does indeed seem to be emerging from the building.

I double back to the Festival’s gallery on 7 1/2 Lane, between Ontario & Quebec streets and (as the Lane’s own name tells you) between 7th and 8th avenues. Several new works are in progress, joining several from other years, including this 2018 contribution by Linsey Levendall.

It’s moody, skillful work, given an unintended zap by the current placement of that dumpster, right under the subject’s nose.

But … that’s street art, isn’t it? Each piece lives with everything else in its environment. It’s a dance with changing circumstances, and we the viewers, through our reactions, keep the beat.

One final work I have to photograph, right there among the 7 1/2 Lane murals.

“That’s not part of the festival,” somebody helpfully tells me. Good grief, I know that.

But who can ignore Romulus and Remus?

I Stop! (Twice)

3 August 2019 – So here I am, deep downtown and just flowing down the street. Flowing, not bouncing — my body, like my mind, still caught in a post-concert trance of Mozart rhythms.

And then, I stop.

Not so much for this amber hand, as for the basilisk stare behind it …

the defining feature of Traffic Bear.

(I would honour him with his proper indigenous name, but unfortunately these photo-wrapped signal boxes don’t always identify the artist or composition.)

And I walk on, I flow on, over one street, down two …

and I stop again.

My back to the law courts, my face up-tilted,

to watch real clouds drift past, checking out the art-clouds on the building below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wandering

28 July 2019 – My feet are wandering, as they tend to do, but more obediently than usual. This time they are trotting along with others, all of us on a neighbourhood tour of “lower Mount Pleasant” (close-ish to the south-east end of False Creek).

The guide is pointing out evidence of the social, industrial and built heritage of the area: remnants of the vernacular residential architecture of the 1910s, for example (gables, wood cladding and off-set front doors) …

or …

remnants of mid-century shop signage. (Bike Woman is listening to our guide, who is out of frame to the left.)

I am also listening, I am, but while my feet are obedient wanderers, my eyes are rebellious wanderers, and they keep leading my mind a-stray.

Here we are being shown one of those early homes, still surviving and freshly painted.

Only my eyes bounce off the bright paint, weave through the tree branches, and fasten on that bit of street mural beyond.

Now we’re being told more about the history of this house, and the (woeful) state of heritage designation in the area. My eyes instead slide along the building’s side wall and hop over alley space to contemplate the shipwreck in turquoise waters, ‘way down there.

And so it goes.

Another intersection, more information, and, though my feet are behaving themselves, my eyes are still on the prowl.

Look! A whole exuberant dance across that white wall over there, nicely framed by modes of transport: a sturdy truck up close, a sleek auto-share vehicle across the street, and guy wheeling his bike through the doorway.

Next, a neat little square of mural, far end of that parking-lot grid, tucked behind the hydro pole …

and, later, a huge full-wall’s worth of faces, with the vacant lot offering an unobstructed view of every detail.

Nothing distant about this one! We’re on the pavement right in front.

Smack-dab under the dog’s whiskers, and still, the guide manages to ignore him.

She is just not a street-art kind of gal. (I shouldn’t beat up on her — we all edit what we’re going to notice and not notice, otherwise we couldn’t get through the day.)

She does mention the company, though: apparently Mount Pleasant Furniture does a roaring business renting props to movie shoots in town.

Their doorway window gives just the tiniest indication of how many props must be on offer.

Tour over, and my feet, eyes and mind are now free to wander in unison.

Feet stop while eyes and mind enjoy this real, live dog on Main Street, patiently waiting for his human to abandon the delights of the Cartems “donuterie” and take him home.

Feet stop again just across the intersection.

Eyes read, mind again enjoys this street ode that I have read before …

with summer tree-shade bringing the text to life.

I do pause, one further moment.

And then — feet, eyes, mind, and everything in between — I wander on home.

 

Tributes

15 July 2019 – The first is a deliberate, specific tribute. It frames how I look at things for the rest of my walk.

** Outside the Native Education College, tucked into an alcove in the base of this soaring totem pole (Wil Sayt Bakwhlgat, “The place where the people gather”) by Nishga master carver Norman Tait …

a fresh bouquet of flowers in vivid orange wrapping …

a loving tribute to someone, from someone.

** Bordering one side of sleek new condos just where False Creek meets The Flats, an equally sleek channel of water running through deliberately rusted new steel & installed above age-rusted old railway tracks …

a developer’s tribute to the industrial/railway history of this area.

** By the seawall and children’s play area at the east end of False Creek, in a discreet line of porta-potties …

a tribute to fully-accessible (and very regal) raccoons. (Though it would be a more impressive tribute without the padlock on the door.)

 ** Under the Cambie St. bridge, where it runs into Coopers Park on the north side, a view of the painted pilings, A False Creek, by Rhonda Webbler and Trevor Mahovsky …

a public-art tribute to the need for environmental activism. These stripes mark the mid-point in the 4 – 6 metre rise in sea levels predicted by the UN body, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

** Just east of David Lam Park, where pedestrian and bicycle paths run right next to each other …

a tribute to public caution and common sense. (Or so The Community Against Preventable Injuries devoutly hopes.)

** At one end of the Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre, in the CPR Engine 374 Pavilion, on the site of the one-time CPR roundhouse …

the engine herself, lovingly maintained and displayed by the West Coast Railway Association …

a tribute to our first national railway line, and to this very engine which, on 23 May 1887, pulled the first train into the city of Vancouver.

** Outside the Pavilion, in the Arts & Rec Centre courtyard …

a tribute to Bastille Day! Food, drink, music, displays, and lots & lots of tricolor.

** In the sidewalk at the north end of the Burrard St. bridge, one of the City’s 22 mosaic tile inserts, each 9 ft square and containing 3,500-4,500 hand-cut ceramic pieces …

this one, Fireworks Over English Bay by Bruce Walther, a tribute indeed to fireworks and to English Bay, but also to the lavishly-styled Burrard St. bridge, such a tonic for Depression-weary citizens when it opened on 1 July 1932.

I walk on for a bit after that, but no more tributes.

Except for my own silent thank-you to my faithful feet…

 

 

 

 

  • 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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