3 X “The Big 2-4”

22 May 2023 — It’s the last day of the 24th of May holiday weekend, indelibly rebranded for me as “the big 2-4” after I heard two laughing teenagers refer to it that way.

I celebrate with a walk a day, nothing huge, just 6K or so each time, but satisfying, and — it turns out — with some similarities:

  • each begins at a scenic waterfront attraction to the west: Granville Island, on False Creek; Devonian Harbour Park, on Coal Harbour, south shore of Burrard Inlet; Dundarave Park, on the north shore of Burrard Inlet in West Vancouver, west of Lions Gate Bridge
  • each leads me initially eastward along a seawall bordering the water: False Creek South Seawall; Coal Harbour Seawall; Centennial Seawall
  • each has me, at some point, turning inland to pavement and other options.

And each is entirely satisfying. Big vistas with all three — oh, these west-coast mountain/seascapes — and happy people who take it all in as they walk/bike/skateboard/kayak their way through the day.

I revel in it, I gawk at it, and in the end I am most touched by three very small side-moments in all that splendour.

Fresh off my ferry ride to Granville Island on Saturday, I pause a moment at the top of the ramp. The “ferry dock” inscription is faded to near-invisibility, but the upright beams nicely frame a pillar of the art deco Burrard Bridge beyond.

But while that pleases me, it’s not what touches me. What touches me is the busker under the red tent kiosk on the right. Nobody pays any attention to her, as they mill around, but I sit and listen. Her instrument is an Andean panpipe, and she is playing Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. The haunting melody drifts past me on the wind, and I supply the words in my mind. “I heard there was a secret chord / that David played and it pleased the Lord…” Surely David also played it on a panpipe, the way I am hearing it today.

Sunday has me hop a bus to the very edge of Stanley Park, where I drop down through Devonian Harbour Park to Coal Harbour. This stretch of Burrard Inlet is named for the viable coal seams they thought they’d discovered, c. 1860 — not so, but the area later prospered through ship building before becoming parkland and residential/commercial.

I’m just off the bus when I stop flat to admire this sculpture. No. Not the sculpture, though it deserves admiration. The title describes it: Search, by J. Seward Johnson Jr., is a full-size bronze figure of a woman looking for something in her purse.

What stops me is that flower. Someone has carefully placed a parrot tulip blossom in the opening of her purse. The blossom has faded a bit by now; the tribute is still fresh.

What a start to my walk!

Today, Monday, I hop two buses for the longer trek right through the city, on through Stanley Park, across Lions Gate Bridge to the north shore and on west to Dundarave Park in West Vancouver. It’s a cool (16C), cloudy, blustery day — perfect atmospherics for the large-scale drama of this waterfront. Huge timbers hurled in by the ocean, boulders and rocks and stones, beach pea and other rugged first colonizers, freighters in the “parking lot” awaiting their turn to carry on to the Port, mountains as backdrop, wheeling gulls and crows, even a pair of bald-headed eagles. All of that.

And, yet again, I am stopped flat by an unexpected detail, a micro in all that macro. This time it is near the end of my seawall walk, but once more it is a human figure.

Note that use of language. I didn’t say “human,” did I? I said, “a human figure.” On Granville Island, the figure is human-human; in Devonian Harbour Park, the figure is bronze-human. This time… it is wooden-human. Driftwood-human.

See? There on the left. A hiker has paused in front of Lions Gate Bridge to admire the view, right hand to right hip and left hand to left kneecap. (Admittedly headless, but accidents happen.) On the right, a unicorn (perhaps) has also paused, to keep Headless Hiker company…

No, not constructed. I look it over and can find no carving, no joins.

I am so amused by this, it makes up for the lack of salmon burgers in the café where I finally stop for lunch.


    "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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