The New & the Known

18 September 2017 – And the becoming-known as well, all courtesy of my latest visit to Vancouver’s 22-Ha VanDusen Botanical Garden.

For example, I know the quote etched onto the Visitor Centre doors, the words of American naturalist John Muir: “When one tugs at a single thing in nature / he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”

But I hadn’t noticed, or had forgotten, the handsome trekking-poles that serve as door handles.

(Let’s all take a moment to honour the polite visitor on the other side, waiting for me to lower my camera before he approaches the doors.)

It’s a pretty fall day, I’m out for a walk, the VanDusen is half an hour or so from my place — off I go!

And on into the gardens, with one appreciative backward glance at the patio side, starting point for exploration, before I launch.

It’s to be a random walk, how can I lose?

I head through something Known, or at least familiar, i.e. the Eastern North America section. Then on to the relatively New, first via the wooden boardwalk over the Cypress Pond …

later through a grove of Giant Sequoias (so exotic to my eastern eyes) …

and in among Windmill Palms, seemingly scattered quite freely around.

Palms are not New. But seeing them right here in Canada, lying around outdoors and unprotected? Distinctly New.

Then into the Fern Dell, under a canopy of Douglas Fir, and full of both Known & New.

At the back, the Tasmanian Fern Tree — definitely New! Then lots of hedge fern, which maybe are New but look well-Known. And then, in front, all those Painted Lady Ferns. So very Known! And loved. I had lots in my Toronto garden, I am delighted to see my old friends.

Somewhere on the edge of one of the lawns, a bit of Vancouver / BC / VanDusen history — the Swedish Fountain.

So-named because a gift from the city’s Swedish Folk Society on the VanDusen’s opening day in 1975, with its bronze panels designed to reflect both BC’s pioneering industry and the Swedish homeland of the project’s prime mover. The panels now enclose a European ash tree, not a fountain, but the Swedish reference is not lost: in Norse mythology, the ash is Yggdrasil, the tree of life.

And life abounds, all around — in nature, and in that family in the background, the adults playing hide-and-seek with their squealing toddlers.

In the vicinity of the Cherry Grove, I pass the monument carved with winning entries for several years’-worth of the Haiku Invitational, associated with the yearly Cherry Blossom Festival.

Blurred by time, and hard to read! Visit the website, and read at leisure…

Along the edge of the Stone Garden, once the local reservoir (just as the VanDusen as a whole was once a golf course) …

and on past the Maze, guarded — and what could be more appropriate — by a Monkey Puzzle Tree. (Something else my eastern eyes still find wonderfully New and exotic.)

I, and many giddy bees, admire the flowering artichokes in a near-by bed …

I retreat, happily unstung, to sit on the bench in the Azalea Trail.

All this definitely in the Known category, from style of bench to azaleas & rhodos, to the call of chickadees in the trees.

And my final retreat, as by now you will have predicted, for a latte in the VanDusen’s café.

This post began with an inspiring quote, let it end with another inspiring quote — this one written in magic marker on the café mirror.

Oh all right, maybe “inspiring” is not the right word.

Choose your own adjective.

  • 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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