False Creek, Real Action

30 January 2020 – The afternoon break in the rain arrives as promised, and I’m out the door and down to False Creek. Where I wander along, tune in to the action — and realize action can be latent, as well as right-now.

Start with right-now. Kayakers just off Olympic Village, a pair of enthusiasts I will meet again and again in this walk as they ply this end of the Creek, though I don’t know that yet.

Then another example of right-now action — but well camouflaged.

I’m looking out over the little man-made island just off Hinge Park, when a near-by pedestrian crooks a finger to beckon me closer. He invites me to sight along his furled umbrella, and murmurs, “Otter. His head. Looks like just another rock there at water’s edge, except it’s moving. See? Just down to the right from that gull?”

I look, watch, wait for bobbing motion. And I see.

You won’t see. You’ll just see the gull, that white flash at the upper edge of the island’s tip. After that … a pile of rocks. Perfect camouflage.

No camouflage here! Crows squawking their heads off, assembling in the tree for their afternoon commute back out to Burnaby.

No camouflage here either, and definitely an example of right-now action. That’s my black-clad toe at the top of the Cambie Bridge spiral staircase. I usually do this loop the other way around and therefore walk down, but this time, I have just climbed those 80 steps up. (You bet. I counted.)

Latent-action time: dedicated dog bowl waiting for customers, in Coopers Park across the bridge on the north side.

There are real dogs in abundance in the off-leash area, all of them too busy being active to bother with the drinking bowl.

And here’s the Blue Cabin, glowing in a burst of afternoon sunshine at its Plaza of Nations mooring. As with that dog bowl, it seems that here too, action is currently latent. The residency of Tsleil Waututh artist Angela George has just ended, and the Blue Cabin Floating Artist website is inviting new applications. (Interested? Click Programs on the menu, and scroll to Current Residency Call.)

Almost opposite, down on the rocky beach, a couple of inukshuks stand in relief against the water, where the World of Science complex anchors the eastern end of the Creek.

Out there on the deck, also picked out in the late-afternoon light, the huge orange sculpture of a reclining question-mark, inviting us to ponder our responsibilities in the world’s eco-system. A repository of latent action, arguably, calling us to real action.

I pass the question-mark sculpture as I head on home …

and think that’s the end of my story.

But it isn’t.

Because there at the railing I see a woman raise her camera so stealthily that I also pause, and search for whatever it is that has caught her eye.

This is it.

A heron. Watching the waters for dinner. More latent action, wrapped up in feathers.

The woman and I discover we like to walk the same loop at this end of the Creek. “I always mean to walk briskly,” she tells me. “But there are so many reasons to stop, and look, and wait, and watch…”

 

2020

30 December 2019 – Oh 2020, you are almost here.

We know you want to treat us right, so here are some suggestions.

Please be the kind of year in which, for example, a functional utility box is also a bright-eyed owl …

an equally functional bike stand becomes a work of wool art …

a derelict houseboat is transformed into a floating artists’ haven …

and grubby old car tires turn into safe, bright playground pads.

Put your mind to it, 2020.

Be a year in which padlocks denote love …

tent cities are full of joy and magic …

and the downtown core offers us abundant public benches …

recycling locations …

and bike rental stands.

C’mon, 2020! Accept the challenge.

Be a year in which the graffito underfoot is a coffee cup, not an F-bomb …

even a 93-year-old monarch tries to stay current …

crows feel free to offer editorial opinion …

and the humble little sparrow dares to dream big, and succeeds.

Happy new year, everyone.

May we all have a year in which we dare to dream big, and succeed.

(I feel I must add: I do know this is just the pretty stuff, and there is much that is dark, dangerous and disgraceful. But I believe we must also recognize and celebrate everything that is wonderful. It restores balance to our vision, and it gives us the energy and motivation to get out there and help make things better.)

Floating Blue

26 August 2019 – “Pleasure craft” is now the official designation, but it has taken almost 100 years for officialdom to lay successful claim. This floating cabin lived a long life in a squatters’ community moored between low and high tide in Dollarton, North Vancouver, before becoming home/studio to artists Al Neil and Carol Itler in the late 1960s.

(Yes, the same squatters’ community once home to Malcolm Lowrey, but no, not his cabin. That one burned down.)

By 2014 the cabin (“the blue cabin,” for obvious reasons) was the last remnant of that community — and slated for demolition. That’s when a whole consortium of public/private sector cultural interests came together to  restore it, and turn it into a studio for a floating artist residency.

And now there she sits in north-east False Creek, right next to the brand-new living quarters that completes the facility.

The historic Blue Cabin was restored by artists Jeremy & Sus Borsos; the 500 square-foot, off-the-grid living quarters was designed by artist Germaine Koh and architect Marko Simcic.

It’s public-take-a-free-tour day, and we’re there, you bet.

“Restored” is exactly the right word for the Blue Cabin: all those multi-coloured pieces of wood, thrown together in one houseboat, are stabilized but otherwise lovingly preserved, right to the chips & scars.

From electric blue exterior walls …

to interior walls & ceiling …

floorboards …

and the bevelled glass mirror in the door to what we guess must have been a medicine chest, in that battered yellow wall.

The work in both buildings is in its final hectic stages. Both will have what’s needed, without excess and with maximum flexibility: each artist will be able to reconfigure the bits to fit individual needs & tastes.

We troop across the dock to the adjacent living quarters — severely, elegantly, rectangular-minimalist. Once we climb up into it, we imagine how much the artists will enjoy those panoramic views across False Creek and into the busy life that fills the Creek.

Eastward toward Telus World of Science (aka “the Golf Ball”) …

and westward toward and beyond the Cambie Street bridge.

Once finished, and with a rather more elegant ladder, this overhead hatch will offer access to a roof-top mini-garden and very mini-deck. “Room for a tiny table and a chair,” says our guide.

We learn that for the first year, priority will be given to indigenous artists. (The Cabin, like the rest of us, resides on the unceded and ancestral territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tseil-Waututh nations.) Regional artists Angela George, Janice George, Buddy Joseph and Debra Sparrow have already completed a research term with the Cabin, and will take up residencies later in the year.

First 6-week resident artist? Vicki Couzens, a First Nations multimedia artist and cultural leader … in Australia. Our tour guide isn’t sure what the focus of her work will be, but points out that Couzens is central to the reclamation of the possum cloak story and language.

Later, I look up the Australia Council for the Arts involvement in this project — the only overseas partner — to learn their rationale.

This prestigious opportunity ensures that Australia’s highly respected First Nations’ arts, culture, and stories continue to be shared with new audiences across the world, and strengthens our deep connections between Australian and Canadian First Nations peoples.

I like it.

 

  • 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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