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 café either deosil or widdershins, and who cares? Either way, there will be a latte at the end of the loop.


“Mini-Miracles”

17 October 2022 — These cranky days, even a mini-miracle is a major miracle and I’ll say thank you and hold it tight. Viewed that way, my walk centred around the St. George Community Library is to be celebrated.

My plan: drop off three books as donations to the “St. George Community Library” — in quotes, because if you now expect bricks & mortar, you are out of luck. As a 2012 Globe and Mail article explains, it’s a couple of planks street-side on East 10th near St. George, here in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, with a bit of tarp over top and the invitation to lend or borrow, give or receive.

I’ve received more than once, time to give.

En route, I angle through Dude Chilling Park, where I notice the leaves now flaring red…

and the tents down the pathway between the park and the adjacent school, proclaiming that the local farmers’ market is in session.

I visit the market, and find myself mesmerized by the pavement beneath my feet. It is brightly painted, a reminder that normally this cut-through serves schoolchildren. I stand there, giggling at some of the juxtapositions between permanent paint and temporary market signage.

There’s the hopscotch tucked behind today’s sorbet bars…

the chubby hand grabbing for those wonderfully multilingual eggs…

the blue-cap guy roaring approval for “absolutely NO pesticides” in the squash…

and all those teeth eager to sink into local frozen berries.

Mind you, some signage is temporary, and purpose-written for today’s visitors.

Off I go. I have books to donate.

On up to East 10th, left-turn east onto East 10th & on past St. George.. But before I get to the library shelving, I stop at the corner display. I think of it as the Gratitude Display, not that it has that official name, but there it always is, prompting us to be grateful for something seasonal and providing the materials needed to write up our response & peg it to the line.

With Thanksgiving just past and Hallowe’en almost here, the theme is obvious and the message silhouettes are pumpkin-shaped. The lines are bowed with suggestions; here is my favourite.

And so, enjoying the concept of mini-miracles, I walk on.

First to donate my books (a mini-miracle right there, that this two-plank “library” still thrives, at least a decade after its founding); then to visit the curious garden a few doors farther down the street.

Another noun deserving quote marks: this “garden” consists of a tub balanced on the nude legs/hips lower half of a mannequin, filled with assorted succulents and a collection of tiny naked plastic babies escaping from one container or another, the container varying with whatever whim currently strikes the gardener’s fancy.

I look to see what’s current.

Turquoise peasant clogs, is what. I think this is quite wonderful in a totally goofy “either you love it or you think it’s stupid” way. I also love the conker — the gleaming horse chestnut, still fresh and mahogany-bright, and so very seasonal.

I walk on, my mind now snagged on conkers and the game little boys played with them early in the last century (as recounted to me by my father). The game may be old memory, but the sound effects are right this minute: conkers are thudding down all around me from the trees towering over my head.

My mind moves on, from conkers back to that concept of mini-miracles. Thus encouraged to see them, I do see them, and I define them broadly.

For example, in the joke of these Monkey Puzzle branches tickling the armpits of a bungalow at East 10th & Prince Albert…

in the open embrace of this vintage home, all verandahs and balcony, at Prince Albert & East 19th…

and, right across the street, just past the volunteer-tended traffic circle garden (suffering the ban on watering), in the striking silhouette of St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church.

As I stand farther up Prince Albert, admiring the side view of the cross on the building and the cupola on the garage…

I can hear a congregation singing a hymn. Not in St. Nicholas, where children are now playing outside the church, but through the open doors of the Chinese Tabernacle Baptist Church one street farther south.

Another mini-miracle I’m happy to add to my day: peaceful diversity is always good news.

So I am perfectly content as I carry on south for a while, then finally loop my way back west-ish and north-ish. A short pause in Robson Park, with more autumnal conkers literally at my feet…

and I walk on home.

Light

2 November 2021 – Northern hemisphere, somewhat northern latitude in that hemisphere, and the late fall theme is darkness.

Shorter days. Darker days, too, with seasonal rain and low-hanging clouds.

And then… and then a couple of days of dazzling light. Sunshine and breeze and exploding colour and skies to infinity.

I’m up in the VanDusen Botanical Garden, on the edge of the Cypress Pond, and I am punch-drunk with it all.

Even the greens pulse with energy.

And, all around, those Bald Cypress doing what they do in fall — prove they are conifers, yes, but deciduous as well. Their needles blaze rust, and will soon be shed.

Up the zig-zag footbridge that floats pedestrians over one side of the Pond, and a view from the far end worthy of an impressionist painting. Perfectly anchored with that one dot of distant scarlet, a Sourwood Tree.

Now circling back down the other side of the Pond, promising myself a closer look at that Sourwood, but stopping half way. Stunned yet again at the buzz of colour and texture all around, the Pond and its little footbridge just visible, down below.

With an Alberta-blue sky overhead! (Ever since my Calgary days, I’ve called any intensely blue sky, “Alberta blue.”)

I’d never heard of the Sourwood Tree before. Not very big, and I bet most of the year entirely unremarkable. But, this short moment in fall… this is its moment. I sight through its leaves, a last look at the Pond in that tangle beyond.

And then it’s just a short woodland trail to Livingstone Lake.

Where everything glitters silver-white.

I circle the Lake, brush past shining plumes as I follow a path that will lead me back down to the Visitor Centre…

and, still be-dazzled, out to city streets.

Alchemy

25 October 2021 – Alchemy.

Alchemy, overhead.

Gold by day…

and…

silver by night.

Mid-Fall

21 October – Mid-fall in Vancouver.

It’s the season when nature is the biggest litterbug of all…

scattering leaves all over windshields and grassy sidewalk verges…

and across outdoor café tables.

But mid-fall is also still warm enough for couples to sit at one of those outdoor café tables …

and sink into each other’s eyes.

Tucked snugly behind their very own sheet of anti-COVID plastic.

The Moment In Between

16 October 2021 – It has just rained and it will soon rain again, but, meanwhile, there is this moment in between.

I walk back east, in this moment.

A burst of nature’s own autumnal colour blocking on West 8th, climbing the Whole Foods wall near Cambie …

and a cryptic message, one block farther east.

It’s a study in contrasting response to the rain: the paper lies limp & sodden, literally washed out, while the leaves and pavement dazzle & dance in glowing colour.

Over at Alberta St. I angle myself off 8th Avenue, pivoting S/E around this blue-mural’ed building (artist Debra Sparrow, VMF 2020)…

into the alley.

I’d forgotten the march of murals down this alley, discover them again. Right here at the corner, Reclaimed, a 2020 VMF work by Carole Mathys.

There’s more than murals, marching down this alley! I salute the H-frames

and, out at the corner of Manitoba St., take in yet more colour blocking. Red/orange tree; grey building with golden window frames; bright blue utility bin; and a whole swatch of very angry black on the wall beside me.

You’re gone, graffiti! Though I suspect all that black makes a tempting canvas for a new round of aerosol cans.

Just east of Manitoba, a mural style I’ve seen elsewhere (notably around the Native Education College) but so far without an identifying artist name.

This is the alley that keeps on giving.

Approaching Ontario, here’s the back door to a doggie spa, with a so-cute cartoon on the wall and a real live client showing off his latest trim. Just groomed, his owner tells me, and very pleased with himself.

Opposite that, the antithesis of grooming.

Nearing Quebec St. by now, and I finally learn the ID of the artist for this powerful mural just past the Raven Song Community Health Centre parking lot. It’s the VMF 2017 work of “Morik,” as in Russia-born Marat Danilyan.

Out of the alley onto Quebec, pivot N/E past all this ivy, flaming with the impact of fall weather…

onto East 8th, where weather has no impact on the pace of construction. (Though it makes the ground a lot soggier.)

You often see their hard hats among clients at my own favourite café, just a few doors farther east on 8th.

I slide in for a latte.

Herewith an unabashed plug for Melo Patisserie: the refinement of Melo’s French culinary training, with the warmth of his Brazilian heritage. Plus a posy of fresh freesia on every table every day, and a trio of teddy bears in the window.

  • 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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