Brown Trout & a Whole Bunch of Frogs

11 September 2018 – First, the frogs. We aren’t looking for brown trout at all.

Come to that, we aren’t even specifically looking for frogs, but we welcome them — the whole dancing tug-of-war of them — with a whoop of delight.

A whoop & a sigh or two of relief. Because we are searching out Burnaby’s eco-sculptures, and, despite an astoundingly confusing map, we’ve just made our first sighting. So who cares if it’s raining?

Burnaby, an adjacent municipality to Vancouver, launched this community eco-sculpture project in 2005, and has been developing it ever since. Each summer, to the delight of residents and tourists like us, the City’s parks, event floats and public spaces show off the current crop of birds/bees/eagles/whales/pollinators/frogs/cranes/owls/etc-&-so-forth.

Summer drought and heat took their toll, but recent rain and some judicious replanting have given the works a new — if necessarily brief — lease on life.

The details are just terrific.

On down the way a bit, and look! a trio called the Pollinator Series. Complete with a caterpillar …

a lady bug …

and a spider. (Not shown. Use your imagination.)

Some confused driving around while we try to sort out where to go next. My Vancouver-born friends consult maps, sat-nav and smart-phone apps up there in the front seats; I sit behind and keep my newbie mouth shut. No back-seat driving from this girl!

We whiz past a grouping of owls. They’re on a triangle of lawn surrounded by busy streets; no possible place to park and enjoy them; we circle around; there must be a way — and, yes, there is. If you don’t mind pretending you’re in that school parking lot because you’re about to visit the school.

Two adult owls, three baby owls, and absolutely worth that bit of vehicular trickery across the street.

Each baby owl has his own, very Canadian, underpinnings. This guy: snowshoes. His siblings: snow boots, and a toboggan respectively.

These sculptures are magnificently detailed on all sides. Check out mama’s back!

And while you’re there, check that red umbrella in the background, being held over someone in a yellow jacket. We can see they’re City maintenance workers, fiddling around with an open sewer grate. We’re curious.

Us, smiling: “Hi, what’re you doing?” Yellow Jacket, also smiling as he spools more wire into the sewer: “Fishing for brown trout.” Ho-ho-ho all around. Us: “Oh come on, what’re you really doing?” YJ: “Okay. We’re checking a repair we made.” Us: “Did it work?” YJ: “Yup.” Us: “Well, you’ve earned your trout.” More ho-ho-ho all around.

More sat-nav (etc) consultations and off we go, headed for Deer Lake Park. Miss Bossy-Boots on the sat-nav tells us to go here, and go there, and we do, and end up parked on a residential street, hoping Miss B-B got it right. Well, it’s right enough, and after a few human directions from passers-by we embark on the Deer Lake Trail.

But not before reading the Wildlife warning.

Isn’t that fun? Not enough you have to watch out for bears and coyotes and cougars — even the black squirrel is on the loose and dangerous. (What? He’ll chatter you to death?)

The Trail is lovely. And we don’t meet a single black squirrel. Or bear. Or cougar.

This brings us to Deer Lake and, over to one side, the Century Gardens and the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts. Where we again ask eco-sculpture directions. Fortunately, these Gardens are being given some early-fall TLC, and the crew help us out.

Good, thank you, got it: a couple of whales just down the road. But we are happily diverted en route. First by the three 14-ft ceramic poles in the Gardens, labelled Past, Present and Future.

They are the result of the Burnaby Community Clay Sculpture Project, which used Shadbolt Centre facilities and resources to engage professionals artists with students, seniors groups and other community members to create the three poles, each rich with imagery for its own theme.

The future, I discover …

will include Cloning.

Another diversion: we go into the Centre, expecting to indulge idle curiosity nothing more — and come out having pounced on the up-coming concert by Martha Wainwright. I’m more the era of her mum, Kate McGarrigle (as in Kate & Anna McGarrigle), but yes, my interest does extend to Martha and her brother Rufus. We buy tickets.

So that’s a big bonus to the day, and we don’t much mind that the eco-sculpture whales, when we finally get to them, are … underwhelming.

Back down Deer Lake Trail, enjoying the feather tucked into a post as we go …

and into the car, for the trip back to Vancouver.

“Look!” we cry, as we zip along the highway, and see Burnaby banners dancing on light standards …

“There’s the owl!” Now it means something to us. We feel good.

And the sun even comes out.





Positive! Negative! (one more time)

8 April 2017 – At the risk of annoying people who got it the first time, I’m going to belabour the point I wanted to make in my previous post.

It was all about the double visuals — the vases, and the not-vases.

I would like everyone to enjoy what artist Greg Payce worked so hard to offer us in this installation at Toronto’s Gardiner Museum of Ceramics.

“Positive/Negative,” I said in the post title. “Play with the spaces,” I urged in the post itself,

Positive space: the intricate — and very deliberate — shape outlined by each vase.

Negative space: the intricate — and very deliberate — shape outlined between each pair of vases.


Look between the vases, not at them.

And there they are.

A little boy, a little girl; a gift of deliberately arranged space.



Positive / Negative (negative / positive)

6 April 2017 – Oh, go ahead …

Play with the spaces.

I seek out Greg Payce’s Apparently every time I visit Toronto’s Gardiner Museum.

And no, not because these earthenware vessels are examples of “albarelli,” a pharmaceutical shape of the 16th century. (Though that is very good to know, isn’t it?)

Nope. I just want to stand there, playing with the spaces.

And giggling when I succeed.

In Pursuit of Beauty & Boots – Part 1: “Beauty”

28 April 2014 – And the pursuit brought me happiness, reinforcing my belief that happiness is something like a cat. Do not pursue it directly — instead, pursue something else, something well-chosen, and it will come to you.

Walking is always well-chosen, right? On Saturday, I was walking my way to two other objectives. First target, beauty: go admire two vases by a friend of mine, featured in the “Spring Awakening Vase Sale” at the Gardiner Museum. After that, boots: I’ve walked my way to a larger size (Penny Plod, that’s me), and hope Mountain Equipment Co-op will have something wonderful.

It makes a perfect, 12-km walking loop. Up to the Gardiner at Bloor & Avenue Rd., then down  to MEC at King near Spadina, and home.

Lots of street/alley options along the way, and — who knows? — perhaps I’ll luck into some extra hits of beauty as well. (I really don’t expect to trip over any additional boot possibilities.)

Bell Box Mural, Isabelle & Jarvis

A beautiful sheath for a Bell telephone box, at Isabella & Jarvis. It’s a 2011 addition by D. Walsh to the on-going Bell Box Murals project that each year brings community groups, artists, in-kind donors and dedicated organizer Michael Cavanaugh together to turn more of these boxes into hand-painted, local works of art.

I’ve already stopped to admire some of the Victorian streetscapes in the area, including this terrific example on Earl St. of the 2nd-storey enclosed balcony that is a vernacular touch to a design otherwise quite faithful to its English origins.

Earl St. Victoriana, nr Sherbourne

At first I’m zigzagging at will, my route roughly north-west but its turns dictated as much by traffic lights as by any plan of my own. Once I cross Yonge St., I deliberately choose to make my final east-west approach along Charles St. West. It will bring me out on Queen’s Park Cres. just south of the Gardiner, and enroute take me past…

McKinsey & Company, 110 Charles St. West

What a beauty. This is the Toronto headquarters of McKinsey & Company, completed in 1999, the work of Hariri Pontarini Architects. Three storeys of copper, Algonquin limestone, glass, and teak & mahogany, wrapped U-shaped around a quiet courtyard. Serene, I think, not for the first time; it is so serene. And this, despite the towers now looming to the north, and scampering U of Toronto students all about, for we are intermingled here with the university campus.

The architects’ website describe this project as a “contemporary response” to its much older neighbours.

This one, for example, just a few doors to the west.

Annesley Hall, 95 Queen's Park Cres.

I admit I have to get my eye in, for this one… Reading the plaque helps enormously, because it provides context.

This is Annesley Hall, built in 1903 as Canada’s first university residence for female students. The style is Queen Anne Revival, the intention was to create “a home-like setting through the harmony of its massed composition, bay windows and shaped Flemish gables”… resulting in “the domestic grandeur thought proper for young women students in the early 20th century.”

I round the corner onto Queen’s Park Cres. and head north the short half-block toward Bloor St. West. Next comes the Gardiner Museum, but I deliberately overshoot because it, like the McKinsey building, is in call-&-response with its neighbours. To the south, Annesley Hall. To the north, the U of T’s Lillian Massey Building.

I cross the street for a better look. No Queen Anne style here, this is a neo-classical structure with “1908” and “Department of Household Science” carved above its massive, pillar-ed entranceway.

Lillian Massey Bldg U of T

These days it houses Medieval Studies, Classics, and something called “University Advancement.” (No, I have no idea.) It also houses — along the retail-oriented Bloor St. side — a branch of Club Monaco. Yes! Really!

Finally, and after so much beauty along the way, my target beauty stop of the day: the Gardiner Museum, devoted to ceramic art (including historical collections starting with pre-Colombian Central & South America).

Gardiner Museum, 111 Queen's Park

See? Lillian Massey to the north (L); Annesley Hall to the south (R). In between, today’s Gardiner Museum — this very handsome, 2006 expansion and reimagining by KPMB Architects of the 1983 Keith Wagland original. Just like the McKinsey architects, KPMB talks about responding to their location, about “setting the Gardiner in dialogue” with its neighbours.

Quite like the way a good art exhibition is hung, don’t you think? Pieces chosen and placed, to compare/contrast/complement, in an act of curation that respects the larger context as well as the individual item.

I take that thought with me into the Gardiner. I don’t have time to visit the museum itself — I have boots to buy, remember — so I head straight for the gift shop, with its spring-sale theme of vases. I am given permission to photograph the two by my friend, ceramist (and raku specialist) Gerri Orwin.

fine art vases, Gerri Orwin

Somehow, ceramic art seems especially appropriate for spring. These pieces, like flowers, also rise from the earth.

And then, I go on my way. Thank you, beauty. Time for boots.

Silly me, to think there’s be no more beauty!

Or other adventures. Like…

alley-cat! off Peter St., s. of Queen West

… this pussy-cat. Who you may or may not think beautiful, but must agree is adventurous.

And then there’s Fire Guy. And what I discover as I stare at MEC’s wall of boots. And…

Just wait. All in my next post.




    "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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