Deosil, Around the Pond

30 October 2022 – I have neither pond nor this extraordinary word “deosil” in mind as I pick my way through the Woodland Garden, one of the areas within Vancouver’s VanDusen Botanical Garden.

Instead, I am looking for a very specific image — the visual echo of one of my recent stacked-stone photos in Stanley Park.

This is the photo I have in mind.

There they are, a stone couple stop their rock, looking out across English Bay to the far freighters.

And here I now am in the VanDusen woods, where — yes!– I find what I am seeking….

a red cedar couple atop their knoll, looking out across Livingstone Lake to the Visitor Centre.

Different scale, different material, and a known sculptor, but there’s my visual echo, and I am happy.

I circle the installation before moving on.

It’s one of my favourites: Confidence, 2012, by Michael Dennis. (Among his other works, one I show you frequently: the eponymous Dude, aka Reclining Figure, in Dude Chilling Park.)

I decide to go walk around the Cypress Pond, partly because it’s near-by and mostly because I just plain like it a lot. Quickest way there is back through the Woodland Garden, where nature’s dramatic fall colour contrasts punch me in the eye…

before I emerge onto the path just south of the pond.

If we think of the pond as hat-shaped, its crown to the north…

I’m now at the lower right, eastern edge of the brim.

Purely on whim, I decide to walk clockwise, water to my right, rather than my usual counter-clockwise.

“Widdershins!” I think happily to myself. Such a ridiculously wonderful word and now I can actually use it. “I am walking widdershins….” Oh, um, oops. Which way ’round is that? So, later, I look it up and, thanks to the Waning Moon website for southern-hemisphere “lovers of Earth’s mysteries,” I discover the etymology and definition, not just of widdershins, but of deosil as well.

Deosil! In all my decades of life, I had never heard that word. Now I not only know the word, I am able to tell you that, in choosing to walk with the pond to my right, I am walking deosil, not widdershins. The persistence of language! From their Scottish Gaelic/Middle Irish/Lowland Scottish/Germanic origins, through their centuries of misspellings and re-spellings — they are still with us today, two ancient words to distinguish right-turning from left-turning.

All that book larnin’ comes later. Meanwhile, back here at pond’s edge, I soon forget fancy language, and just start my loop.

There’s the pedestrian bridge to the north, as I set off from the pond’s south-east corner.

I follow that southern edge, and then make a right turn onto a trail cutting north through the woods on the pond’s west side. It offers me more dramatic fall contrast of colours, this time in a Lebanese Cedar.

Talk about colour-blocking! I walk close…

and then really close…

and finally back off, back to my trail.

Nobody is sitting on the little bench just south of the bridge, not in today’s chill, and no turtles are sunning themselves on the rocks either.

About to step onto the bridge, I pause to enjoy the reverse view, west to east, and the way drooping tree branches frame the view (Sweet Gum on the left, Bald Cypress on the right).

Droplets from the morning showers still glisten in the Cypress needles, and a Red Maple beckons from the far side.

Off the bridge now, into the Eastern North America woods to the east of the pond, with more bright blaze from some Red Maples.

Completing my deosil loop, I’m back where I began. I give the pond one last glance…

and head indoors.

I’ll approach the cafĂ© either deosil or widdershins, and who cares? Either way, there will be a latte at the end of the loop.

“On est bien ici”

28 August 2022On est bien ici reads the little plaque on a bench in Volunteer Park, foot of Macdonald Street, facing north into the waters of English Bay in Burrard Inlet. I agree, one feels extremely contented in this tiny parkette — but it’s just my departure point, not my destination.

I’m going to head down these steps, this breezy bright day …

for a walk along the wild foreshore (i.e. no paths, no development) on east to Kitsilano Beach.

I get my bearings, look west for a moment…

even plonk down for a further few moments onto this chair-shaped tree stump, because who could resist?

And then I start walking east.

“Nobody is happier than a wet dog on a beach,” I say to his amused owner…

“unless it’s a wet dog who has abandoned his pink toy bone in order to snuffle around for a lovely dead fish to roll in,” I add (memories of my beloved Kim-dog strong in my mind). “Shush!” she replies. “I’m not telling him there’s a dead seal farther along.” We agree to keep it our secret.

Rocks & stones & pebbles & seaweed & mussel shells & oyster shells…

and a quizzical couple who wave hands at it all and ask, “Why are there so many oyster shells, and no oyster beds?” We agree we don’t know, and further agree not-knowing does not interfere with our enjoyment. Not even slightly.

A sheer cliff face to the landward side…

and piles & more piles of huge logs, flung around like so many toothpicks by winter storms.

Quiet riffs of acoustic guitar float above the logs.

I eventually see a human head (and a guitar neck) poking above one great tangle of logs. I raise a thumb in appreciation; Guitar Guy says “Thanks!” and we chat. No, your music is not too loud; yes, I know you need to keep your fingers limber; yes, I bet it’s total joy to tuck down among the logs and make music on this beach. I think of adding his riffs sound a bit Leo Kottke-esque to me, but I’m not sure enough of my genre-ID skills to take the chance. (And now I wish I had…)

On east, a few more humans, who are a lot more visible. Yoga Girl and Backpack Boy and (far left) Phone Girl on Giant Stump.

Yoga Girl steps out of her pose, and begins to chant. Backpack Boy is startled, looks back to check it out, and then, reassured, with a shoulder twitch starts walking again.

Phone Girl was, is, and remains oblivious to the outside world.

She has her phone, and her two busy thumbs, to connect her to her ether world…

I’m taking a small gamble as I walk on east. i’ve passed what might be the last staircase to the city above, and a young woman headed west confirms the only way up beyond here is a rock scramble plus steep sandy track by the Kitsilano Yacht Club pier. But hey! I say to myself, it’s all walking. (The long-ago observation of my Tuesday Walking Society co-founder, and only other Society member, who rightly took the position that since we were out for a walk, it didn’t really matter whether we were advancing per Plan A or back-tracking in a hastily concocted Plan B — walking is walking.)

In time I’m approaching the pier and the rock scramble. I’m still far enough from it to tell myself it’ll be easy-peasy… until I see a woman very carefully, very laboriously, very one tricky-step-at-a-time, make her way down the sandy slope and over the rocks. Nope! Not even with my trusty walking poles! It’s Plan B time, and I backtrack to the steps at the foot of Trafalgar Street.

Where I climb back up to Point Grey Road…

and walk along the leafy-groomed-lushly-landscaped road for a while.

I pass a huge sunflower hosting two very happy bees…

and then curve around the side of Kitsilano Beach at Balsam Street, where I see the outdoor saltwater pool hosting happy swimmers…

and then, back up on Broadway, I allow a passing bus to host a very happy me.


    "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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