In the Loop

1 July 2020 – In & around the loop, more like it — the “loop” being a favourite & highly variable circuit of mine down to False Creek, west along one side of this end of the Creek, across the Cambie St. bridge, and back east.

As always, these strange months, much that is familiar suddenly viewed a-slant because of the new context in which I experience it.

Feet going zig-zag (“going all fractal,” I say pretentiously to myself), heading north in a near-by alley because I like alleys, with local alleys offering a less impressive alley-art presence than their Toronto counterparts, but a much more impressive structural presence, thanks to those towering hydro poles.

And this stretch, just east of Main, offers an okay bit of street art as well.

Not to mention the haze of the Coast Range Mountains, off there in the distance. (Take that, Toronto…)

I grin at a little white bird on a big blue dumpster …

peer through chain-link fence at signage for somebody’s mini-community garden …

and, finding myself at a dead end, double back out to E. 4th and Scotia.

Where a wedge of land shelters an only slightly less-mini community garden, this one with a friendly chair at the street corner.

Gardeners of the Galaxy” reads one of its signs — a banner of its evolution from one woman’s vacant-land purchase in 2010, to its current status in the coFood Vancouver Collaborative Garden Project, within the Living Systems Network of social/food/community activists.

Still on the zig-zag, still going all fractal, soon I’m past the Galaxy, in behind Main St. on something I thought was just a lane but is wide enough for an official name. I am now on Lorne St., where an old pseudo-vintage Mexican restaurant mural …

leads to a door with an entirely spring-2020 sign of its own.

(See what I meant earlier, about familiar old landmarks thrown a-slant in a new context?)

I didn’t sit down with those galaxy gardeners, and I don’t join this sober new version of “borrachos aquí”, either.

But I do sink down on this bench for a bit …

just off Quebec St. in Creekside Park, a tribute to the one-time CPR railway yards down here. There’s even a remnant of train track.

Not that much later, just a bit round the Creek-end curve on its north side, I sit on another bench, contemplate gulls/crows/ducks/geese/kids/cyclists/geezers/dogs/etc for a while, and very idly wonder why there always seem to be a few people who spurn benches to clamber right down to water’s edge and perch on the rocks.

Well, why not.

And I walk. And I shamelessly eavesdrop on passing conversations. And I helpfully alert a young mother to the cloth storybook her child has just pitched out of the stroller. And I share giggles with another woman, who has just taken a photo of a bit of doggerel on a utility box that manages to be rude, very rude, about the Kardashian sisters and — while the author is at it — Donald Trump as well.

No, I will not show it to you. All those people get quite enough free publicity as it is.

Moving on. Literally!

My favourite dog bench, dog muzzle and dog bowl in Coopers Park , with extra water courtesy of all the recent rain …

which is located right at the Cambie Street bridge. This sends me sharp right, then spiralling upwards, to walk south across the bridge.

A favourite view over my favourite ferry dock — Spyglass — before I spiral back down to ground level, and start east along the Sea Wall.

Heading toward Olympic Village and yes! Himy Syed’s stone labyrinth is somewhat overgrown but still intact, still a landmark between Hinge Park and the tiny man-made habitat island out in the Creek itself.

Slightly to my own surprise, I don’t as usual carry on to Olympic Village plaza. Instead I cut south through Hinge Park, delighted as always at how much mystery and nature it offers, even though it is very small and bordered by condos.

 

On up to walk along East 1st, between Manitoba and Columbia. I pass the home to the Arts Club Theatre Company (unknown to me until this very moment) — a typical bit of modern glass frontage for a typical pleasant-looking reception area for a performance venue.

And then, it is no longer typical. Well, it is — our new-typical. Mannequins stand in the window display area, each one clad in some kind of essential-worker garb, and bearing this sign.

Into another alley.

No, not an alley-alley. This is a landscaped, highly designed pathway-alley between low-rise condominium structures. Each with its own combination of shrubbery, benches and water features.

I look down at that metal medallion, there at my feet.

“Tread lightly,” it says.

What a good idea, in this stressed world in which we now all live.

Oh, and, Happy Canada Day!

 

 

 

 

 

DIY

14 June 2020 – You know my habit: with each post I weave images & words into a story, a single story among all the other images and other themes I could have chosen instead. But not this time. You’re on your own.

True, I have selected the images, but only because each struck my eye, not with a story-line murmuring in my ear. No, wait. To be more precise: each image tells me an individual story, but I haven’t assembled them to tell a collective story.

Which maybe is my story.

Or maybe I’m just getting precious.

So, over to you. It’s do-it-yourself time. See what story-line starts murmuring in your own ear.

A sticker on a traffic bollard …

the top bit of a display of locally made masks outside a craft shop …

a bright yellow alley weed …

two crows arguing possession of the same hydro wire …

freshly chalked sidewalk art …

and a red paper lantern under its canopy of trees, one of the group I showed you a few posts ago in that Muskoka-chair nook just off the Sahalli Community Garden.

Today I drop into one of the chairs, and look up.

Walking back home, I cut down an alley, where I am startled at the sound of applause. I look at my watch. Of course: it’s 7 p.m.

So I clap too, joining these neighbours as they stand on their balconies either side of the roadway to once again salute frontline workers — and, I think, each other as well.

7 p.m., 18 May 2020, E. 7th Avenue

18 May 2020 – What are they looking at?

All along this block of East 7th, just off Main Street?

The apartment building opposite.

More specifically, the 4th, 6th and 9th balconies facing onto East 7th.

Most specifically, the 4th-floor balcony.

Where, at 7 p.m. every single evening, its residents host a short, sharp patio dance party to honour our at-risk frontline workers.

This Vancouver tradition began on 20 March, when a single woman out in the west end decided to Make Noise — both to thank our health-care professionals, and to cheer up her own neighbours. First her neighbours joined in, then the idea spread around the city, then ships in Burrard Inlet began blowing their whistles as well, and now the downtown Steam Whistle has added a 7 p.m. blast of O Canada to its usual 12-noon rendition.

Each micro-location has its own traditions.

Our local version, as you can see here, now includes sidewalk dancing.

The Best/Worst of Times

21 April 2020 – Extreme times call forth extreme behaviour, the best and the worst, so I can’t be the only person with that famous opening line drumming in my head. When Charles Dickens wrote A Tale of Two Cities, he was contrasting Paris with London during the French Revolution, but, as we all live with this pandemic, I see those juxtapositions right here, in my own daily experience. Maybe you do too.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…

As I walk around, I see reminders of the worst that confronts us, and the best of our own human response.

A brand new crochet-art tree hug …

a face mask, dangling from this car’s rear-view mirror…

brightly painted houses and spring blossoms popping along this residential street …

a reminder of our safe-behaviour obligations, written (it says on the other side) by a front-line health care professional and tied to his fence …

a salute to our Health Heroes chalked on the sidewalk …

new, heart-tugging meaning for this sidewalk mosaic, with its focus on home and staying close to home …

a young man cradling a drum under his left arm, softly beating out comforting rhythms as he looks across Prince Edward Park …

skateboard dog – !!! – carefree & cruising through the parking lot next to China Creek North Park …

a driveway SAFE line, chalked by parents to remind their children to go no farther, but stay on their own property …

and a big, fat ❤️ for Dr. McRae.

I want to explain this one.  I stop to admire this exuberant particle-board display, with all those “Go …” messages, and I fall into 2-metre-distant conversation with the pony-tailed young woman busy tidying up her front yard behind the board.

“The kids did that while I was at work,” she says. “At work,” I repeat, “so you’re in some kind of essential service?” She smiles. “I’m a doctor.” I throw up my hands in respect.

“See?” she continues. “Right there, top-centre, right under the tree trunk? That’s my name. Then the kids added everybody else they could think of — even our postman.”

So expand the photo, and you’ll see it: GO: dr mcrae.

Thank you, Dr. McRae.

Thank you all the doctors McRae, everywhere — and the truck drivers and grocery store clerks and posties and everyone else who is out there making it possible for the rest of us to stay home.

Thank you.

Chalk It Up

2 April 2020 – Chalk it up.

Not to experience, as it happens…

but to the pandemic.

Schools are closed, children at home, and all that energy needs outlets.

Result? A boom in kiddy sidewalk art.

Solo-walking in my neighbourhood, and I’m right at the street corner. Arrows tempt me in both directions.

Veer left …

to walk — or hop — an entire block of hopscotch grids, end-to-end.

Or veer right …

to dance through fantasy flowers and assorted other explosions of colour.

I dance with the flowers, and pick this blossom just for you.

Keep safe. Even as we isolate physically, we can draw closer socially.

Distance, Connected

29 March 2020 – We’ve finally got the mantra right: physical distance, social connection.

We’re all thinking about it, adapting to it, noticing it, each in our own little corner of the world. Here’s a bit of how it is currently evolving, in my little corner, as noticed in my walks of the last few days.

Almost everyone in Vancouver now works from home and we all largely stay at home, but — except for those in quarantine or self-isolation — we may still go out for exercise and essential shopping, while maintaining 2 metres of physical distances from others.

Here I’m threading my way between condo buildings toward False Creek, under a canopy of business-as-usual spring blossoms.

But life is not business-as-usual, is it?

Science World (that “golf ball”), like all public attractions, is closed, and the creek itself almost empty of all watercraft. No ferries!

Like you, like everyone, we are adapting to our new world.

Local busses permit rear boarding only (to protect the drivers) …

and waive the fee (to make any touching/tapping unnecessary).

Attractions and retailers of varying sizes expand their online presence and, as appropriate, keep some form of structured physical presence as well.

Greenworks, for example, offers its building-supply products by free delivery or through no-contact transactions at the door, all explained in trim, professional signage.

Some of the other local signs are more homespun, but just as determined to find a way to obey regulations, keep everybody safe and still, somehow, maintain connection with their customers. They position themselves at different points on the closed/open scale.

This skateboard shop is more closed than open …

while this little bicycle store is more open than closed.

Federal Store has a similar street-front strategy to Greenworks, but with its own lunchonette/grocery store spin.

Step up to the door, place your order, and then wait for it at a respectful 2-metre distance from everyone else.

We’re all beginning to get some sense of 2 metres, or hope we have — but it’s so easy to forget, isn’t it, when you’re out with your friends.

Not for this trio. They have it all worked out. I notice them today, on a walk that takes me south rather than north.

You can see two of them, properly spaced, with the third (also properly spaced) partially visible behind the woman on the right.

I don’t realize how clever they are until they move on. That’s when the rope becomes visible. They’ve looped it waist to waist, attached at 2-m intervals. They keep it taut as they walk.

I’m enjoying all this, taking comfort and inspiration from examples of good adaptations to bad circumstances — but I am also noticing examples of good things that were already with us before COVID 19, and still are.

This fabulously painted block of E. 21st Avenue, for example, probably my favourite block in the whole city …

and this front-yard statuette of the seated Buddha, his lap full of Nature’s own tribute of petals …

and this front-window evidence of a good neighbour — a heart for the community, a bike for the environment (visible through the glass), a feeder for the birds.

Heart.

Along with the opportunists and idiots that always appear in bad times, there’s a whole lot of heart on display, isn’t there? (Think of your own examples…)

Our good hearts, as we encourage balcony noise-making at 7 p.m., to support the people who protect us …

and as we reach out to support each other.

Note: Just now, as I typed that reference to the sign in Dude Chilling Park, I heard the raucous sound of clattering pots & pans, right here in my own neighbourhood.

I looked at my watch.

Exactly 7 p.m.

 

 

 

Mind-Hops / Foot-Hops

24 March 2020 – Circumstances change, and trigger new responses, both mental and behavioural.

Mind-hops. Foot-hops.

Or lack of foot-hops. Not the usual mass of happy feet this mild, sunny day, in the Olympic Village plaza at False Creek. Giant sparrow (one of Myfanwy MacLeod’s pair, The Birds, created for the 2010 Winter Olympics) pretty well has the place to himself.

I admire this rainbow & frog chalked onto the pavement, but don’t, as I would have done just two weeks ago, go get a shot with that frog right-side-up …

because that would have brought me within 2 metres of the cyclist over there. (See his bike tire, upper left?)

Another chalked message …

has me thinking, “Self isolation?” — not, “Break-up!”

A woman and her lap-dog soak up some sun, with open space all around her (I’m farther away than it seems) …

and a couple are peacefully, safely, alone, over there on the far side of Himy Syed’s stone labyrinth.

(But!!! Even as I’m appreciating the physical distance we’re all maintaining here at Olympic Village, crowds of idiots (aka COVIDIOTs) are packing English Bay. Let’s hope that the only thing going viral afterwards was the images of their irresponsibility.)

I leave False Creek for Cambie Street, slaloming around the relatively few other pedestrians as I walk. I pass more new behaviour for our new times: controlled entry into this big box retailer, with tape marking the 2-metre distance between standing points, and a staffer monitoring the queue.

Interesting, but not personally relevant. The retailer I want to check is this grocery chain. Have the new hours begun? With the promised first morning hour for people like me?

Yes.  7-8 a.m., before regular opening.

Which is why, two days later, I’m out in the breaking-dawn drizzle, heading up the street with my wheelie.

Shopping goes well: a smiling employee, out of physical range but at the door, ensuring only those qualified come in; well-stocked shelves; relatively few shoppers, all of us smiling at each other but keeping our distance.

Including at the check-out, with its taped lines to show spacing for the line-up.

Later on, some neighbourhood streetscape.

More mind-hops, foot-hops, including this example of what is becoming commonplace. A physically closed eatery, with a warm message to the community.

And, just one block over, a graffito for the times.

Well no, I don’t endorse the middle part of the message, but I love the humour.

And I love this blooming magnolia. Just for being there.

Eight years ago, I changed my About message on this blog, to explain the name-change from Sagas of Iceland Penny to Walking Woman. This excerpt comes to mind now.

Until August 2012, this blog was about training for the big Arthritis Society trek in Iceland, and then doing it. As of August 2012… I walk on! With my feet and in my mind as well.

Whatever restrictions limit our feet, nothing need limit our minds. Now, more than ever, let’s walk on. We’re in this together.

 

 

108 Steps

21 March 2020 – It all starts with a query-by-text. The Much-Loved-Relative tapping out the message has just seen a sculpture he can’t account for, on Kingsway near Gladstone, a ladder soaring to the skies. A tribute to firefighters, perhaps?

He trusts that Iceland Penny will know the answer.

Well, she doesn’t. But she now knows where she will go walking, this very day. She feels a particular need to solve the mystery because MLR is the person who gave her the “Iceland Penny” nickname, all those years ago.

I’m on it.

Good grief, that ladder does indeed soar. I’m still more than a block away, and look at it.

Right up to it, on the median.

Encased and locked down at the bottom …

against any fool who might be tempted to climb up.

Very, very up.

No signage.

I retreat to Kings Café just opposite, in the hopes of (a) information, and (b) a latte. I get both.

The café fits our new-normal: tables stacked, take-out only, and a young masked & gloved man swabbing an already-sparkling floor as I walk in. We nod, and swerve apart as I pass.

The young woman behind the counter, also masked & gloved, takes my order. When I ask about the ladder, she slips down the mask long enough to answer, revealing a warm smile and great enthusiasm for my question.

The artist’s name is Khan Lee, she tells me; also originally from Korea, just like her. The ladder has 108 rungs, symbolizing the 108 — here her already-impressive English doesn’t quite meet the need, and she mimes a bow, an obeisance — of spiritual practice.

I ask if I may take her picture, because I am delighted by her respect for the work of art and her eagerness to share what she knows, and I want you to feel this human connection as well.

So, please meet Hailey (her chosen English name). But note: she has pulled off mask & gloves and loosened her hair for the shot; immediately afterward, she reties her hair, washes her hands, and replaces mask & gloves.

Later, online, I learn Hailey got it right.  In his artist’s statement for this 40-metre installation, Khan Lee explains:

108 Steps is a steel sculpture of a free-standing ladder with 108 rungs. The ladder is one of the oldest and simplest tools. The number 108 has significance for a variety of cultures, and is considered sacred within many Dharmic faiths. There are approximately 108 blocks on Kingsway.

I take my latte outside, place gloves & sunglasses on the little table, take one more photo …

and then drink my coffee, more attuned to the ladder’s calm majesty than the traffic all around.

Later, walking back west along Kingsway, a printed message in keeping with the benign mood of that earlier visual.

Kindness, reaching out, even as we practice social distance.

I think of that the next day, walking past Rogers Park.

Social distance, with friends, in the sunshine!

We can do this.

 

 

Adaptations

18 March 2020 – We are all adapting — in large ways, but also small. Small shifts in everyday activity, or how we perceive an activity, in this new context.

I am walking north on Willow Street, and that is already an adaptation. I had planned to be strolling the magical grounds of the VanDusen Botanical Garden. But I’m not.

Why not? Got to the Gardens, and found it closed. Just 10 minutes earlier, the slightly unnerved young staffer told me, word had come down to close the doors. Duration unknown, but effective immediately.

So I adapt, and exchange their 22 Ha for a 6-ish km walk home instead. Same sunshine and fresh air, and lots of residential-street shrubs and trees. (Albeit minus helpful botanical labelling.)

Second adaptation. If public venues are closing, I think, maybe the library system will be next. I am a junkie, about to be cut off from her usual source. Alternate source? Little Free Library boxes — that amazing book-sharing resource now totalling some 100,000 boxes worldwide.

I swear, the thought has no sooner crossed my mind than a LFL box pops in view.

Complete with cheerful spring flowers, did you notice?

I take two books.

I promise to keep my end of the bargain.

I walk on.

And I meet, some kilometres farther north/east, a call for another adaptation, this one chalked on the sidewalk at a street corner.

Perhaps not a change of behaviour, at that.

Perhaps it’s what you do anyway.

Now is sure the time for 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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