Still “in the midst”; Always in the midst

27 November 2021 – There was a break; now it is raining again.

We have begun what is predicted to become a “parade” of “atmospheric rivers.”

I cannot help observing that this is a mixed metaphor: a parade of rivers? Yet the reality it describes is so worrisome that I would find it unacceptable to get all snippy about the scrambled language. (And I am one who can turn snippy at the drop of a syllable, let alone a whole scramble.)

All this somehow circles me back to my previous post, and dictates today’s follow-through. Because we’re always in the midst of it all, aren’t we? Life’s just like that; it’s a both/and package, all the time. Denying myself the joy of Saturday’s Culture Crawl would not have made floodwaters recede out in the Valley.

Concurrent realities. Both/and.

One of the joys, on Saturday, was the discovery of Samantha Reynolds’ poem, My Version of Aging, while prowling the Eastside Atelier over on Clark. I’d never heard of her, but liked the poem enough to show it to all of you, and some of you liked it a lot as well. So I looked her up.

Well! Turns out she is a BC entrepreneur, head of the ECHO Storytelling Agency with some pretty big brand-name clients — but she only founded ECHO as a consequence of becoming Bentlily. And she became Bentlily because one day, bored witless at some corporate luncheon, she noticed a bent lily in the otherwise impeccable flower arrangement on the table. That so perked her up she decided to write a poem a day, as a way to force herself to be present, to notice, to observe, and share the results.

Visit her Bentlily website. Consider signing up, and receiving more of her poems.

She encourages sharing them, by the way, and I am about to do exactly that with this one, because it’s the one I need right now, in the midst of our particular BC right-now. Wherever you are, you have your own right-now to navigate, and maybe this poem will be an encouragement for you as well.

Especially the final stanza.

No Shame in Happiness

“There is no shame
in the serene drunkenness
you get when you stand
under a linden tree in summer,
wearing the smell of honey
and the rumble of contented bees
around you like a bonnet.

“There is no shame
in careening downhill on a bike
with your legs out wide
as the wind lifts the heat
right out of the air
and you are going so fast
no one can even hear you singing.

“There is no shame
in loving the movie you saw
without restraint,
in reading whatever
you want to read,
in admitting
wholeheartedly
to hope.

“Who told you
it was ignorant
to be happy?

“How dare they forbid
something so close
to peace?

“Happiness does not ignore suffering;
it is what makes the suffering
bearable enough
so there is energy
leftover
for change”

In the Midst of It All

21 November 2021 – The Eastside Culture Crawl is in full swing, but I almost didn’t give myself permission to take part. It seemed trivial, disrespectful, to go enjoy myself while so much of the province is overwhelmed with destruction and loss.

A succession of Atmospheric Rivers has unleashed widespread once-in-a-century flooding, mudslides, mass evacuations and, at latest count, caused four deaths. Vancouver is spared, but in the midst of all this, how dare we have fun?

And then I try to get my brain engaged, along with my heart. Staying home in Vancouver will not drive back floodwaters in the Fraser Valley. So I make a contribution to a competent disaster-relief agency already active on the ground (I chose the Salvation Army, but there are many others) — and I head out the door.

In the midst of disaster, there is also life and courage and connection. Local artists also deserve support.

I’ve plotted a walking tour, starting with a couple of venues pretty close to home, just downhill off the east end of False Creek, in the Flats. Logical that this should be home to artists, the area was one of the earliest (2016) Vancouver Mural Festival sites as well.

And here’s proof, corner of Main and Industrial Avenue. Look at those murals off to the east and north!

First target, the Arts Factory at 281 Industrial Avenue. Oh good, the Crawl has pop-up signage…

The usual visual kaleidoscope typical of these warehouse locations — so much art, so many types, against a backdrop of pipes, valves, dangling wires and, why not, dog bed with stuffed toy thrown in.

Everybody masked, everybody vetted for Vaccine Record card and photo ID, hand sanitizers all over the place… I talk to assorted artists, spend time with Iran-born Laleh Javaheri. I’m drawn to her deft wire bird doodles …

which she explains illustrate a folk tale in her homeland. Her main work, though, is felt and fibre art, and I realize that a big piece I saw on another wall, Winter

is also by her.

Out in a hall, prowling. Past the green bike and mannequin cyclist, draped in the works of leather artist Ian Greenwood …

and after more halls, more walls, more standing/dangling/draped/floating displays, I am finally back out on Industrial Avenue with my next venue in mind.

I turn north onto Station Street (with Pacific Central Station down there at the end), and cross Southern Street.

I peer into Southern as I pass, still bright with some of those early VMF murals.

Crossing Central Street now, also mural-marked, though none of them VMF-official.

But very much part of the culture! This Culture Crawl, I realize, is only partially, very partially, about the official artists’ venues. For me, it’s the entire context.

Left turn onto Northern Street. “Culture” only in the sociological sense, nuthin’ artistic right here.

Other end of the block, over at Western Street, and here’s the signage.

Up the stairs, at 240 Northern …

with Rob Friedman’s explosion of stained glass on the right …

and Warren Murfitt’s guitar-making and wood-working studio across the hall.

Murfitt finishes what he’s doing as some other visitors also enter his space. He joins us, talks about the woods he uses for the different types of guitar he makes — some rescued wood, some local, some not. And some, to our astounded giggles, from the very building that houses him. “There was a beam there, it wasn’t supporting anything, I harvested it…”

And now a longer hike, eastward to Clark Street. To my delight, I discover there’s a bike/pedestrian pathway running between Terminal Avenue and the train tracks.

I follow it and I follow it, and I’m cheered finally to see what might be Clark, just down there framed by the Grandview Viaduct on the left, with its mural, and Skytrain lines swooping overhead.

Except it’s not Clark, it’s Glen, and I’m in a dead end. Glen ends here, and Terminal — by now I’m on Terminal — well, Terminal is terminal. So I go into that handsome furniture store and ask directions. All is well! Or will become well. I just have to backtrack, and scramble up the embankment onto the Viaduct, which has a sidewalk as well as all those lanes of traffic. It will take me across the tracks and over to Clark Street.

So I do all that, and here I am. Consult my Crawl map… head north on Clark … pass Henry’s Hip Eats and Strange Fellows brewery as I go (all part of the eastside culture) …

and, hurray!, here I am at William Street. And there, right across the street, is my next venue, with its sidewalk signage.

Eastside Atelier. More stairs.

Another of those wonderfully jumbled warrens of hallways, doorways, sudden openings, spaces looping into and around each other.

I circle that imposing wooden sculpture, and discover that it’s a horse-of-course.

Dalyn Berryman’s Palomino, created with Tofino, Squamish River and Furry Creek driftwood.

There are exquisite small works of art, such as this pottery bowl with its moss ornaments…

and an acerbic notice (by the same artist) to behave ourselves when we enter her workspace.

I don’t enter. Instead I stand in the hall, bemused by the artwork framing the claw-foot bathtub opposite.

Around another corner, and this wonderful ode to aging.

It hangs with the works of Annette Nieukerk, whose art celebrates the beauty of aging bodies.

I walk around a while longer, and eventually head back out to Clark, and then on home.

And I vow never to be tempted to iron my skin. Never.

  • 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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