On the Other Hand (take 2)

(What you should have received)

28 September 2021 – On the other hand, we live in a both/and world.

Both the realities lamented by Yeats

and other realities as well.

Realities in the Camosun Bog, for example, where three perfect fungi climb the tree trunk immediately behind your boardwalk bench …

and the bog itself spreads wide before your eyes, a whole ecosystem, quietly breathing.

Or realities in Dude Chilling Park, where the natural ecosystem welcomes a continuing succession of social ecosystems, each one its own celebration of connection and community.

This drizzly evening, dozens of geocachers have gathered (fully compliant with BC virus regulations) to share stories, trinkets and know-how. I don’t know how and I’m not even trying to learn how, I’m just along for the ride, but all around me veterans and newbies are deep in conversation about their hobby, with its twin attractions of high tech and boots-on-ground.

Then the shout goes up: “Group photo, everybody!” People pile in under some sheltering tree branches, with one late arrival (over there on the right) doing a bum-plant in her haste.

Nobody has just one interest in life, and so this gathering is shot through with the textures of sub-gatherings, as people discover what else they have in common.

I am shown some painted rocks, newly tucked into the boundary of the adjacent community garden, and learn something of the back-story.

They have become a birthday symbol for the young boy who helped paint this latest crop, because one year ago, when COVID lock-down prevented any birthday party, his friends each painted a rock and placed it in front of his house, for him to admire from the required distance.

And I am introduced to Deirdre Pinnock, whose name means exactly nothing at all to me — but whose work I know and have on occasion shared with you. She’s our resident Yarn Artist! The person who adorns chain-link fences with crocheted hearts and other symbols of love, support and community.

I gaze at her in awe, and then tug her hand like an eager puppy dog. “Let me take your picture,” I beg. “Choose one of your works here in the park. Whichever.” She chooses the pole.

I walk back home significantly more cheerful than I was a couple of days ago. I am reminded that, Yeats to the contrary, society’s bad guys do not have a lock on passionate intensity. It exists among the good guys as well, in all kinds of wonderful, affirming ways and places.

Take heart. (Crocheted, or otherwise.)

On the Other Hand…

28 September 2021 – On the other hand, we live in a both/and world.

Both the realities lamented by Yeats

and other realities as well.

Realities in the Camosun Bog, for example, where three perfect fungi climb the tree trunk immediately behind your boardwalk bench …

and the bog itself spreads wide before your eyes, a whole ecosystem, quietly breathing.

Or realities in Dude Chilling Park, where the natural ecosystem welcomes a continuing succession of social ecosystems, each one its own celebration of connection and community.

This drizzly evening, dozens of geocachers have gathered (fully compliant with BC virus regulations) to share stories, trinkets and know-how. I don’t know how and I’m not even trying to learn how, I’m just along for the ride, but all around me veterans and newbies are deep in conversation about their hobby, with its twin attractions of high tech and boots-on-ground.

Then the shout goes up: “Group photo, everybody!” People pile in under some sheltering tree branches, with one late arrival (over there on the right) doing a bum-plant in her haste.

Nobody has just one interest in life, and so this gathering is shot through with the textures of sub-gatherings, as people discover what else they have in common.

I am shown some painted rocks, newly tucked into the boundary of the adjacent community garden, and learn something of the back-story.

They have become a birthday symbol for the young boy who helped paint this latest crop, because one year ago, when COVID lock-down prevented any birthday party, his friends each painted a rock and placed it in front of his house, for him to admire from the required distance.

And I am introduced to Deirdre Pinnock, whose name means exactly nothing at all to me — but whose work I know and have on occasion shared with you. She’s our resident Yarn Artist! The person who adorns chain-link fences with crocheted hearts and other symbols of love, support and community.

I gaze at her in awe, and then tug her hand like an eager puppy dog. “Let me take your picture,” I beg. “Choose one of your works here in the park. Whichever.” She chooses the pole.

I walk back home significantly more cheerful than I was a couple of days ago. I am reminded that, Yeats to the contrary, society’s bad guys do not have a lock on passionate intensity. It exists among the good guys as well, in all kinds of wonderful, affirming ways and places.

Take heart. (Crocheted, or otherwise.)

“Passionate Intensity…”

25 September 2021 – An old poem, with new signifiance.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre   

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst   

Are full of passionate intensity.

The Second Coming, first stanza, by W.B. Yeats, 1919

Reference texts note that Yeats wrote this poem in the immediate aftermath of a global war.

We may today instead note that he wrote it in the middle of a global pandemic.

Old Logs & Floating Red

22 September 2021 – Old logs from the get-go; floating red has to wait its turn.

I’ve made my way to Barnet Marine Park in Burnaby, driven by sheer curiosity. I’ve never been here before, it’s on the water, and the rain has more or less probably mostly stopped. What else could I want?

Initially I turn east, away from the pathways and any sense of capital-P Park, hopping across a braided rivulet one thread at a time, onto this stretch of quiet beach.

I’m on the south shore of Burrard Inlet, pretty well right above the “nab” in the word “Burnaby” below (and thank you, Wikipedia for the map).

(An aside: I’m grateful finally to learn the names of each segment of the Inlet, but perplexed by the sequencing. Outer, then Inner, and only then Central? ??? Shouldn’t Central come between … Oh, never mind.)

Logs are plentiful, lying along the high-water mark, everywhere you look, part of the environment. Grasses with log …

and fallen leaves (plus one crab shell) with log …

and then evidence of Barnet’s past: purposeful logs, arranged for cause.

This narrow little park (1.5 km long), in additional to its long traditional role as a harvesting/gathering/processing site for Coast Salish peoples, became a lumber and logging mill camp in the early 20th century.

I will see more evidence of that history once I turn, recross that rivulet, and head back west.

I turn, and there it is, ‘way down there in the distance: floating red. How the eye is drawn to red. I don’t walk that way because of it, but I am aware of it, and calibrate my progress by the growing size of that freighter.

There are pathways, now that I’m in the developed section of the park, and I walk on west with this line-up of poles. Floating red on the right now has a partner: vertical red near shore on the left, a marker of some sort?

I veer slightly inland for a bit, catch that red marker pole from another angle, now just off the end of this concrete remnant of the old industrial days.

More poles marching west, and now a quartet of reds to keep them company: two floating, punch-punch, and two bouncing along, the jackets of visitors exploring the shoreline.

More logs …

and even more logs, now surely the remains of a wharf?

Benches line the path, most of them with a plaque. I always read the plaque, respond to the story, and, this time …

I act on it.

I sit. I enjoy the view. I watch this couple paddle closer and closer to shore, finally to beach their kayaks, tired and happy. (Tone of voice carries, if not the words.) They’re headed for home.

Soon, so am I. I retrace my steps and, before heading inland and uphill to the bus stop, look back to the water.

One final juxtaposition of old logs and floating red …

plus a heron. He turns his head just so, to display that magnificent beak.

Along the Spine

11 September 2021 – “Yes,” we decide, studying the print-out of a Mural Festival neighbourhood map, “Strathcona’s a good choice. Nice cluster of murals along that Cordova/East Hastings spine between Heatley and Campbell.”

We each have some familiarity with this east-of-East-Van neighbourhood, my friend much more than I, but it’s the first time we’ve come here focused on murals. Not that we care that much — it’s good walking territory, no matter what.

But, oh yes, there are murals!

We stand on Campbell, laughing with delight as we stare westward down the alley between East Hastings and Cordova.

Flowers to the left of us …

dancing aerosole cans to the right …[

after that a three-storey building painted top to bottom, side to side …

and just a little farther along, this bold triptych, its cheerful style in stark contrast to the fencing and razor wire that protect it.

Strathcona is a decidedly mixed neighbourhood, with problems as well as gaiety. All the more reason to admire and salute everything they do so well, while dealing with their other realities.

Same alley block, yet more charm. This time an ocean-to-mountains-to-ocean mural, starting at this end with a leaping whale and (off the lower-right corner of the window, by the downpipes) a yellow pop-up seal …

and ending, on the far side of the mountain range, with the world’s most adorable little otter, waving his paw.

We’re out of the alley now, on Cordoba itself & heading for Heatley, thinking everything else will surely be an anti-climax.

Wrong!

That VW bug need offer no apologies. Even if the pigeon is unimpressed. (He’s there. You’ll find him.)

Barely onto a city street proper and we’re off it again, pulled into yet another alley to investigate flashes of colour obscured by the street-front buildings.

This is what we wanted to see close up, my friend telling me the history of this old family company while I go goofy-happy about the colours, the typography, the peeling paint, the paint-brush image on that open door.

Another voice, unexpected and unexpectedly close, urges me to take a picture of that as well.

I look up. The workman, carefully balancing his take-out coffee in one hand, points across the alley with his chin. “That,” he repeats. “Look!”

Yes, wow, look.

I ask if he’s a fan of street art. He waves aside the abstraction, sticks to the reality of this alley. “I work here,” he says. “Watched them paint that. I like it.”

I catch up with my friend, who is talking with some Harm Reduction workers down at the Hawks end of the block. I contemplate this … what? tea ceremony? … mural.

We emerge onto Hawks, look back down the alley, bright murals of assorted eras to both sides and there, on the left, the alley end of the East Van Community Centre garden that stretches up to and along East Hastings.

As we skirt the garden, we exchange nods with a middle-aged man at one of the picnic tables by the sidewalk, and then fall into conversation with him. He looks like he has known a tough life, but there is peace and dignity in his posture and he describes current produce in relaxed, clear, well-chosen language. He knows a lot about gardening, we later agree.

“Go look at the pumpkins,” he urges us, and crinkles his eyes in farewell as we nod agreement and head off down Hastings, to look for the pumpkins.

A while later we’re at Campbell and East Hastings, waiting for the light to change so we can claim the car and go have lunch at Finch’s up on East Georgia.

I stare kitty-corner across the intersection at the housing development on the other side. It’s Moshe Safdie’s Habitat 67 reborn right here in Strathcona, we agree — but a lot more colourful. (And more affordable.)

We fall into city-as-art-installation mode. Look: the colours of the building reflect the colours of the banner and the traffic signals.

Enough art appreciation. We’re off to Finch’s.

8:15 PM

5 September 2021 – That “long slide to dusk” I wrote about on 18 July has grown markedly shorter.

Sunset then: 9:10 pm. Sunset now: 7:45 pm.

But there is still the afterglow!

Another half-hour of magic, lingering in the sky.

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.

  • 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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