Black & Red on Grey

11 October 2020 – In the autumn rain …

with a skateboard…

with a crow …

with a mask.

Happy Thanksgiving. (Maybe more important this year than ever, to focus on causes for gratitude in our lives, as well as sources of stress.)

Stealth Art

17 April 2020 – Borrowing a brand name, and it’s one I’m about to promote, but not just yet. Meanwhile, “stealth art” in the generic sense, something that sneaks up on you. You’re not in a gallery (impossible right now anyway), you’re just going about the day that current local regulations leave open for you — and then, boom, there it is.

Art.

As long as you have a cheerfully open attitude about what constitutes “art.”

It can be an arrangement of spring blossoms, as curated by mother nature. (Blossom festivals cancelled, so what, they bloom anyway.)

Or an arrangement of caution tape, as woven by a Canadian who just can’t do without hockey, even though the season is on hold. (The crow was apparently less impressed than I was.)

Or a whole evolving Little City of rock and clean fill and other found materials out the Leslie Spit in Toronto — as arranged, or at least as initially arranged, by The Stealth Art Collective, but with other appreciative hands ever since.  Here’s one image to start with … (I am such a fan of their work out the Spit – I stood wide-eyed again and again, in the years I cycled or walked out there myself.)

Or street art on your very own table! Just download this colouring book of designs created by some of Toronto’s best-known names, all for you to enjoy in your physical isolation.

“Such a lovely, local, timely, engaging response to the times,” wrote the friend who sent me the link. Yes, it is.
I think we are all experiencing a good many lovely, local responses to the times, and feel a resulting surge of joy and energy and courage. Let’s keep it up…

“Things could change …”

14 March 2020 – I cross paths with two young men, and overhear just a snippet of their conversation. “But by next week,” says one, “things could change.”

For all I know, they’re talking team standings, but that’s not how I decode it. I think infection tallies, health guidelines, further restrictions, evolving strategies.

Because the world has changed — my fortunate little world in a fortunate city in a fortunate country has changed — and suddenly my perceptions all change as well. Put the ordinary in an extraordinary new context, and it is no longer ordinary.

Marcel Proust got it right. “The voyage of discovery,” he wrote (as translated on an Art Gallery of Ontario wall), “is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

I’m walking a familiar landscape, my favourite False Creek loop, but I’m doing it with new eyes, new reactions.

  • Item: The woman next to me at a traffic light sneezes into a tissue, and I am consciously grateful for her good hygiene.
  • Item: Two ducks swim toward the railing, down by World of Science, I notice the gap between them, and I think …

“Social distancing! Even the ducks.”

I’m not trying to be clever. There’s no audience for this little quip except my own brain. It’s just an example of new reactions, in these new times.

As I walk I realize I am looking around me with some wonder, with heightened appreciation because of heightened awareness of our common here-and-now, immediate, vulnerability.

I watch two young women shuck their shoes, string up a volleyball net in Concord Community Park, and start to practise their technique.

I’m used to this. I see it all summer long, but now, in these circumstances, a display of health and joy seems precious, special, something to notice, to value.

I sink into one of the park’s welcoming chairs, prop up my feet on the log …

and for a while just watch the life of north-east False Creek flow past. It is reassuringly, wonderfully normal. (Even though, as that young man will say in an encounter I have not yet had, “by next week things could change.” And will.)

People with bikes, with scooters, with dogs, with smart phones, with strollers and kiddies. Kiddies in helmets, learning their own tiny scooters, and kiddies squealing with delight as daddy (it’s usually daddy) scoops them up for a tickle. Ferries come and go. There’s a guy in a kayak. And those two young women just keep spiking that volleyball.

I wander on. More normal things to cherish, in this abnormal time. Look! two new inukshuks, so easily created from the waterfront stones. And look! a crow to admire them.

The seawall leaves the Creek long enough to thread between a nightlife venue and BC Place Stadium. As it curves back toward Plaza of Nations and the water, I’m startled by a big, fresh sign.

Startled, again because of the way I decode it. I take it for reassurance that despite the pandemic, the False Creek ferries are still operating. Only much later do I realize that it is almost certainly construction-related, nothing to do with COVID-19.

And yes, the ferries are running.

Still heading west, approaching Coopers Park, and I pass a sign I’ve seen before. It explains an art installation I know well and have already featured in this blog.

So, nothing new here — except it triggers memories of two recent exchanges with friends who note tartly they’d like to see the world get as focused on climate change as on the virus.

And here they are, the sea-level stripes on the Cambie Bridge supports.

Children play happily under the bridge’s north-end ramps, no sign that parents are yet keeping them home. Swings, slides, all the usual equipment with cushiony surfaces underfoot, plus a chalk wall and a hard surface for chalked hopscotch and other artistic impulses.

Even a carrot and a bunny-rabbit on the utilities box!

I walk on as far as the Yaletown dock, take in the children’s artwork on a BC Hydro box, whose message suddenly bears additional interpretations …

and double back to Coopers Park.

Up the long zigzag ramp onto the Cambie Bridge …

and across the bridge, with my favourite dock, Spyglass Place  to welcome me on the south side …

where I again sink into one of those welcoming chairs.

I again prop up my feet, respectfully positioning them to one side of the butterfly …

and again watch some False Creek life flow by. More dogs, kids, adults. More ordinary stuff, suddenly so extraordinary.

I head on east. Clipping along. Pass a staircase, slow down to read its scrawled message. And freeze.

The answer would seem to be: No.

But let us rise to the challenge. And let us support all the authorities who provide science-based information, and follow their guidance. This is a “voyage of discovery” worthy of Proust.

I stop for a latte in Olympic Village. I move to the pick-up counter, where another woman is waiting for her order. We smile at each other — and each take one step back. And smile again, in wry acknowledgment.

If Mr. & Mrs. Mallard can get the hang of social distancing, so can we.

 

 

 

 

 

Gore St., Sunday Morning

24 November 2019 – Gore north of Keefer, not the tourist-poster part of town. But no reason not to look about with appreciative eyes.

There’s Madonna of the Crows …

and Wild Rose of the Alley …

and Multi-Roses of the Roller-Door …

and Still Life with Hydro Poles.

And with Crows!

One definitely nature morte, two tiers up …

the other right up top, and just as definitely vivante.

PR Fauna (Visible & Invisible) and a Candle

1 September 2019 – This was not the plan. I meant to be up in Lund today, truly end of the road, soaking up sights & thoughts to share with you in a post to be so-cutely entitled, “197 Km from Home.”

Turns out Info-Centre Lady was wrong. She had assured me I was just in time: today would be the last run this summer of the seasonal Sunday bus service to Lund. No. My unrewarded vigil at the bus stop proved that when the Transit authority said it was a July-August service, they meant literally that. And today is September, isn’t it?

So (in my very best mature/philosophic traveller way) I thought to myself, Never mind… let’s just see what Powell River wants to offer me today instead.

It offered me fauna, visible & invisible, and a candle.

By “fauna” I do mostly mean animals, and I bet you’re waiting for at least a bear. Maybe no cougar, no elk, not here in town, but at least a bear.

I will show you an invisible bear.

You can’t see him, and neither did I.

But while I was taking this photo at the Log Dump the other day, a couple stopped their car long enough to tell that that I was standing exactly — exactly — where they had seen a bear just the day before. I thanked them politely, and later wondered whether they’d been hoping for a more excited reaction than that.

On to the invisible wasps.

A practically invisible warning, too, thanks to the day’s intermittent showers. Still, I appreciate the City’s efforts to prevent any collision between human skin and wasp stingers.

Enough invisibles, on to the visibles.

Polecrows! (If we can have Polecats, why not polecrows?)

Speaking of cats, a cat named Spot …

and a dog named No! …

and a … ummmm … an owlcat.

Beak of owl, ears of pussycat, all we lack is the pea-green boat. But, look, owlcat is pea-green. So Edward Lear would approve, after all.

On to the candle.

To my delight, the Powell River Forestry Museum is open today, down there on Willingdon Beach.  I go in, not just to see what they have, but also to tell them how much I enjoyed the trail through the forest (another project of the Powell River Forestry Heritage Society) and all that it taught me about the history of the industry and the equipment that has been part of it.

So here I am, walking around, and I meet a candle. The Swedish Candle, sometimes aka The Finnish Candle, or even, The Canadian Candle.

You will suspect me of showing you an invisible candle, out there somewhere with the bear and the wasps, but no … that log is the candle.

Lund would have been a whole different day. But this one was just fine.

 

 

170 Km from Home…

30 August 2019 – It’s the start of a holiday weekend, so I join the exodus from town.

I’m on a B.C. Ferry run from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale — first hop in a ferry/bus/ferry/bus trip that will take me those 170 km up the Sunshine Coast to Powell River.

Powell River was all about forestry, is imprinted by forestry, and still produces newsprint and other specialty papers. The Powell River Company began building a pulp and paper mill here in 1909, started production in 1912, and at one point was the largest pulp mill in the world. The mill was built on the unceded lands of Tla’amin First Nation, whose people were summarily relocated without compensation. Logging practices were equally cavalier, and equally accepted, in the spirit of the day.

The day has changed, old practices and arrangements have changed, are changing, but — here as elsewhere — aboriginal/logging/environmental cross-currents still swirl. I am aware of what I don’t know and choose to step aside from judgment, and simply see what I see.

First full day in town, down to Willingdon Beach Park, heading for the forest trail that will launch my walk to the Historic District. I’m clipping through the park at speed — I have places to go! — and I stop in my tracks. Just look what young Eli Hueston has done.

Clever-boots Eli, and clever the team that turned his design for an octopus bike rack into the real thing. (Well, no, not a real octopus…)

And onto the Trail — a nature trail since the 1920s, when the logging railway ties and rails were removed.

It’s a little over a kilometre in length, and I don’t expect it to take up much time, or occupy much mind-space. La-la, great tall trees and cedar path and glimpses through the trees over the gravelly beach to Malaspina Srait. A joy, all of it, but I’m moving right along.

Ah but, you see, there are signs all along the way and I am a sucker for signs. (Ask Phyllis or Frances, bless their patient souls.) So I am impressed to learn that the gravel mixed into the ground beneath my feet, up here at a higher level, is Pleistocene-era, originally deposited at sea level but stranded when the glaciers melted (some 10,000 years ago) and the land rebounded.

No sign for this uprooted giant tree, but I stop to gawk anyway. My attitude about this Trail has definitely shifted.

Mind, there are lots of signs about the trees and plant life: Western Redwood Cedar (B.C.’s official tree), Sitka Spruce, Douglas Fir, Western Hemlock, the Grand Fir, Sword Ferns (which always make me expect a dinosaur around the next bend), Salal, Oregon Grape…

I read all this, but what really stops me, again and again, are all the pieces of old logging machinery, now on open-air display here in the forest. (And where better?)

A boomboat, for example (used in the booming ground to sort logs into booms) …

and a 1940s Track Logging Arch (towed behind bulldozers to elevate one end of a turn of logs being skidded to a loading area or a dump).

Like huge mechanical children, playing hide-&-seek in the forest.

Here’s another — a 1941 steam shovel that had been converted to a log loader.

I move in close to this example of a Spliced Eye. Sounds gruesome, but we’re talking about logging cables …

their wires interwoven to shape and secure an eye.

And here, oh look, the wonderfully named Steam Donkey, creating the steam to power the winches to spool the cables.

I reach the other end of the Trail, marked by this High Frame Hammer. I don’t know what it did, when it was active, they don’t tell me, and I don’t care. I’m charmed because it looks like a puppy-dog, paws up and begging for a treat.

End of the Trail, and polite, law-abiding citizens are supposed to peel off to a designated road. Because, if you go straight ahead, you are on a private industrial road, in active use, and You. Are. Trespassing.

I trespass! Somewhere back there on the Trail, I met Bruce R.V. (as I dub him), Bruce-who-lives-in-an-R.V. and comes here a lot. He tells me how much more interesting it is to carry on down the private road — “Just watch for trucks” — and visit the Log Dump, and on from there, for a first glimpse of The Hulks, and eventually turn right and wiggle up into the Historic District.

So I do.

I reach the Log Dump, look out into the Strait where busy little boats take the dumped logs and shape them into booms. (Oh! They must be boomboats! A word I just learned minutes ago springs to life!)

While here I fall into conversation with Raven Lady — well, I muscle in on her conversation with friends, and they don’t object. She’s telling them about the raven duo that stay around her home, and how much she enjoys them. Suddenly she points into the water: “Baby seal!” Yes, she can tell that little head is a baby, not an adult — partly by comparative size (practice has given her that skill), and partly because babies only partially raise their heads, while adults lift them clear of the water.

Raven Lady suggests that, once I hit the Historic District, I head for Townsite Brewery. “And if you don’t care for beer, order a kombucha. They have that on tap as well.” I promise.

I carry on. Passing crows on this side …

and a whole wall of murals on the other side …

as I leave the Log Dump. Imagine that, I walk right past a whole wall of street art.

And I walk and I walk. And then I stop, because, ohhhh, it’s my first glimpse of The Hulks.

See? Floating concrete boats, forming a breakwater for the mill. (I don’t know it, but I’ll see them again, much later in my walk.)

Finally I hit the edge of the Historic District, and I am tired. I still plan to follow my self-guiding tour (pamphlet in hand) around the District, but… oh… I am so relieved to see the Veterans’ Memorial Park, with its welcome benches and fountain ringed by spitting lions.

I long for that kombucha.

I wonder where Townsite Brewery might be. It’s not on my little map. I spin 360-degrees at the next intersection — and there it is! I march in, plonk myself at the bar, order my drink, and am delighted to overhear the cheerful barmaid chatter with the couple next to me and their little girl. Barmaid: “And which beer do you want, miss?” Little girl, in fits of giggles: “I don’t drink beer! I want … mummy, what’s it called?” Mummy supplies the magic word, and little girl gets her very own kombucha.

Such a family-friendly bar, and surely this explains the door frame.

Yup. Children’s heights, one after another, each with the child’s name and date he/she grew that tall.

I do a really truncated self-guiding tour, because Self is getting tired. I keep the Patricia Theatre on my hit list — founded in 1913, it is now the province’s oldest continuously active theatre — but I stop to read this Garage Sale sign before I cross the street to visit it.

The sale has items you probably wouldn’t see in an urban setting, a cement mixer being one of them.

Almost out of the District, with a detour to look at St. David and St. Paul’s Anglican Church — but I’m stopped first by this bus-shelter bench in front of the church.

Shaped from mud adobe-style, as you can see, and with a wooden hatch door. I open it. It’s a Little Free Library.

Is this not wonderful? No signage, so I can’t give appropriate credit.

The church sponsors a community permaculture project called Sycamore Common, which also includes a labyrinth.

I am delighted that the sign for the labyrinth quotes the same Antonio Machado reference I use on my blog home page (“Paths are made by walking”).

Finally onto Marine Avenue — parallel to the waterfront, but above it — to start the walk back to my part of town. Pure highway at this point, and not that appealing, except that it’s leading me home, which begins to seem awfully attractive.

Then I am rewarded: a lookout point for The Hulks.

One last look …

And on down Marine Avenue I go, tromp-tromp.

I’m startled to discover that I’m not allowed to cross the street …

while deer are allowed to leap all over the place. (See that yellow sign with the black symbol, farther down?)

I have so had enough! Tromp-tromp.

Eventually, of course, I hit my stretch of Marine Avenue — where I fall into the first café in sight. Time for a reviving latte. Through the window I notice a wall mural opposite, featuring a very large blue crow.

Nicely re-caffeinated, I check out the wall before the final sprint home.

Very nice blue crow. But I like the cat even more.

(He’s there. Keep looking.)

 

Loop to Labyrinth

27 January 2019 – “Yes,” I said to myself, “a loop. Down to the very end-curve of False Creek, west along the north side of the Creek to the Cambie Street bridge, over the bridge, back east on the south side of the Creek, and home.”

You are not where it says you are. You are with me — in the magic of the historic present tense — in the end-curve next to World of Science (aka “The Golf Ball,” thank you Frances).

Looking west down the Creek, with the Cambie bridge arching one side to the other.

I head past the reeds and rushes in the parkland next to World of Science, hear the Redwing Blackbirds and read the warning, but without alarm.

None swoop down. Children swoop, on the other hand, exuberant with the park’s activity stations, their parents laughing and trotting along beside them.

I round the Creek’s north-east curve, then pass & briefly cut through the new Concord Community Park.

It is reminiscent — in its bright colours, high design and high functionality — of the new breed of urban parks I’d come to love in Toronto as well. Urbane, yet at one with nature. The perfect city combination.

The seawall scoops me by BC Place Stadium and the adjacent Casino, its metallic tawny walls the perfect foil for sunrise, sunset and — at the moment — dark reflections of its angular neighbours.

I’m barely past the canine off-leash area in Coopers’ Park when I come to its logical conclusion — dog benches!

First I see, and start laughing at, the dog faces. Only later do I notice the water bowl beneath each muzzle.

Up the long switch-back ramp onto the Cambie bridge. Even here, carefully distinct lanes for pedestrians and for bicycles. (The baby carriage may be on wheels, but mum wisely opts for the pedestrian lane.)

Approaching the south side of the Creek, I look east to the rest of my loop …

and then, just before starting down the spiral pedestrian staircase, I look west.

The Granville Street bridge is out there somewhere, but here in the foreground is Spyglass Dock, “my” dock it used to be, and still my favourite. Oh, how those colours punch through the day’s flat light.

And down the spiral ramp.

More colour punch on the bridge pillar, this time with an environmental message. The blue bands of “A False Creek” rise 5 metres above sea level, showing us mid-point of the predicted 4-6 metre rise we can expect through melting ice caps.

Eastward-ho, with great, grating swirls of crows on a line-up of trees between the bridge and Hinge Park. I remember seeing them here before, it must be a favourite roost.

Past the noisy crows, on to the peace of public lounge chairs and a cyclist peacefully lounging, bike propped to one side, tuque’d head barely visible, and an Aquabus chugging by in the Creek.

The City has tucked a small artificial island into the Creek just opposite Hinge Park, engineered to mimic nature’s own wisdom and provide additional rich habitat for wildlife. It creates a side-channel in the Creek, with the island to one side and the seawall path to the other.

After Hinge Park comes Olympic Village, with its shops, condos and big open square. I’m already anticipating the latte I will order in one of the cafés.

I am not anticipating the city’s latest labyrinth!

Oh yes, we are becoming a city of labyrinths, and look how engaged we are with this one before it is even complete.

See? A woman to the right guides her child along a path; mid-distance on the left, Turquoise Jacket cantilevers herself along another path, with Red Jacket not far behind.

And farther back — straight back from the “a” in the foreground word “Vancouver,” yes, that crouched dark figure — the artist.

Meet Himy (as in, he tells me, “Hey, It’s My Yogurt”) Syed, heart & soul & artist of the Toronto + Vancouver City of Labyrinths project.

I have to wait my turn to speak with him: one after another, passers-by stop to ask about his work, and thank him for it. I discover he’s another Toronto expat, so we swap a few Rob Ford horror stories before chattering about street art and artists in both cities.

Then he returns to his chalk, and I go find my latte.

Where I find myself still smiling about Himy’s project, and all the joy he creates for the rest of us.

 

Oblivious. And Observant

5 October 2018 – These people are oblivious …

to the whole busy other world going right here next to them, all around Norman’s Fruit & Salad market .

They’re put to shame by these Plum Birds, who are so observant they’re practically falling off their wire.

See? It’s a world of activity, all stretched out, right beneath those bright beady eyes …

layer on layer.

All quite fanciful, too, with a certain ornithological flair.

That’s a cardinal on her head, I like to think, and on his finger, oh, let’s call it a cockatoo. (The rare crestless variant.)

Perhaps distracted by the wine, they are oblivious to the scrutiny from above.

Up there, an observant trio, who watch what’s happening below …

despite their own distractions of book, apples and, I’m willing to guess, a daffodil. (Clearly they are not the least bit distracted by untied shoe laces.)

Beside them, a second trio, the sleeping cat nicely counterbalanced by two watchful crows.

Beside them, yet another trio. A trio of trios! This time it’s a sad clown, a perhaps-concerned crow and, underneath, an I-have-my-own-problems sad civilian.

I confess. This is not where I began. Not what first switched me from oblivious to observant.

I was hiking right along at that street corner, when the young Joe Stalin caught my attention.

There he was, back from the dead to glower over a box of cabbages.

It took me a long while to notice the — what? Benedictine monk? — reading his breviary in the background.

What I noticed next was the bad-tempered cat, there at young Joe’s feet, giving that Plum Bird on the pole a hard time.

Or, perhaps, Joe & the cat are just ticked at whoever scrawled all over them.

Street artists should respect existing street art, right?

 

Time With Grit & Grime

15 September 2018 – Grab it all, drink it all in, right? Revel in eco-sculptures one day, but go prowl alleys & street corners the next …

And so here I am, back in Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, back on Main Street. Where I discover another click-clack-fall-is-back:

This street piano is still on the street, but locked up tight. (Only later, looking at my photos, do I see that piano keys are painted on the padlock.)

A silenced piano, but fair enough. There are not many people still patio-lingering to enjoy it, even had it been open for use.

I’ve been pretty sketchy about discovering this year’s Mural Festival contributions to the neighbourhood, so I double back onto Watson — looks like an alley, but it’s a legit street with its very own name — to go see what might be there.

If there is a new mural nearby, I don’t see it. I’m struck instead by this hopeful message — I interpret it as hopeful — on a dumpster.

Bit farther north, and I get to pay tribute to one of my all-time favourite Mural Festival offerings, this one a veteran from 2016.

Oh, I love this wolf. (And the companion wolf, out of frame.) It’s more than aesthetic appreciation, I realize: I stumbled on the 2016 crop of murals by accident, while visiting that year, not even knowing that a Mural Festival took place. So there’s a whole serendipity-lucky-charm current of warmth I feel, every time I see him again.

More wandering, and eventually I’m on E. Broadway (aka 9th Ave.), just west of Main. I side-slip into the alley & bend myself back-back-back, peering up-up-up, to pay proper attention to this glorious fire escape, with its entirely improbable cross-stitch of artwork, top to bottom.

All that, and one of those big boxy Vancouver hydro poles to complete the image.

I straighten up, and discover a Millennial right next to me, busy taking the same shot. “I saw you & wondered what you were looking at,” she confesses once she too is again vertical. “It’s cool.”

Farther west on Broadway, and a tattered poster I don’t understand, but the devil-baby graphics suck me in. Then I decide I like the larger composition even better: Manhattan Project + devil-baby + “Faro” +  the battered, barricaded windows + assorted scribbles.

The city — any city — just keeps throwing up these random art installations, the elements assembled by chance and disparate hands & intentions. Some cohere, some don’t. (Oooo, aren’t I playing the Deep Thinker! I’ll stop now.)

I don’t have any of these Deep thoughts at the time. I am immediately distracted by a bright red poster next to the devil-baby ensemble, and move in to read the fine print.

Later I find Expressions of Belonging online, and discover these events are being organized by a local Master’s student, not as part of her studies, just as a way to encourage human connections within the urban web. Coming up 23 September, so you still have time to mark your calendar if you’re local– but note the venue has moved to the Kitsilano Community Centre.

One last citizen of the urban web who demands our attention — a creature of many roles but, at this exact moment, playing parking vigilante.

There is always a crow.

 

Vancouver + Toronto = Victoria

7 May 2018 – So here I am, Vancouverite me, at the ferry terminal, about to make the Tsawwassen – Swartz Bay crossing that will eventually take me to Victoria. Where I’ll spend a few days with a Toronto friend, who is doing a spot of house- and cat-sitting while there on vacation.

Smooth, easy crossing. I contemplate islands, mountain ranges, all that magic B.C. coastline stuff. Also the ferry’s wake, endlessly spilling out in its endlessly same-but-always-slightly-different patterns. Chaos theory made visible.

That thought would never have occurred, but for yesterday evening’s  BBC documentary, host theoretical physicist Prof. Jim Al-Khalili, on quantum physics, chaos theory and the natural world.

So, at least temporarily, I “read” the wake with a more appreciative eye.

Nothing temporary about my appreciation for cats! The house cat is a charmer, and — when not asleep in his basket — amazingly lithe for an 18-year-old.

Much to appreciate outdoors as well. We are in Vic West, just across the Upper Harbour from the heart of downtown.

Downtown can wait; today we stay on our side, walking on up the Galloping Goose Trail along the Gorge Waterway. Total delight.

Joggers, runners, speedy cyclists (in their speedy-cyclist lane), mums & tots, oldies with canes — and, of course, a happy young guy snoozing under a tree. While racing boats power on by.

We’re down around the Railyards Development, the reinvention of old railway/industrial land with parks, condos, and shops. Simple materials & lines for the buildings, punched up with colour.

Next day, downtown & beyond: our target is a pair of public gardens. One, the grounds around Government House, unknown to me but highly recommended; the other, the Abkhazi Garden, a remembered enchantment.

But first, into downtown via the Johnson St. bridge — the new one, that is, open barely a month and the largest single-leaf bascule bridge in Canada. (One of the largest in the world, come to that, at just under 46 metres.)

I’m not thinking about that. I don’t even know that, not yet. I’m just enjoying its sleek, white curving lines, and their contrast with the blocky heft of the old bridge, now being dismantled.

We walk waterside along Wharf St. for a bit, dancing around sidewalk reconstruction. Reconstruction with a commemorative purpose, I see, when I focus for a moment on the bricks in the nearest wheelbarrow.

I don’t know the story. I don’t know who these people are, or why they are being honoured. But I do like the thought of Poppy Franc Rekrut, “Honourable Gentleman,” and of George & John Haggis, “Father Son Sailor.”

We grant ourselves a genteel pause in Murchie’s Tea & Coffee on Government St., where my attention is soon focused on the decidedly ungenteel back alley I glimpse through the window, with its splashy mural.

My friend grins. She knows exactly what will happen after our coffee break. Yes. I tear down the alley, to see that mural close up.

 

I walk to the end, and discover a less-elegant offering down at the  T-junction. No artistic images here, just the power of the alley-scape as a whole: tagging, wheelies, brick walls, bright orange door.

Right! Time for those public gardens.

It all turns into a 12-km hoof, and worth it, both for the gardens and for sights on quiet residential streets along the way.

This neatly clipped rose, for example, tucked carefully into someone’s front-yard fence.

Gates to Government House: suitably dignified, armorial and splendid for the home of the provincial Lieutenant Governor. Even the logistical announcements — hours, leash-your-dog — are dignified.

Another notice on the adjacent railing explains why it is a good idea to obey the rules, and keep Fido on leash.

See? Fido vs. Deer in Rut? We all know who’d win.

The grounds are wonderful, we linger, we enjoy, we blink for a while on a bench, and then we walk on (with occasional guidance from passing pedestrians), making our way to the Abkhazi Garden on Fairfield Rd.

“The Garden that Love Built,” says a brochure, and for once PR is an understatement.

Exiled Georgian prince crosses paths with young woman in 1920s Paris; they are both interned during World War II (he in Germany, she in Shanghai); post-war she makes her way to Canada and buys a wooded, rocky chunk of land in Victoria. Each thinks the other dead; they find each other again; Prince Nicholas Abkhazi marries Peggy Pemberton-Carter; they spend the rest of their lives developing this garden, its legacy now protected by The Land Conservancy (and many other supporters).

The couple planned their garden from this tiny Summer House at the back of the property, here peek-a-boo through trees toward right rear; only later did they build a modest bungalow home (now the tea room).

We leave only when staff is, literally, closing the gates.

Next day I’m in reverse gear, on a bus to Swartz Bay, starting the trip back home. One last unexpected visual treat, as we wind through the town of Sidney enroute the ferry terminal. Me staring out the window, at nothing in particular …

Crows! Images-of. Look! Dormer windows, this cottage-y little home.

My kinda people.

 

 

  • 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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