Legs & A Twofer

27 January 2018 – It’s the grin that stops me. As if this Borealis knows it is one hot-damn velomobile.

It’s posed outside this bike shop because it is for sale, but I am impervious. I have leg power.

And those legs are about to carry me through a big rectangular loop that will deliver — or so the plan goes — a botanical twofer.

First up — and I do mean up, as I climb my way south on Cambie Street — is the delightful Bloedel Conservatory. It sits atop Queen Elizabeth Park, which is also the highest point in the City of Vancouver. But despite today’s brilliantly clear sky, I’m not ogling the mountains, I’m looking across the gardens to the Conservatory’s iconic dome.

Inside that dome, says the literature, more than 120 free-flying exotic birds, in a universe of some 500 exotic plants and flowers.

No mention of the koi, but they’re there too, darting about in the ecosystem’s clear-running streams.

Outside — and why have I never noticed this before? — a Henry Moore sculpture. It’s called Knife Edge, but for me, its lines are more flowing than edged, and beautifully reflect the lines of the dome and the mountain range that serve as its backdrop.

Giddy with sunshine, I walk west, heading for number two on my list, the VanDusen Botanical Garden.

Two bonus attractions along the way.

I indulge my fascination with the textures & tones of  tree bark, rich with moss and lichen.

 

A passing couple pause, try to figure out what I’m staring at, exchange a couple of tentative comments about the way some branches have been pruned … maybe? … and move on.

I move on too, and don’t stop again for a couple of blocks.

Then I discover Vancouver’s Nectar Trail. Well, first I discover the Insect Hotel — which, if you look closely, you will recognize as a repurposed telephone booth.

The idea is to provide additional habitat for pollinators, with naturalized, pollinator-friendly plantings and “hotels” for their long winter sleep. First stage of the trail: the stretch between the sister institutions, VanDusen and Bloedel.  First stop on the trail: right here in Oak Meadows Park.

No flowers visible, in mid-winter, but this cheerful wooden curtain, the work of local grade-8 students, brightens the day year-round.

(Honesty demands I add that the project links are years old, and some are non-operative. It is possible that the project never got beyond this first installation. I hope I’m wrong.)

On to the VanDusen. I love this place, any season, and it feels alive and growing, any season. Fountains jet their water high in the air; the spray turns into a pointillist painting as it falls back to the lake.

And mossy trees gleam emerald-edged in the afternoon sunshine.

Eventually I head for home. As happy as that grinning velomobile.

 

 

Wind & Water

7 July 2016 – There is a breeze as the Tuesday Walking Society sets out, but it’s nothing — nothing! — compared to the wind-power I discover after our walk is officially over.

Phyllis & I are focused on water, not wind: it is hot & sticky, and we agree the only thing to do is head for Lake Ontario. Not to swim, but even the sight & sound of water should cool us down. (Shouldn’t it?)

The first big splash comes at the east end of David Crombie Park — not yet lake-front, but a very fine fountain to cheer us on our way.

fountain at east end of David Crombie Park, on The Esplanade

The next splash is much smaller. On the other hand, it is multiple. I catch the Sugar Beach splash pad just as the jets are revving up again.

splash pad revving up, Sugar Beach

Some children stayed in it through the dead period, waiting patiently for the next eruption. Not that little boy on the left! See how he is streaking back in, as soon as he hears the first whoosh?

A moment’s near-excitement in the Harbourfront stretch of the Toronto Harbour. A Zodiac? A diver in the water? We join other passers-by clustered by the boat. Nobody quite thinks it will be sunken treasure (or a corpse …), but we hope for, well, something interesting.

off Harbourfront, in Toronto Harbour

Alas, the agreeable young woman overseeing the dive — her cap shading her eyes & identifying this as an H.M.C.S. York operation — tells us they’re just retrieving a bit of superstructure that had fallen off one of the vessels moored near-by. Oh, darn.

Phyllis & I watch a small flotilla of ducks paddle by: mamma in the lead, babies churning industriously along in her wake. We look past the ducks, & start to laugh. The human equivalent:

sailboat class in Toronto Harbour

Wouldn’t you be impressed if I identified the class of sailboat for you? I’d be even more impressed … but, alas, it’s not going to happen.

Now look at that speck in the sky, upper right. Yes, a descending airplane, which I also cannot identify, but at least I know where it’s going: it’s on final approach to Billy Bishop Airport, on the west end of Toronto Island.

Just past Simcoe Street, Phyllis & I find a lake-front café for our traditional mid-walk pause. Most un-traditionally, I do not order a latte. I am seduced by a strawberry-banana smoothie (plain, natural yogurt plus frozen fruit, period). Oh, yum. I may switch allegiance for the rest of the summer.

Right from the café window, more water. This time lapping its way under the Simcoe Wave Deck.

Simcoe Wave Deck, Queens Quay W. nr Simcoe

It’s one of three wave decks along this stretch of waterfront, each on the land edge of a public dock, and each a tribute to the waves and contours of the Great Lakes. This one has the most dramatic curves: some up to 2.8 metres above the lake.

We head inland, make our way east along King St., Phyllis peels off at Yonge to catch a subway north, I continue east on King, and at Church St. offer myself one last sight, sound & smell of water: the cascading water-wall in the Toronto Sculpture Gardens.

Toronto Sculpture Gardens, King E. & Church

No sculpture at the moment, but on hot summer days, we are all perfectly happy with the tiny park’s greenery, peacefulness & water.

I cross the street. The Anglican Cathedral of St. James is immediately opposite, and — I suddenly remember — they have regular Tuesday organ recitals. The sign is out, the church doors are open; I go in.

The recital has just begun. I sit in the calm, cool church nave, and let music — instead of water — wash over me.

a few of the 5,101 pipes of the organ of St.  James Cathedral

Wind-power, yes?

Later, I read about this organ online: a Montreal-built, 1888 English Romantic organ, subsequently maintained & expanded by the legendary Casavant Frères of St-Hyacinthe, Québec for most of the 20th c., with a solid-state console installed in 1979.

If that means wind-power is no longer involved, please do not tell me. I like to think of wind, surging through those 5,101 pipes, setting our eardrums a-flutter, and being converted to the most glorious sound, deep inside our brains.

 

  • 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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