Again!!

5 July 2021 – False Creek again! Ah, but, not the same-old.

I jump an Aquabus ferry close to home, and ride west to Granville Market. For the first few stops, it’s just the young driver and me — he’s a Vancouverite home from his first year of university at Queen’s, in Kingston, Ontario. For assorted reasons I know both Queen’s and the city well, so we chatter about all that for a while. One other passenger joins us at the David Lam Park dock, and conversation shifts to dealing with the heat.

The driver and I are masked, this passenger is not; all within Stage 3 guidelines, and — given current COVID trends, and our open-air breezy location — I’m comfy with it.

We approach the Granville Market dock, with the Granville St. Bridge there to the west beyond us.

My plan now is perfectly simple. Walk west, hugging the Creek and its parks and trails. Until I don’t feel like doing it any longer.

Busy marinas all along this stretch, plus this soon-to-be-busy public fish market. I’m west of the Granville Bridge by now; the Burrard St. Bridge looms up ahead.

Still pretty early in the day, but already cyclists, joggers, dawdlers, people with kids and people with dogs and people off in their own ear-bud universe. Parks & parkettes are contiguous all along the way, put me in mind of the parks that chain their way along Lake Ontario on the Toronto waterfront.

A mini-bump of parkette immediately east of the Burrard Bridge …

its scorched grass mute testimony to our dry spring and hot summer.

Under the bridge, on and on, rounding into Vanier Park, home to assorted institutions (Academy of Music, Museum of Vancouver, MacMillan Science Centre and the Maritime Museum) as well as landscaping and lots of open space. Some of that open space sprawls across a raised central knoll, favoured home of kite-flyers.

I stand under the protective shade of a tree, watching the flight of the most beautiful kite I have ever seen.

Had I a better camera, I would show it to you properly. But I don’t, so I can’t. (From the plaintive subjunctive mood, to the resigned indicative.)

Away from the shady tree-on-the-knoll, back down to the waterside trail, drawn by those vivid kayaks. Beyond them, the floating maritime heritage museum, tucked into Heritage Harbour.

By now I’m sloping into the long curve of Kitsilano Beach and Kitsilano Beach Park. Pick-up basketball here, net upon net of volleyball there, and the usual range of ages and types and interests walking, cycling, dawdling, chattering, studying their phones, reading their books, walking their dogs. I watch all this from a shady bench. (You’ve figured it out by now: my own westward progress is shady-spot to shady-spot.) My favourite dog is the three-legged one — as nimble as his four-legged leash-mate, and considerably more so than their two-legged leash-holder.

Off my bench! On down the Kits Beach Park trail!

Into the trees just east of the Kits Yacht Club … and I pause again. My ears pick up the faintest tones of sitar music. I look around for someone with a radio, but no… it is live.

I go sit on that bench to their left and, entranced, listen in. The woman is playing so softly, so delicately, that the sound merges with all the other sounds that wrap around us — breeze and waves and sea birds. Then my ears sharpen again, because I suddenly recognize the melody. She has segued into O Canada. She plays it right to the end, just the simplest possible, entirely unadorned, melody line.

Then she segues again, flows on into some raga, and I walk on.

Yes! I had this in mind.

“Wilderness Beach,” as the sign proclaims, is one of the last natural — un-managed, un-developed, un-manicured — beaches in Vancouver. It stretches west from Kits Beach on out to Jericho, and we are implored to visit it of course, but to change nothing about it while there.

There is a narrow trail, with pricey homes high above looking out over the water. Trail users move gently, careful with the space and friendly with each other.

(Look centre-top of that tall dead tree. One crow. There had been a whole squabbling murder of them as I approached, but one by one the others flew off. This guy, triumphant, now owns the tree.)

I drop down more steps, down onto the beach itself, currently very low tide. This enormous stump! And how beautiful the colours and textures of its patterns.

All the usual beach vocabulary of sand, pebble, stone, rock, seaweed, and storm-tossed wood. Sometimes rock rears up on the landward side, a natural wall.

Some of the homes have their own gates to the trail; this one has intricate ladders to bring its residents and their toys right to the beach.

Farther along, human-built breakwaters replace nature’s own rock and proclaim the homeowner’s tastes (as well as bank account). Some sport commissioned murals, such as this run of wild salmon.

There are also stretches of distinctly unofficial decoration, as on the near end of wall below! This is relatively infrequent, and, as here, quickly yields to something planned, like these bright blue bands.

I’m interested in the blue bands. A kilometre or so back, I’d asked someone if there was an exit farther west? Or would I have to double back? A nod, a chuckle, a pointed finger: Just beyond that blue band down there, I was told.

Yes indeed. Steep steps back up to the residential world. I wait while a young man patiently coaches a very young Husky puppy in the intricate choreography of step-climbing.

It gives me time to admire one last mural, rising vertically to the left of the steps.

A mad flamingo? Dancing with dandelions? Well, who knows, and we’re free to dance our own dance of imagination with it.

Up the steps. Back to the world of street corners. (I take my bearings: Point Grey Rd & Balaclava.)

Back to the world, also, of Little Free Library kiosks. Just look at the range on offer!

On the Road, Kerouac; Call of the Wild, London; Manon des sources, Pagnol; even Alpert Ellis and his Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy.

And! And. Esther the Wonder Pig.

A bit more walking and a few more conversations before I grab a bus home — but, enough.

How can I top Esther the Wonder Pig?

Pilgrimage

31 March 2021 – A pilgrimage starts with travel, does it not, and so here I am, on the Science World dock at the east end of False Creek, ready to board a ferry.

But not that one, which I have just missed.

Never mind, another will putter along any moment and meanwhile I can contemplate this mollusc-laden pole. It would tell me a lot more if I knew anything about molluscs, but I don’t, so I simply enjoy the texture, colour and inadvertent design.

Another ferry arrives; three Calgary tourists step off, and, after some suitably masked & distanced conversation with the driver and me about how-to-get-to-Chinatown, go on their way. I step aboard, and have the boat all to myself, all the way down-Creek to Granville Island, where I must transfer for the last leg of my journey.

My destination is the Maritime Museum dock, tucked between Vanier Park and Kits Beach Park, where False Creek empties into Burrard Inlet, there on the edge of Strait of Georgia. (And the Pacific Ocean, and the rest of the world.)

There is indeed a floating Maritime Museum all around this dock — the full-rigged North Star of Herschel Island being the example immediately to hand. The last of the sailing Arctic fur-trading ships, she was built in San Francisco in 1936 for two Inuit fox trappers and served until 1961.

But I’m not down here for her, even if I linger a moment in appreciation.

I’m also not here to join this family playing silly-buggers with their dog on the beach …

or to itemize the current collection of vessels in the Port of Vancouver “parking lot” out there in the belly of Burrard Inlet.

Or to improve my nautical show-off skills by learning to recognize the types of vessel …

or by cramming Port factoids into my brain. (Though, since you so politely ask, I will tell you that this is one of North America’s busiest ports, hosting some 300 vessels a year from more than 90 nations, creating over $40-billion in trade and some 10,000 local jobs.)

I am here, the friend I am meeting is here, so that we may walk through Kitsilano Beach Park and find Egan’s favourite cherry tree.

“Egan” is Egan Davis, an extraordinarily informed & personable gardener/horticulturalist/landscape designer/educator (e.g. lecturer in both the Horticulture and Urban Forestry programs at UBC). During his presentation this past weekend at an online master-gardener conference, he paid tribute to this particular cherry tree.

Not for its size and majesty, explains my friend (who helped organize the conference), but for its resilience. It is aged now, and shrunken with age — and yet, and still, it blooms.

We prowl the park, seeing magnificent trees on all sides and dismissing them.

There!” she cries, pointing. “That’s it. That must be it.”

We approach.

Such a thick trunk, but doubled over with the weight of its decades, and now supported by a well-placed rock.

Clusters of fungi mark the trunk, as surely as rings must mark it internally.

Only a couple of remaining branches, their fragility protected (we hope) by a warning sign.

Even so, look at all the blossoms.

So many years behind it, not so many in front.

But here it still is.

  • 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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