Grey Power

10 June 2018 – A month of near-constant sunshine has convinced me that the sun is a trickster. All that zap-powie brilliance, explosions of colour in all directions — and meanwhile it’s hiding, I have decided, more than it reveals.

Hiding it the way any illusionist hides a whole lot of what is really going on: by distraction. We are so zap-powie focused on the colour, we tend to miss everything else.

Whereas, with a grey sky — which we had the other day — with a grey sky, you notice everything else. Line, form, texture, luminosity. Also colour, oddly enough. Grey really sets off colour.

I am walking east on West 1st Avenue, heading for Hinge Park and False Creek, umbrella under my arm, leaden sky overhead.

But it isn’t really leaden — or, not uniformly so.

And it dramatically sets off the disused warehouse beneath and that brave poplar, twirling its leaves green/silver/green in the wind.

Strong line of the roof, all those tones of rust, the twirling shrub. In bright sunshine, I wouldn’t have noticed all that. I know it.

Into Hinge Park. Transfixed by one small bird a-top the rusty pillar, silhouetted against the dark-dancing sky.

And now that sky patters down rain.

Drops form endless tiny concentric circles in the pond, a Mallard duck creates one arc of larger circles there on the left, and silver light bounces back from the rufffled surface of the water. Grey sentinel stones too, at water’s edge.

More rain.

I graduate from putting up the hood on my jacket to putting up my umbrella. And then, knowing when a tactical retreat is in order, I dive into an Olympic Village café.

(Time passes.)

End of latte, end of rain shower, but a still-dancing sky as I walk back home.

How it makes that mural pop! And how it plays up the march of the hydro poles down the alley.

Then I stop looking for examples of how the sky enhances what lies beneath, and I just … look at the sky.

Which stands up very nicely on its own.

Next day the sunshine is back, and guess what. I am still noticing grey. Suddenly I see that old trickster sun as a backdrop for grey.

Though not just any old chunk of grey concrete, I have to admit.

This is one arc of landscape architect/artist Don Vaughan‘s work, Marking High Tide, which stands at the seawall in David Lam Park on  the north shore of False Creek.

Vaughan also wrote the poem: “As the moon circles the earth the oceans respond with the rhythm of the tides.”

City-Busy

15 May 2018 – I’m busy returning library books and, all around me, this little wedge of city is busy being itself. It bubbles in every direction.

Poppies pop …

Colours pop …

A hydro pole struts the alley …

Motorcycles gleam …

A doorway dispenses wisdom …

Pedestrians time-out their walk along False Creek …

Junior dragon-boaters time-out their heats in a day of competitive racing …

A wedding couple poses …

And Tess turns 25.

I read the banner, grin, and carry on home with my new crop of library books.

 

Geometry at Work & Play

23 April 2018 – I know it’s a stretch to think of bridges as geometry-made-visible; any mathematician (or architect) would blench at the thought. But still. The Cambridge English Dictionary defines geometry as “the study of space and the relationships between points, lines, curves and surfaces.”

Doesn’t a bridge quite wonderfully show us all of that?

So I hoof onto the north end of the Burrard Bridge, ready to be delighted by all those points, lines, curves and surfaces, and by the relationships that weave them together in space.

Oh, honestly … just look at this gateway. Towers and boat prows and heroic stern-faced gentlemen and a gallery running between, with windows that serve no purpose. And all so stylishly, so happily, Art Deco.

We enjoy it now, but imagine what a tonic it must have been to the Depression-weary crowd that watched the opening ceremony on 1 July 1932.

I’m amused to discover later that these gateways — one each end of the bridge — were created for a workaday purpose. They were not structurally necessary. The architect decided to build them in order to mask the network of steel that lies between them.

Geometry looking playful, but hard at work.

Never mind. Don’t care. I’m charmed by the gateway and the arches — but also by the way they bracket that network of steel in between. This is a steel truss bridge, after all.

Step through, and here’s an invitation for pedestrians to stop walking and take a moment for play — a whole line-up of black benches, tucked into place between the trusses.

Sit down, look up — geometry at work. Wouldn’t the Cambridge dictionary be proud? Line/space relationships galore.

Now look forward, through the railing.

More invitation to play: the curve of the seawall on the north shore of False Creek. It rolls away from the Aquatic Centre Dock close to the bridge, past Sunset Beach, past English Bay Beach, on to Stanley Park.

Enough lolly-gagging! I have to get up. I have places to go, things to do.

Off the south end of the bridge, around & down & eastward along the seawall on the south side of False Creek. I pause, look back at the bridge.

From this angle, doesn’t look soaring at all, does it? No, it looks impaled on all those bristling masts in the marinas below.

But those gateways still stand out, still tell the world: “Burrard Bridge.”

I walk on, properly intent on my things-to-do.

Then, as I pass the public fish market, I am diverted  by Go Fish, a tiny takeaway booth with a big view over the Creek and a bearably small line-up. (And the day is sunny & mild! And I’ve walked a lot and deserve a rest! And I want, I really really want, their salmon & chips!)

So I place my order, snaffle the last Creek-facing perch on the little patio, and have myself a blissful half-hour.

 

 

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.

  • 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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