Lost & Found & Restored

31 May 2022 — We’re in Camosun Bog, that magic enclave within Pacific Spirit Regional Park, delighted that the promised drizzle has become peek-a-boo sunshine. Our plan is to loop around the 300-metre boardwalk a couple of times, and then follow our feet onto trails that connect into the surrounding forest.

We pause at the Bog’s minute pond; walk alongside great carpets of sphagnum moss; read cheerfully instructive signboards about labrador tea/salal/huckleberry/blueberry/salmonberry/sun dew/ & more; and, at the very end of our first lap, we look for the tree with the carving.

The Tree With The Carving.

The one I noticed and showed you in April, “a thunderbird, perhaps?” I said. A carving someone had wedged in among some branches, making it impossible for my photo to capture the entire piece.

This time I can’t capture anything, because it isn’t there. Gone! Lost!

No. Not lost. Just tumbled to the ground, there by the tree trunk, behind the fence.

My friend fishes it out, holds it up. Still in perfect condition.

To make good news even better, I can finally pay tribute to the person who carved it, and give it the name he chose for it himself.

Jim Jules, Eagle Head, 2015, Nootka (now Nuu-chah-nulth) design. Later I look him up and, no, he is not an important carver, he does not seem to have a website of his own, and his works do not sell for impressive amounts of money. But he has a name, and a talent, and he creates works that honour his people — and this particular work now honours the Camosun Bog.

We restore the eagle to his perch in the tree, and continue our walk.

Onto side trails now, beyond the Bog, where buttercups spill through split-rail fencing…

moss-furred trees climb skyward…

a winding path guides our feet through the mixed deciduous-coniferous forest…

the high canopy sifts dappled sunlight onto our heads…

a web of sinewy roots embrace their nurse log…

and giant stumps wear their scars like medals, veterans of fire and logging.

Eventually we’re back in the Bog, and, just before heading out to city streets …

we spend a last moment with Jim Jules and the Eagle Head.


Warmth Makes Happy

23 April 2022 — Not that much warmer, just an upward nudge from mid-single digits to low double, yet suddenly emotional muscles unclench along with the physical, and people are smiling at each other. Not to be outdone, happy sights are smiling up at us as well.

In the Camosun Bog, for example.

I enjoy all the usual delights. The boardwalk, embracing the rescued & stabilized remnant of ancient bog, made safe from the encircling forest …

the bog ground covers and undulating carpets of moss …

and the shallow lake at the heart of it all, home to the double headed serpent — sʔi:ɬqəy̓ — of Musqueam lore.

I don’t see the serpent here today, but I remember him as he was once presented to us in a Museum of Vancouver exhibition that can still be enjoyed online.

And then, just as I turn to leave, something so unusual I don’t at first believe it is there.

But my eye is snagged, and I stop, I turn, I look up through branches into the fork of a tree. Just here, here at the edge.

And I see it.

A thunderbird, perhaps? Somebody has carved this beautiful spirit, and brought him here, to guard his ancestral land.

Later, in Sahalli Park.

A small local park, with standard grass/benches/kiddy swings. Even so, magic in its own quiet way. Once we watched a coyote walk politely by, going peacefully about his own animal business, leaving startled but equally polite humans in his wake. And once, when I admired a passing woman’s armload of fresh-picked flowers, she promptly thrust them into my arms instead: “Take them! I’ve just been clearing them out of my plot!”

Her plot is one of many in the adjacent Sahalli Community Garden. Today, a languid Girl Gardener oversees spring clean-up …

and a fresh line-up of Rainbow Birdhouses is on offer for artistic (but very small) birds.

Across the street a retro Pink Caddy flaunts its fins (and fuzzy dice in the front window) …

and a bold new Magic Toadstool has jumped up in the “sit back – relax – unwind” nook next to the Community Garden.

I am tempted! But I am also hungry. So I head home instead.

sʔi:ɬqəy̓ qeqən

31 July 2021 – I’m on the UBC campus for one tribute, and end up walking another one while there.

First tribute: the Chaconne concert at the Chan Centre, the second performance in this year’s EMV Bach Festival and dedicated to Jeanne Lamon — the renowned violinist, concert master, early music pioneer and mentor, shockingly dead barely one month ago. During my Toronto years I benefited from her role with Tafelmusik, and here in Vancouver benefitted again, when she retired to Vancouver Island and immersed herself in the musical community out here.

So I sink into this concert for more than its music alone, and then walk across campus in a contemplative mood.

My path takes me to the intersection of University Blvd with East Mall, at the foot of a cascading water feature. It is also home to this 34-foot Musqueam house post of the double-headed serpent.

I’ve seen it before, had forgotten where it was, am delighted to discover it again. It is the work of Brent Sparrow Jr. (son of another fine Coast Salish artist, Susan Point), his gift to UBC, and a tribute to his people and their culture.

Yes! The double-headed serpent, sʔi:ɬqəy̓, whose home was, is, the Camosun Bog.

After living here a few years, I have the beginnings of some personal cross-connections. I’ve visited the Bog a number of times, and I’ve taken you there with me more than once. In July 2020, my post included this larky on-site map …

and on Christmas Day I looked out over bog and pond sparkling with misty rain.

No rain today, alas (more than 40 dry days, and counting), and a lot more heat. But it’s walkable heat, and I decide to visit the serpent.

I walk up one side of the incline, passing these women striding down …

pivot at the viewing hut at the top …

enter the hut for the long view back downhill with the water course …

and then walk my way on down to the bottom.

Once home, feet up, I revisit another favourite tribute to the serpent. It’s an animation I first viewed at Museum of Vancouver, but can now enjoy any old time on vimeo.

And so can you.

The Colours of OH!

20 November 2020 – Right from my first visit in July, I’ve known that the Camosun Bog deserves a big, fat, exclamatory OH! of delight. What I didn’t know — until two dear friends (you know who you are) set me straight — is that the exclamation resides in the name as well as the location.

I’d been saying, “Cam-oh-sun,” equal stress each syllable.

But it’s “Cam-OH!-sun. ” Jump on the middle syllable, and pass for local.

I’m still ridiculously pleased with my new knowledge as I walk up that first stretch of boardwalk this morning, say good-bye to the last hydro poles I’ll see for a while, and enter the Bog.

It’s a misty, drizzly day — a bog’s idea of bliss. You can practically feel everything expanding into all that delicious moisture, and you can see how everything gleams.

I start noticing colour, and shine.

The silver gloss of surface water …

red twigs…

white tree fungus …

purple seed pods …

even turquoise fencing looks good. (Oh, come on. Make room for it in your heart.)

And then there’s emerald.

The emerald of mad moss, flinging itself onto every surface that doesn’t actively fight back.

Spiralling up tree trunks …

and carpet-bombing the ground.

(There is also the emerald green of a little boy’s rain cape, which he twirls for me with great panache.)

One last glance, backward over my shoulder:

green needles/silver droplets/russet shrubbery.

OH!

Seeking Sundew

23 July 2020 – Let’s visit Camosun Bog, says my friend, go explore its boardwalks. Let’s! I chirp happily, not that I’ve ever heard of this place before in my life. Which is motivation right there. And, as if I need more, there’s the promise of boardwalks.

I love prancing along on boardwalks …

part of the environment but above it as well, each of us safe for, and safe from, the other.

Camosun is a very small enclave in a very large park, just one hectare in the 874-hectare Pacific Spirit Regional Park on University Endowment Lands out in Vancouver’s west end. See that green knob poking out from the upper-right side of this Pacific Spirit map? That’s the bog.

Small as it is, we should be both grateful and impressed.

The story began 12,000 years ago with glacial ice, as most Canadian geological stories seem to do. Glacial ice became glacial melt, which created a depression, which became a lake thanks to streams, which became a marsh thanks to happy vegetation encroaching at water’s edge, which then became a bog thanks to really happy vegetation blocking the streams entirely.

So, some three thousand years ago, there it was: 15 hectares of open, sunlit bog. But by the late 20th c. it had almost disappeared, as nearby development drove down the water table and other species moved in.

Since 1995, the Camosun Bog Restoration Group, plus a whole mix of public and private resources, has been working to restore the bog and reverse the damage  — pulling out the invaders (including 150 shade-creating hemlock trees by helicopter); digging out layers of detritus to get closer to the water table again; re-introducing bog species; and building boardwalks.

This drawing on the Bog’s website shows the result: one hectare of open bog, with its ecosystem of true bog plants and bog-friendly plants, accessible from the 300 metres of boardwalk that also weave into the edges of the neighbouring forest.

Turning right at a junction instead of left means we start in the woods. A moss-capped nurse stump rears up through the Salal …

a tree fungus throws its white stripes against the host bark …

moss glows bright green on a nearby branch …

and, middle-distance, shimmers grey-green instead. Just look at it — we may live in a temperate rainforest, but it is definitely still rainforest.

A few more turns, more curves of boardwalk, and there it is: the bog.

As promised, it is open, sunlit, and filled with bog-happy plants that thrive in standing water:  Labrador Tea, Bog Laurel, Bog Cranberry, Blueberry, Cloudberry, Skunk Cabbage, Tufted Loosestrife, Salmonberry, Arctic Starflower …

And more.

The best example of more: sphagnum moss. Thirteen varieties, all of them water-absorbent & acidic, and also the foundation of the entire bog plant community, because they form the soil and create the growing conditions for everything else.

They also show you the current state of local rainfall — the wetter the weather, the greener the sphagnum.

Pale, isn’t it? We haven’t had a lot of rain, recently.

My friend pokes me. She’s been reading the signage, and she’s on the hunt. She wants to find the Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia).

This is a challenge that has us peering downward over the protective boardwalk fencing, because Sundew’s tiny leaf clusters are right at ground level, and no larger than a Toonie ($2 Canadian coin). Still, they do throw up slender, reddish stalks, 5-25 cm, to catch your attention. Helpful for us; deadly for insects. Delicate, adorable Sundew is carnivorous. Sticky liquid first attracts the insects, and then traps them.

There! She peers, points, and aims her camera. I don’t even try; I know my phone-camera’s limitations.

Her camera gets the shot.

We’ve now walked the entire boardwalk, and even found the Sundew.

We can leave.

With just a tiny little side-trip into the soaring forests of Pacific Spirit before we go.

Park signage reminds us that social distancing is a fact of life these days, even when out for a hike. Still having a little trouble visualizing 2 metres?

Don’t worry.

Just grab a passing cougar, and pace it out.

 

 

  • 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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