Good Signs

30 May 2021 – As in, “Good signs!!” — pronounced with the inflection and rationale of patting the head of a “Good Dog,” cheered by his energy & optimism. And believe me, I need the cheer. After a totally inert morning (let’s blame it on pandemic brain fog), I finally get myself out the door and hope for some stimulation.

Things immediately improve.

I stand at the very next street corner, and laugh at the irony: the rampaging good health of this garden now obscures the gardener’s advertisement.

See what I mean, about “energy and optimism”? Now that I’m looking for signs of good stuff happening, they’re all over the place — with physical signage attached, to make sure I notice.

On down East 7th, along the edge of Dude Chilling Park, and I blink in disbelief at what I think I see — but surely I am mistaken — in the pathway between the park and the adjacent school. Tents? A street fair? Really?

Well, yes. And was ever a “Do Not Enter” sign so welcome a sight?

The cheerful masked rep for Vancouver Farmers Markets explains that, yes, the market is legal, but, also yes, I cannot enter at this end. One-way traffic is part of the safety protocol: go loop through the park to the other end, enter there, and see ya later. So I do.

Where more signage tells us what’s in season at the moment, and encourages us to whistle through our masks, if we want entertainment.

A dozen-plus tents run down the two sides of the space, with everything from honey to veggies to fish to sauces to the truly important things in life …

like chocolate.

Taped to a tent pole between the Drunken Chocolatier and Bali Bites … a llama.

A snuggly llama.

With a social conscience.

So far I’ve had 2 m / 6 ft measured out for me in eagles, cougars, bears, and butterflies. A llama is an adorable addition to the list.

I don’t stop at the Good Fish tent, and I politely stand back (leaving enough room for at least two snuggly llamas) while the Good Fish guy checks out the offerings at Bali Bites.

He moves on, I move in, and when I walk off again it’s with a pouch of their gado-gado sauce in my backpack.

One last happy look back from the exit end, where yet more signage — “Stay Safe!” — reminds us how to behave, if we want our markets to be able to stay open.

And I’m out, and off, and wandering deeper south-east along these residential streets.

More Good Signs, as I go.

The St. George Library on East 10th, for example, named for the cross-street, is a year-round hub of local give-and-take. The chair is new — perhaps on offer, or perhaps an amenity for someone waiting until it is safe to move in and check current titles.

More wildly healthy foliage obscuring a sign at Carolina and East 11th, another cheering demonstration of neighbours who care about each other. You and I never knew Julia, but this decorated street corner celebrates her as a good friend and neighbour.

Farther south on Carolina, approaching East 18th, and another community free library: BOOKS, albeit in battered lettering on a peeling box. Don’t care. Love it; love what it stands for.

And — I realize, to my absolute glee — the derelict house and blazing buttercups in the background mean that, by sheer chance,I have rediscovered one of my favourite alleys in the entire city. I first took you there with me just over a year ago, with a 24 May 2020 post entitled B Is For Bee (& Buttercup).

Here we are again. With a crow thrown in for good measure.

Later, heading back toward home, somewhere near Mount St. Joseph Hospital on Prince Edward, one more Good Sign. It’s one we all know well, but I have to acknowledge that by now our response is wearier than it was at first.

It is still a Very Good Sign.

“If You Go Down…”

6 February 2021 – Here we are, edge of the woods, and that 1930s children’s song starts humming in my head.

“If you go down in the woods today

“You’re sure of a big surprise.

“If you go down in the woods today

“You’d better go in disguise!

“For every bear that ever there was

“will gather there for certain because

“Today’s the day the Teddy Bears have their picnic.

“Picnic time for Teddy Bears…”

And on it goes.

We are here in the woods — the 48-Ha forested ravine that comprises Robert Burnaby Park — precisely to look for the Teddy Bears. (Or Ewoks, if you must.) Along with all the other hidden tributes to the forest, to art, and to the human spirit rising above COVID to continue to play and create and make magic.

These well-hidden twigs & twine creatures, made from the forest’s own materials, are the work of somewhat reclusive local artist Nickie Lewis, who, when the pandemic closed down her usual art outlets, walked off into the woods to create her own.

She didn’t ask the City’s permission or place her installations in easy trail-side view. Burnaby has retroactively endorsed her work and we visitors tromp around in wonder, with only an enigmatic electronic map for guidance. We are grateful for whatever we find, tucked behind trees or upon a stump or deep in the cleft of a ravine.

This poignant reclining figure, for example.

We admire the texterity of the work, its delicacy despite the rough materials, and the skillful extra touches, such as that fall of ivy for her hair, tumbling to one side.

But in walking the trails looking for Lewis’ creations, we find we settle into enjoying the forest just for itself. It is as magical as anything the artist brought to it (which is, perhaps, what she wants us to discover).

The play of tree stump against tree roots…

the canopy soaring overhead…

the glowing fungi buttons almost underfoot…

the chuckling glee of the nearby creek, slaloming its way from ‘way up there, around-and-down-and-around to ‘way over there.

And look, even the magic of picture, frame and pedestal — all in one tree.

In the end, we only find two of Lewis’ installation. And we don’t care.

It has been entirely glorious, just as it is.

(But I’m still humming Teddy Bears’ Picnic!)

Wet

2 February 2021 – All these versions of “wet,” shining up at me immediately post-showers in a 2-km radius of home!

For example, there’s Tree-Bark Wet , whose sub-categories include…

Naked Gleaming Bark

Adorned Gleaming Bark (in this case, with a sodden felt heart)…

and even,

Hidden Gleaming Bark (here buried beneath squishy moss and droplet-shiny baby ferns).

Then there’s Art-Installation Wet

with its own sub-categories, including…

Sidewalk Mosaics (here, the eponymous Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathern — briefly Governor-General of Canada — glints up at us from his place of honour in front of Mount Pleasant’s Connaught apartment building) …

and also, and of course, Park Statues.

For example, The Dude!

Mount Pleasant’s very own bronze Dude (Reclining Figure, if you insist), at ease in the S/E corner of his very own Dude Chilling Park (Guelph Park, if you insist).

By now he is relatively dry on top, but still shedding droplets beneath his extended forearm.

I am completely dry, thank you, inside my Vancouver–proof raincoat, and I walk on home, much amused.

Burly Boles

29 January 2021Boles??? Until yesterday, I would have been unable to spring this title on you, because I didn’t know the word bole. I knew bowl, and I knew burl, and I had admired (in classy shops) beautiful bowls made from burls, and it’s only because of linguistic/dictionary ricochets I discovered the word bole.

In very broad terms, and I do stress “broad,” the bole is the trunk (stem + main wooden axis) of a tree.

So when I walk down East 7th, the stretch bordering the northern edge of Dude Chilling Park, I am not just fixated on a huge great burl protruding from that tree in front of me, I have the whole B-on-B phenomenon right there before my eyes.

You’ll notice a whole line-up of trees behind that one, Bs-on-Bs one after another, all along the sidewalk edge of the park. Look, here’s the very next tree.

Lumpy burls all over this sturdy bole. Though … check out the sudden indent about 2 metres up. A number of these trees have that same shape, I wonder if they were all chopped off at that height and defiantly grew on up anyway. (Take that, you think-you’re-so-smart human being!)

So maybe a bit of tree pruning history is being revealed. Along with lots of winter moss.

Back to the burls. Again in very broad terms, they occur when (perhaps through injury) the grain grows in a deformed manner, typically turning into a rounded outgrowth filled with small knots.

Small knots.

A few of the burls in this line-up of trees are purists, wearing no ornamentation beyond that offered by the tree itself …

but most of them, this being Vancouver in winter, reach for available accessories and luxuriate in moss.

Sometimes just a delicate spray or two …

sometimes a whole puffy cloak, a pile-on of shapes, textures & shades.

Not that the moss limits itself to burls. It flings itself everywhere. Bole, burl, branch, twig …

I walk from the park’s N/E edge to its S/E edge. In so doing, I pass abruptly from the eternal verities of nature to the street art of here & now. (Up high. Corner of the apartment building.)

This signature is appearing all around town these days …

Never mind.

Back to the eternal verities of nature.

I also see clusters of bright new snowdrops, rising up healthy & strong through last year’s dead, fallen leaves.

And you can read into that as much symbolism as you choose.

  • 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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