16,901 Steps

2 April 2018 – 16,901 footsteps or 11.3 km, says my pedometer app, and I won’t argue. Though I could, instead, just call it a fairly long walk on a bright blustery day …

Either way, the outing gives me happy hours tracing a rough rectangle through a downtown-ish subsection of Vancouver.

I have a destination in mind, which sets my general direction. It is the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, the first such scholars garden to be built outside China, meticulously accurate and created with the help of 53 master craftsmen from China, 950 crates of traditional materials and strictly 14th-c. building methods.

And so down the hill I go to False Creek, and follow its southern shore east to its stubby end by Main Street. Mostly I’m striding along, enjoying sun, fresh air, choppy water, bird song, spring blossoms — and all the other people enjoying all the same things.

But I do pause, right there where the creek proves itself a false creek, to watch a chalk artist create a great big labyrinth on the pavement.

And then I’m around the curve, doubling back to the west, now on the north side of the water. I’m watching for the exit to Carrall Street, which is unfamiliar territory for me. My preoccupation makes this cluster of inukshuk on the rocky shoreline particularly appropriate, given their traditional way-finding role.

The inukshuk (plus a large sign with a large arrow) do their job. I right-turn away from the Seawall and walk north up Carrall Street, heading into Chinatown.

Bold stripes splashed by sunshine onto an apartment building opposite the Classical Chinese Garden.

Equally powerful design inside the Garden, here created not by nature, but by careful human attention to every detail.

I linger.

And then I leave, walking north still, heading toward Burrard Inlet, out of Chinatown and into Gastown. It’s an entertainment district, a tourist district, and a magnet, this holiday weekend, for Vancouverites as well.

Laugher and music and clinking glasses on outdoor patios. But if you look sideways to the edges, to the margins, not everything is pretty-pretty.

Another alley-edge a few blocks over, and the most fully-executed street art RIP that I have ever seen.

I keep moving, now west to Cambie, where I turn south and start homeward. The streetscape evolves again. Here in the pavement at the intersection with Robson, it issues a call to bibliophiles.

The open book is a visual cross-reference to the main branch of the Vancouver Public Library, just a block away.

But you don’t have to go even that far! Crouch down, and read the terra-cotta inserts …

On south, now approaching the Cambie Bridge over False Creek.

I go right by the new Parq Vancouver entertainment complex — all very whizzy it is, with its hotels, spa, casino, and bunches of restaurants. Yawn, don’t care. I’m more taken with the rich colour and lines of its outer skin; the flags right-angle from their staffs in the brisk breeze; and the construction cranes reflected on the façade, just below that oval inset balcony.

Bridge ramps converge overhead.

I climb.

And I cross the bridge, looking east toward Main Street, remembering the chalk artist and his labyrinth, hours and hours ago.

The final climb, hoof-hoof-hoof, and I’m home.

I check my pedometer app, and learn how to translate this particular day’s adventure into a set of numbers.

But really, the point is the adventure, not the numbers.

(Even if they did give me a post title.)

Knobby Knees

19 March 2018 – And hairy naked ones too, but I haven’t come to the VanDusen Botanical Garden to admire human knees.

I want these guys.

Whole great marching platoons of cypress knees!

Proof I am indeed circumnavigating (with protracted time-outs on every pond-side bench) the R. Roy Forster Cypress Pond.

The Garden as a whole is very busy, on this warm, sunny weekend day —  bursting with new blossoms, excited children, and keen photographers staggering under their telephoto lenses.

The Pond, tucked away to one side, is a quiet haven. I slide off to join it.

The approach is part of the pleasure.

First, the serene warm presence of the Confidence couple, Michael Dennis’ 2012 creation in Western red cedar …

then silver sunlight glinting off Southern Magnolia leaves (their native habitat, the south-eastern USA, proving what a benign climate I now call home).

I sink onto a first bench, its wooden planks warmed and made redolent by the springtime sun. It gives me a good view of the floating bridge that zigzags its way across the Pond.

I sit there quite a while, happy to let the day come to me, feeling my muscles expand again after their two weeks’ contraction in the Toronto chill. (For all that we are a special animal, we are animal. Our bodies tell us so.)

Then I rise, turn away from the main paved path leading to the bridge, and instead walk a bark-chip path around a far pond edge.

Cypress knees delineate shoreline, neatly encircle the mini-island opposite.

I look away from the Pond, eyes right-not-left, and admire blossoms floating in a bowl of water on the other side of the path. There are several of these bowls, each placed on an upturned log, filled with blossoms currently on offer in nearby shrubs.

What could be simpler? Or prettier?

Eyes pond-side once again, but lazily so,  my mind slightly ahead of my eyes, already anticipating the next bench.

Then a double-take. I freeze. Did I see … ? Was that … ? No, couldn’t be … !

Look again.

Silly me. Of course it’s not real.

Slightly shame-faced, I walk around the far end of the floating bridge and sink onto another bench, giving me a fine view from the far side.

Another month or two, the surface will be thick with water lilies.

Two Days Earlier …

I know. Chronology shot to pieces. And no thematic link at all. (Except that, yes, I am back in Vancouver.)

But you don’t mind, do you.

Barely back in town, greeted with sunshine and double-digit temperatures, I head for favourite places. The VanDusen, above, is one — but so is the Main Street / False Creek area, and that’s where I take myself just a day or so after returning to town.

Where I meet:

Backpack Woman, scampering for safety in the Main & E. 7th parking lot …

and Bookworm Woman, soaking up sunshine and the printed word by False Creek …

and Exercise Man, digging in that paddle as he flashes under the Cambie Street bridge.

Truth is, I’d stopped to admire the flamingoes — or whatever they are — somebody has added to the acrylic stripes on this bridge piling, one element of this art installation showing the 5-metre rise in sea levels that climate change could cause.

And then racer-guy joined the scene.

Very Vancouver.

 

More Chairs. Still Staring…

31 January 2018 – Despite my Stares & Chairs post of January 13, I do not go looking for chairs.  I do not. I’ve become a moss-on-trees junkie, a crow junkie, yes … but no, not for chairs. They just keep turning up.

Even so, the first thing I stare at, this not-raining morning, has nothing to do with chairs.

Think toe-nails.

So that’s a good laugh, a silly moment to launch a walk that takes us out to Vanier Park, on the south shore of False Creek in Kitsilano.

Past the Maritime Museum, past the Museum of Vancouver, with kids and dogs and adults and bicycles and hiking boots all enjoying the day.

And then …

Sixteen chairs. Echoes, an art installation by Michael Goulet, part of the Vancouver Biennale of 2005-2007, reinstalled by Goulet here on the beach in 2010. (Note: not my photo. It’s from the Goulet page on the Biennale website.)

I could tell you more, but the signage next to the installation says it so much better…

We lean over chairs, each with its few words, in one official language or the other. This one is a bit of a stand-alone …

while these, somehow, seem to talk to each other.

Follow the arrows …

And we walk on.

And on, and then on some more. Onto Granville Island, among the offerings of the Granville Market. And finally, down to the Aquabus dock, for a ferry ride back home.

One last message, as we cross an outdoors eating/gathering space that leads to the wharf.

The gull hopes you can’t read.

 

 

Stares & Chairs

12 January 2018 – Out on a walk, you hope for some stare-worthy moments. But, chairs? Not unless your path takes you through furniture stores.

I am not walking through furniture stores, I am heading east from Cambie Bridge along False Creek. Chairs don’t come into it. Yet.

Staring, is what I’m doing.

At the ferries puttering back & forth; at the lone kayaker who has just glided past; at the “beehive” installation out there in the water; at the agreeably rough wooden structure nearer to land, which seems to fit so well into its nautical environment. And, yes, at the neon slogan picked out on its cross-beam.

Should I Be Worried? Truth is, despite all the issues the question teases into mind, I prefer — this bright, sunny day — not to worry. Not right now.

I prefer to cock an ear to the murder of crows in an adjacent tree, busy composing their latest Cawcophony Concerto.

Then I stop for another public-art slogan, just steps farther east than the first. This one has been around longer, so it’s familiar to me, but I always stop anyway. I like the message.

Let’s be thankful.

Something else to stare at, as I zig-zag through Hinge Park, this time courtesy of Nature: a winter palette of colour.

Intense green, tawny gold, wine-red. Boom boom boom.

I’m approaching Olympic Village Square now, with its tidy insets, pedestrian bridges, stone hard-scaping to enhance the natural setting.

And a blindingly white chair.

It’s a photo-shoot, the photographer as focused as her camera, her assistant at her shoulder. Other passers-by slow a moment, take it in, speed up again and move on.

Well, I think, it’s not the only white chair around here.

These chairs are always here, well used and a little the grubbier for it. Warmer weather, they support visitors — I’ve been one of them. Right now, their broad arms support only the photo-shoot notebooks.

Just before the Square, another inlet of water, with its tiered stones that always (inaccurately, I know) make me think of ancient Greek amphitheatres.

And what do I see? More white chairs!

Another photo-shoot. This time the photographer is male, he & his assistant svelte in black, both as carefully composed as the scene before their camera.

A latte-break in the Square, and I’m off again.

Do these qualify as chairs?

Somewhere to sit, but benches not chairs. Handsome, though, and cunningly staggered.

I turn away from the water, back toward town. No more chairs now, I think, but always something to stare at.

I’ve looked at this installation before, a cluster of “salt” mounds in tribute to the Vancouver Salt Co. Ltd. building (now restored as a pub) that they frame. But I haven’t looked at them from this angle, and I decide I like it better.

Then I’m really back in town, climbing the hill southward toward home. ‘Way up there, I walk past a favourite park — not just landscaping & benches & kiddie play stations, but also a whole set of bike repair tools. Carefully tethered, mind you, but right out there in public, for all to use.

And I see all that again, yes I do.

Plus one addition.

Of course. There had to be one last chair.

 

 

 

 

Last Walk, First Wish

31 December 2017 – My last walk for 2017, and it wasn’t even planned. At least, not the Granville Island bit and the discoveries that followed.

I’m just out there to celebrate the fact the early morning fog has yielded to a sparkling bright day. My path takes me toward Granville Street, remarking lingering hoar frost as I go …

and still marvelling at all the happy palm trees. With their holiday lights woven around their trunks.

One footstep leads to another, you know how that is, and here I am, under the Granville St. bridge.

I decide not to plunge into the shops and other temptations of the Granville Island Market. I turn right — eastward — to make my way to the Seawall along False Creek and then back home.

Indeed, I am away from the jolly shops. Look, a working crane.

Seven tons max, in case you care.

I love its strong lines, its beauty-through-utility, its sheer domination of the scene.

And I love the sturdy metalwork that supports it …

and the multi-coloured teardrop I discover at its base.

No, of course I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s another bit of beauty-through-utility, or maybe just beauty. Because it is beautiful, is it not?

More step-step-step, and I’m walking along the backside of Sea Village, a private houseboat enclave I have admired during ferry rides but have never seen up close.

Very swell houseboats, I must say, with clever mini-gardens …

and completely wonderful mailboxes! I want one of those mailboxes.

I’m still bush-whacking, wondering how/where/when I’ll find myself on the official Seawall path — but not worried. Too much to enjoy meanwhile.

Such as a wedding couple being posed for their photos at the crest of Ron Basford Park (eastern knob of Granville Island) …

and a very handsome but frustratingly anonymous sculpture down here at water level.

A pedestrian wire-mesh lock-up for lifejackets and boats near-by, made colourful by its contents.

Really, really colourful, when you get to the boats.

But they’re not colourful just for the sheer giddy fun of it. Those colours have purpose. As I discover.

One last glance back at the park, with Alder Bay to its right and False Creek beyond.

I think I’m about to join the Seawall … but no! A whole great chunk of it is closed for reconstruction. Big red detour signs arrow the alternate route. Bye-bye False Creek.

I follow the arrows eastward, then angle up through Charleson Park, admire more hoar frost (and, equally, the snake-fence construction) …

and head home.

A First Wish

Not quite 2018 where I am, but close enough to salute the year, and also all of you who, through your interest, add so much to my walks.

Here is my wish: may we all experience what poet John O’Donohue describes in the poem below. I first heard it when a dear friend brought one of his books to our Solstice Lunch on the 21st.

She opened the book …

 

and read us this poem.

 

Happy New Year. “Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning.”

 

 

 

Night Light

26 November 2017 – I pause for a moment, as I cross the Cambie Street bridge in the gathering dusk.

I enjoy all those lights blazing out over False Creek, powered by BC Hydro, but that’s not what really snags my attention.

I am captivated by the still-vivid maple tree, just as forceful a presence in the twilight, and powered solely by Mother Nature.

Really-Rain

16 November 2017 – Sometimes, there is no “almost” about the rain. It is really rain.

But if you’re out in it anyway — which, I am learning, is the appropriate response — it delivers its own kind of nifty moments.

There is Red on Grey, for example …

and Water on Water …

and finally, from the Cambie Bridge in the gathering dusk, Lights Through Water on Water.

After that, it’s all about Umbrella Choreography, through which we, its many creators, constantly adapt the Dance of the Crowded Sidewalk to our collective numbers, skills, and patience.

Very, Very Vancouver

5 November 2017 – (Twice is my limit. You will not be subjected to “very-very-very.”)

Yesterday evening I’m out in my Serious Weather puffy down parka — the one I thought I’d never wear in balmy old Vancouver — thinking, “Ummmm… it’s cold.” We’re in minus-digits territory on the thermometer.

But, as I stand there in Cathedral Square, hopping gently from foot to foot, I am also thinking, “It’s very beautiful, in a ghostly sort of way.”

A frosty full moon (lower middle of image) glows through the Gingko biloba trees, still golden with late-fall leaves …

and the pond fountains shoot jets of icy light into the air.

 

Appropriate that I find this a ghostly sort of beauty: our small group is waiting for the start of this evening’s “Lost Souls of Gastown” walking tour. (Thanks here to my companion Jim — honorary family, in a complicated way — who came up with the idea.)

It is an excellent tour, using the prism of one (fictional) woman’s experiences to bring a human dimension to key early events — the felling of trees to carve out a raw new frontier town, the coming of the railway, the great fire of 1886, smallpox outbreaks, the Klondike gold rush, and unsolved murders.

I am all the more impressed by my engagement with this story because … I don’t much like Gastown. Like many urban historic areas elsewhere, it became very seedy indeed before being restored and repackaged as a major entertainment & tourist attraction. To my eye, it is now more faux than fact, its embellishments more stage prop than real.

The celebrated Gastown Steam Clock, for example, for all its vintage appearance, was built and installed in the late 1990s. Still, I am charmed to learn that its steam is real — it serves as an essential vent for steam pipes running beneath the streets.

And it looks absolutely wonderful, gloriously atmospheric, in the evening’s misty chill.

Yes, those “period” globe lights are as recent as the Steam Clock. But that one last globe light, in the upper left, touching the roof of the white building? That’s real. It’s our full moon.

The moon stays with us throughout the tour, right down to the last moments in a back alley that runs between restaurant service doors and the railway tracks. It is joined by an equally real owl. He sits patiently on a tree branch overhead, waiting for us to disappear so he can get back to raiding the dumpsters and, perhaps, swoop down on the rat that shot past our feet as we clustered for the final instalment in this saga of 19th-c. lost souls.

Sunday morning brings a whole new magic: bright sunshine & plus-zero temperatures. We bounce down to False Creek for a walk, how could we not?

Into Hinge Park. The ducks are as happy with the day as the passing humans, swimming around or — like Mr. Mallard here — stretching a wing into the (comparative) warmth of the day.

I look across the stream, drawn as I always am by the Rusty Submarine. Drawn also, this time, by its reflection in the stream.

Look closely on the left, you’ll see two adults about to enter it and walk through.

A moment later, I enter from the other end.

And instantly turn into a 4-year-old. First I jump up & down — ra-ta-ta-boom-boom!!! It resonates wonderfully. I giggle.

Then I peer up through one of the sub’s overhead periscopes.

And then more walking, right down to the Village Dock at False Creek’s east end; after that a ferry ride back to Spyglass Dock, my Cambie-Street dock.

I pause a moment under the Cambie bridge supports to enjoy again something I always admire, the John McBridge Community Garden snugged up right there next to the bridge.

It’s just one of many in this city, some (as here) run by a neighbourhood association, some by the City itself, all of them planted out in trim boxes and therefore independent of what lies beneath.

Then I spin about, face the other way, and do a double-take.

I’ve not seen this before! But I admire it already.

And if you are thinking to yourself, “Hmmm, well, my goodness, that’s sure looks a piano bench, a drummer’s throne & a musician’s chair, up there on that bright red stand” … you’d be right.

Is this not wonderful? The City has taken away all the painted pianos for the winter, but here we are with an art installation — 3-Piece Band, by Elisa Yan and Elia Kirby — that wants you to sit right down, you busker you, and make music.

But, of course (cf. those rules of etiquette), you must play nicely with the other children. Wait your turn. And if there is someone waiting for their own turn after you, don’t play for more than an hour.

This final image is arguably redundant. I have already shown you 3-Piece Band. Here it is again. Please guess why.

Right! Because there’s a cycling pedalling by in the background.

Last night & today, from Steam Clock to cyclist, it is all very, very Vancouver.

 

 

 

 

 

 

R is for Rust

28 September 2017 – Rust is on my mind, as I angle north/east-ish toward Dance House , this bright fall day, to discuss the volunteer communications project I’m about to begin.

Rust, a signature colour in nature each fall — and rust, a signature colour in metal, by time or design.

I see both, abundantly, in my zigzag travels along False Creek and then farther east to the trendifying old industrial area now home to Dance House, other creative organizations and, just this month, Emily Carr University as well.

First, as I hit 1st Avenue just west of Hinge Park, an example of rust-by-time.

I love the transformation of south-east False Creek from brownfield to green space — but I also love this battered survivor of the area’s industrial past. Toxic as it surely all was, it met the standards of the day and helped meet needs of the day.

And while that building has wrecking-ball written all over it, sections of old railway track right next door in Hinge Park will survive.

Rusty by time, but preserved by design, and rightly so. We need to honour the past.

Note, too, some companion rust-by-nature in the shrubbery, and just a glimpse, there in the middle-back, of my beloved “Rusty Sub.”

I round a corner.

More rusty leaves, to keep the sub company, and rushes turning tawny in the meandering little stream.

Then I’m down at Creek-side, right where Habitat Island juts into the water, and I start to laugh.

Looks like “R” has to slip-slide its way back up the dictionary from Rust, to Repose!

Goodness, he is so peaceful, chest rising/falling gently, relaxed in the still-warm afternoon sun. And, all around him, rust-by-nature in the shrubbery.

Lots more rust, all over the tree leaves that still half-obscure the Green Path signage. (Pedestrians this side; cyclists that.)

I’m almost at the end of False Creek now, right by The Village ferry dock, with its view of BC Place sports stadium on the north side and, to its left, a distinctly rusty-coloured building façade.

No ferry in sight at the moment, but I console myself with that bright red tug boat. I do love tug boats!

Still on 1st Avenue, just west of Main, and some more rust-by-design in the courtyard of a spiffy new condo complex.

Very minimalist, very appealing: the rich tones of the metal, the burble of the falling water, and sunshine & breeze teaming up to dance shadows on the wall.

On east I go, and I’m early for my appointment.

I wander on down to the cul-de-sac where East 1st Ave. does a dog-leg into a chain-metal fence along the cross-town train tracks.

Boxcars! Lovely rust-coloured boxcars!

With graffiti! (Bonus points)

See the young women sketching away down there, next to the inner fence right at the tracks? Students from Emily Carr next door, out on assignment. There are a dozen or more in the immediate vicinity, under the watchful eye of their man-bunn’d instructor, who circulates from one to the next, commenting as he deems appropriate.

And then I go meet Charlotte at Dance House, and we chat on the building green roof with its 180-degree view of the mountains, and we stroke a very insistent white cat as we talk — who assumes our adoration and so receives it, but that is another story — and finally I head south/west-ish back home.

Where, in an alley just east of Main, the letter “R” does another slip-slide and lands on the word “Retro.”

A wonderfully retro design, complete with the words “Todos borrachos aquí,” and … and don’t bother asking, I can’t explain it. No sign of a cantina, just an autobody shop.

But it’s fun.

 

Rusty Submarine

22 August 2017 – “We all live in a yellow submarine,” carolled The Beatles back in 1969, but nowadays, here in Hinge Park, the palette runs more to rust than to sunshine.

And it is equally magical.

I love walking around False Creek, as you will have noticed by now, and I always wander through Hinge Park as I go. Repurposed land made beautiful for the community to enjoy, how could you not love it, rejoice in it?

The “submarine,” of course, isn’t one, but the whimsical structure is part of the park’s magic. Why just throw serviceable planks across the watercourse, when you can offer up some come-play-with-me sculpture instead?

Two periscopes, count ’em, and lots of portholes — places for humans to look out, and for the sunshine to peek in, throwing spotlights among the shadows.

I’m entering from the south, I’ll climb those steps at the north end up to a knoll where yet another channel of water starts tumbling down the hill.

That channel is narrow, contained, and sparkling clear. The water in the waterway beneath me is also clear, but right around here, it is carpeted in vivid pond weed, emerald contrast to the tawny bullrushes along the shore.

Peer the other way, see more of the Olympic Village condo towers in the background.

Soon I’m on the north-end stone steps, regaining footing having been nearly run down by these kiddies who charge on through, whooping with delight, their feet & their voices echoing the length of the chamber.

And then, whoop-wh0op, they reverse gears & come charging back. I’m in the grass by now, out of harm’s way, delighted with their delight, watching them dance hippety-hop from one sun-spotlight to the next.

See the little girl, still halfway through the tube? Hippety-hop.

On I wander, heading east, thoughts of a latte in Olympic Village Park beginning to form in my mind …

But I am distracted enroute by one of the City’s glorious flowing chaise-longues along the edge of False Creek. They fit the body beautifully, they stand up to the weather wonderfully, and I want one. For my body. Right now.

I hasten my steps, realize I’m on a collision course with a Nice Young Man & his Well-Behaved Dog. He has the leg-length & youthful speed to beat me to the chair. But — aha — I have the Old Lady card to play! And, shameless creature that I am, I play it. Nice Young Man steps back, courteously. I thank him, courteously. And sink into the chair, snuggle my bottom into position, wiggle my toes.

Me & the sunshine & a breeze & my wiggling toes, plus the passing cavalcade: assorted ferries (here one of the Aquabus line), dragon boat teams, kayaks, small pleasure boats …

Eventually thoughts of latte overpower all this beauty, and I move on.

I collect my latte, yes I do. I seat myself on the café’s shady patio, and discover the newest, not-yet-official Olympic Sport.

Climb the Giant Sparrow.

No sparrows — or young boys, for that matter — were harmed in the development of this sport.

 

  • 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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