The Rough with the Smooth

26 September 2019 – Some days, you get it all.

We encounter the rough while walking westward through Thornton Park, just in front of Pacific Central train station  …

and later on I encounter the smooth while walking eastward again past David Lam Park on the north side of False Creek.

This is one of my favourite sculptures, Marking High Tide by Don Vaughan, and look — rising tide is just beginning to lap across the lowest of the stepping-stones.

A Loop Beneath a Rain-Rich Sky

14 September 2019 – Rich more in promise than delivery, though, as I write this, rain is pelting down.

Earlier, the sky is merely lowering, luminous grey, the air heavy with its cargo of rain. But I am now a Vancouverite, am I not? I put on my jacket, tuck a mini-umbrella into my backpack, and off I go.

A loop, I tell myself: down to the eastern end of False Creek, west up its north side to the Cambie bridge, over the bridge, back east to Creek-end once more, and home.

I’m not the only Vancouverite. Waving-cat Maneki-nako stops waving, wraps his paw around an umbrella instead, and turns into rain-cat.

Luminous sky means darker darks & punched-up colour, this rain-filled trench in a construction site suddenly a turquoise pond.

Site equipment rears dark against the sky …

as do hydro poles in a nearby alley, their attendant crows somehow even blacker than  usual.

Down on False Creek, an inukshuk seems to huddle against the chill …

and tide height turns rock tips into dark islands in the glittering waters.

A woman stops beside me, also contemplating the rocks. We chat, her small dog with butterfly ears yips at a passing gull. “I named him Napoleon for good reason,” she sighs. “Small Frenchman with big attitude.”

Just before the south-side ramp up onto the Cambie bridge, I pause again. A kid & his skateboard take a breather beside the mural with its large “Stay in school” message. It’s Saturday. He’s legal.

Over the bridge, and, starting down the spiral staircase at the south end, I hear music.

I look over the edge.

Some passer-by has pushed  back the protective tarp, and started playing the public piano that lives here on Spyglass Dock every summer. The music swells; the pavement murals glow in the mist.

A little farther east, I watch crows fly in to join their fellows in a favourite staging tree. Come evening, they’ll take wing for their nightly migration to the next municipality over, Burnaby. Night after night, they swirl past my balcony, dozens at a time.

 

Mist has turned to drizzle; drizzle is thickening to rain. One more line of hydro poles, as I cut south-east toward home. No crows here, just one bright saw-tooth line of pink warning flags.

And now… rain! I scamper.

(You’re right: this is not the post I semi-promised you last time around. This one seemed more here-and-now. That one comes next. Yes! I promise.)

Tributes

15 July 2019 – The first is a deliberate, specific tribute. It frames how I look at things for the rest of my walk.

** Outside the Native Education College, tucked into an alcove in the base of this soaring totem pole (Wil Sayt Bakwhlgat, “The place where the people gather”) by Nishga master carver Norman Tait …

a fresh bouquet of flowers in vivid orange wrapping …

a loving tribute to someone, from someone.

** Bordering one side of sleek new condos just where False Creek meets The Flats, an equally sleek channel of water running through deliberately rusted new steel & installed above age-rusted old railway tracks …

a developer’s tribute to the industrial/railway history of this area.

** By the seawall and children’s play area at the east end of False Creek, in a discreet line of porta-potties …

a tribute to fully-accessible (and very regal) raccoons. (Though it would be a more impressive tribute without the padlock on the door.)

 ** Under the Cambie St. bridge, where it runs into Coopers Park on the north side, a view of the painted pilings, A False Creek, by Rhonda Webbler and Trevor Mahovsky …

a public-art tribute to the need for environmental activism. These stripes mark the mid-point in the 4 – 6 metre rise in sea levels predicted by the UN body, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

** Just east of David Lam Park, where pedestrian and bicycle paths run right next to each other …

a tribute to public caution and common sense. (Or so The Community Against Preventable Injuries devoutly hopes.)

** At one end of the Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre, in the CPR Engine 374 Pavilion, on the site of the one-time CPR roundhouse …

the engine herself, lovingly maintained and displayed by the West Coast Railway Association …

a tribute to our first national railway line, and to this very engine which, on 23 May 1887, pulled the first train into the city of Vancouver.

** Outside the Pavilion, in the Arts & Rec Centre courtyard …

a tribute to Bastille Day! Food, drink, music, displays, and lots & lots of tricolor.

** In the sidewalk at the north end of the Burrard St. bridge, one of the City’s 22 mosaic tile inserts, each 9 ft square and containing 3,500-4,500 hand-cut ceramic pieces …

this one, Fireworks Over English Bay by Bruce Walther, a tribute indeed to fireworks and to English Bay, but also to the lavishly-styled Burrard St. bridge, such a tonic for Depression-weary citizens when it opened on 1 July 1932.

I walk on for a bit after that, but no more tributes.

Except for my own silent thank-you to my faithful feet…

 

 

 

 

Framed

15 June 2019 – Framed, not as in “…and hanging on the wall,” nor as in “convicted on faked evidence.” Framed, as in: “one bit of the scene inadvertently framed by another.”

I don’t have this theme in mind. I am simply zipping down to the eastern end of False Creek, planning to take a ferry to Granville Island and then walk on west along the seawall — perhaps all the way to Jericho Park. Or thereabouts.

But on East 5th near Main, I am stopped, I am smacked in the eye, by a sight you might well argue does qualify as framed art, hanging on the wall.

Except it isn’t. It is a lineup of windows, reflecting a big street mural opposite.

So I get thinking, Well, this is fun! Images, inadvertently framed! And I decide to look for more, throughout my walk.

It could backfire — I could be so busy trying to fit what I see into a theme that I miss what is really there. Then again, if I don’t get all rigid about it, the game could grant me the “new eyes” that Marcel Proust says offer a voyage of discovery without the bother of seeking new landscapes. (Go look up the quote on my home page…)

Almost immediately, another example: heavy machinery deep in the bowels of a construction site, nicely framed by a square of the safety fence.

Onto my ferry at the Olympic Village dock, and another prime bit of framing as we approach Granville Island — the six industrial silos painted by Brazilian twins Gustavo & Otavio Pandolfo (OSGEMEOS) for the 2014 Vancouver Biennale, a gigantic 360-degree work aptly named Giants.

On foot now, following the Seawall westward along the south shore of False Creek. In Cultural Harmony Grove, a monkey puzzle tree frames one of the tall — and wonderfully flamboyant — galleries of the Burrard Street Bridge.

Not to be outdone, a birch tree farther west in Vanier Park works with what’s available: a crow.

Farther west again though still in Vanier Park, wooden salmon circle the good ship Osiris, up on land in the Burrard Civic Marina.

Ah, but now, no frame at all. I won’t even pretend. This is just … OMG.

I’m in Hadden Park, part of the contiguous flow of public space from Vanier Park through to Kitsilano Beach. I lean on the fence, look east, and there it is: the sea/sand/sun/mountains/sky panorama that tempts Vancouverites to get all smug with the rest of the world.

And yes, it is swell. But no, it’s not as if they built those mountains themselves…

Still, my fence-leaning moment has a payoff. Very Lean Bicycle Guy has also stopped to admire the view, we agree it’s stunning, and he asks, “But did you notice the friendship bracelet on the fence? Just behind you there?” Well, no, I hadn’t. So he shows me.

This, I choose to argue, is framed. Framed orally rather than visually, courtesy of Bicycle Guy. “People weave grasses into bracelets, give them to their friends… Well, somebody made one for the fence. I saw it first the other day. I cleared away some branches, just so you can see it properly.”

And he’s back on his bike and away, riding to East Van and a benefit concert for VAMS (Vancouver Adapted Music Society, for musicians with disabilities). I carry on west, onto Kitsilano Beach.

It is known, among other things, for its courts and courts and courts of beach volleyball. All in full swing. With referees on ladders at the net. And referee legs nicely framed by the ladder.

(Plus a few tankers caught in the net, as t’were.)

From volleyball to art, just like that, right here on Kits Beach.

Which, if I just wanted to show you the installation — Echoes, by Quebec artist Michel Goulet, Vancouver Biennale 2005 — I would photograph very differently. I’d show you the entire run of metal chairs, each with a few lines of poetry (French or English) incised in the seat, casting bright words on the shadowed ground beneath.

The chair-back loops, I discover, frame chair-seat text very nicely indeed.

My frame criterion dictates that I capture it upside-down. This creates a bit of a reading challenge, so, ever helpful, I circle around, and take the shadow-shot right side up.

Oops. Scuffed sand creates the equivalent of visual static.

(“Love / and / other / perils”)

The next beach section is amazing. I had already walked those other bits before. This is new — and it takes me onto Wilderness Beach.

You won’t find that name on a map, it is generic, and on a sign explaining that this stretch of shoreline, between Kits and Jericho, is one of the last natural beaches in Vancouver. The sign urges us to enjoy, but not to interfere or alter anything in any way. It also describes the wealth of vegetation tumbling down the adjacent cliffs to a “country lane” below. Alder, mountain ash, bigleaf maple, salmonberry, thimbleberry, yellow monkey flower …

It is quite, quite magic. I spend my time enjoying, not photographing.

One shot — an artist framed by the staircase railing as I finally climb my way back up to roadside at Volunteer Park.

That’s it, I think. Time to catch a bus home.

But look, right here on very-upmarket Point Grey Road, right at stiff-upper-lip Balaclava Street … another frame. Showcasing the offerings of this take-something / leave-something community free store.

Again I think, That’s it. But no.

I get the camera out again, one very last time, when I’m back in Mount Pleasant, climbing up Scotia Street toward home.

The walk has come full-circle, hasn’t it? This visual game ends as it began: with windows framing a reflection.

 

 

 

 

 

Hands Off!

21 March 2019 – There are times where you just want to bellow, HANDS OFF!!, and slap the offending fingers for good measure. But you can’t, can you? Because you are Canadian, and, according to media clichés worldwide, we are too polite to go around bellowing at people.

So what-to-do, what-to-do?

Well, don’t fret. The Creekside Collaborative Garden

has come up with a whole list of suitably polite euphemisms.

The Garden is well named. It is indeed both creekside (tucked near the south-east tip of False Creek) and collaborative (planted and maintained by people in the neighbourhood).

Everything is still a little stark …

but soon plants will burst into action, and fruit tree branches will  be bare no longer.

Which is exactly when the Hands-On impulse might lead passers-by into temptation.

Which is why polite messages are already neatly tied into place.

They encourage interaction …

but with limits.

They appeal to our nurturing instincts …

they flirt with us …

and they invoke spiritual resonance.

And when all else fails …

they guilt-trip us.

In Other Other Words

In other gardens, I’ve seen a different compromise between the urge to protect and the urge to remain … umm … Canadian. Here & there, you spot a hand-lettered sign that simply says, “Please don’t steal.”

Masterful, isn’t it? That polite “Please,” followed by that blunt choice of verb.

More Yogurt?

16 March 2019 – Oh, delete that question mark. There is no question about it: this is definitely a case of more yogurt.

If you are now shouting at your device, “Oh, silly woman! That is not yogurt! That’s a trio of labyrinths!”  … that is because you did not read, or do not remember, my post of 21 January.

In it, I introduced you to labyrinth artist Himy Syed, who is heart, soul & artist of the Toronto + Vancouver City of Labyrinths project. When we met as he created a new labyrinth in the Olympic Village plaza, he spelled his first name for me with four words instead of four letters: “Hey, it’s my yogurt.”

These bold designs on the south shore of False Creek just east of Granville Island are surely his work as well.

I’m drawn to the orange one.

I walk it, slowly, carefully, and I thank Himy as I walk.

Bring on the yogurt!

 

Four Celsius Degrees

21 February 2019 – Not to copy the numerical title style of each sloppybuddhist post (a blog I recommend), but

But, I have the number four on my mind.

Yes, it is a sparkly sunny day, pouring down upon us six happy degrees of almost-warmth. However the historical average is ten, not six, I want you to know, and we citizens of this temperate rainforest are feeling short-changed.

Snow (snow!!!) fringes the Charleson Park snake fence, behind which a lonely chair sits unoccupied.

Ice invades the park’s pond, a hard skin farther out, tiny shards close to land.

Snow. Ice.  No wonder we are aggrieved.

On the other hand, the Canada Geese in False Creek don’t mind, and neither does Mr. Fix-It busy on his red sailboat …

neither does Dad With Stroller (and smart phone) down near Stamp’s Landing, for that matter, nor the cyclist behind him …

and the jay-walking crow clearly doesn’t care.

A ferry glides toward Spyglass Dock, unperturbed …

a guy (far left) in Hinge Park “golfs” tennis ball after tennis ball to his eagerly waiting dog (far right) for retrieval …

and a couple of skateboarders opt for a sunbath instead, in the Seawall’s curvy embrace near Olympic Village.

So.

By the time I order my Japadog # 12 (beef ‘dog’ with avocado, Japanese mayo, cream cheese & soy sauce) from the truck in Olympic Village, and sit wolfing it down in the open plaza …

those six available degrees of Celsius warmth are just fine, thank you.

Four more would be … superfluous.

 

Lace on the Rocks (& Boots on the Turf)

7 February 2019 – It’s a bright, snappy day along False Creek, just enough snap to float our breath on the air as we speak …

Lace on the Rocks

… and to preserve a translucent white skin of ice, despite daytime sun, on beach rocks by Hinge Park.

I don’t scramble down to examine them; I take the easier option of looking at ones scattered in the shingle at my feet.

The ice isn’t a pure white skin at all, is it? The closer you come, the more texture you see.

Right up close, it’s all whorls and loops.

Lace on the rocks.

We walk on, visit the little habitat island just off Hinge Park (man-made, but faithful to nature’s model), then double back.

Time to put our boots where many others already have.

Boots on the Turf

Remember my post ending with Himy Syed in Olympic Village, creating his latest sidewalk labyrinth? I learned then that he also created the rock labyrinth right next to Hinge Park and the habitat island.

This one.

Here as elsewhere, Himy has beautifully executed his beautiful concept. He has a sure sense of space; all the relationships are true; the path not only looks good, it works.

The proof: it is well-trodden.

A dark chocolate line of earth between the rocky boundaries shows how many people have already put their boots to the path, and walked the labyrinth, right to its heart.

And now … so do we.

 

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.

 

No King. But a Springbok & Some Dragons. And Assorted Birds

26 November 2018 – I never need a reason to go walk False Creek, it’s reason enough all by itself, but today, I do have an objective. I want to see the King Tide in action.

King tides (local media explain) occur when the moon is closest to the earth, the gravitational pull of sun & moon reinforce each other, and tides rise to their highest levels. Vancouver has just begun a run of king tide: November 23-30.

So I go looking, but obviously I’ve arrived at the wrong point in the cycle. Things look darn normal.

No king.

I don’t care. I’ve already had a springbok!

Maybe a springbok? This guy’s horns don’t have that lovely springbok heart-curve, so perhaps he is something else. The text above his head says “Sea Power” and by his hooves says “the natural law”, so that’s no help. Oh well. He’s lovely, whatever he is.

I’m angling down to the water just west of Main Street, a route that zigs & zags me into “Main Alley” — something I had thought just a pretentious name for an alley, but which I now know marks the block where an entire new tech campus will arise.

It already sports the Main Alley Urban Park.

So says the pink sign beyond this shaggy greenery, all that’s left now that summer’s planters have been tidied away for winter. and the café tables &  benches neatly stored.

And “shaggy” is the word, isn’t it, for late fall? Even here in mild Vancouver, summer’s botanical opulence by now is on the weary side …

But.

Farewell summer, yeah-yeah, so what. Look! Hello winter, first snow on the mountains.

I saw the peaks glistening from my own windows early this morning, and felt quite exhilarated by it all. New season, new energy.

Winter up there; here on the water, ferries as usual. And a dragon boat team, also as usual. (OK, you’ve got me. No dragons. Just dragon boaters…)

I’m approaching Hinge Park, but I am distracted by a labyrinth. It glistens quite eerily, as if floating on its own skin of water.

Am amateur job, surely. Masking tape is my bet — and by now in no better shape than the leaves that have landed on it.

But I like it a lot. I like that it’s wonky, and disheveled. I even forgive the fact that you can’t navigate it without cheating a bit, here & there …  (Yes, I walk it. Of course I do.)

Out of the labyrinth, past Hinge Park, & here’s Habitat Island — the man-made island designed to follow nature’s own recipe and provide additional wildlife habitat within False Creek. Two great dead trees anchor the island, spear the sky, and are topped, as always, with live birds.

I go read the plaque, and discover those dead trees are a deliberate part of the plan.

“Raptor Perch” indeed. No raptors at the moment, just gulls & crows — but perched. Definitely perched.

Starting to loop back east takes me along the little creek through Hinge Park that feeds into False Creek. At the moment it’s full of Mallard ducks, bright against the soft grey light.

Heading back up Main Street, one last tribute to birds, at the corner of East 6th.

The leaves have fallen, no shade here until next spring. But I do pause. A moment of appreciation is always in season.

 

 

  • 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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