Almost-Rain

13 November 2017 – Almost-rain puts a pearly grey sheen in the air, sets it shimmering & dancing with everything below.

But at first I am thinking defensively, not collaboratively. I am thinking, “How do I inject some colour into all this grey?”

So I nip into a corner store & buy this $1 pair of stretchy gloves …

which I waggle at my amused companions as we board the bus. “Whoaaa…” says one. “I want a pair.”

We’re headed for the VanDusen Botanical Gardens, the magnet being the weekend “Artists for the Environment” exhibition and fundraiser. The art exhibit, videos & other presentations are almost exclusively indoors, but in fact we spent most of our time wandering the grounds.

Discovering the shimmer, the bright dance, of almost-rain.

I risk wet knees to get close, admire the interplay.

But it is one of my sharp-eyed friends who spots — from his full height — a tiny silver soldier figure, tucked among pine needles at the tree base.

More knees-to-ground.

Later, circling the VanDusen’s Stone Garden, we cock our heads at the sheen on vertical slabs, the wet leaves plastered in random origami folds against the rock by wind & rain.

We creep up on the bright red maple leaf — real? painted?

Painted.

And perfect, I think; the perfect complement to Nature’s own work of art on the rest of the slab.

Later, another complement — and compliment — to Nature’s works of art: Earth Art 2012 “Transformation Plant.”  Two rings of upright stones, wedged closely in position with tightly packed cut wood & smaller stones.

The installation is the work of New Zealand sculptor Chris Booth, who has done kinetic environmental sculptures all over the world, this one in collaboration with Musqueam elders & advisers, the indigenous people of this place.

Prompted by the title, we look for the “transformation plant.”

And there it is, right in the centre, a juvenile western red cedar that, 5 years on, is still barely taller than the encircling rings of stone.

Ah. But.

Think kinetic. Think decades from now.

That sprig, wrote Booth in his project diary,

would flourish over the years into a beautiful tree as the stone slabs (‘petals’) slowly opened up like a flower because of the fungi breaking down the stacked wood, recycling it into humus.

I’m still thinking about the dance of Nature, the ways humans dance with (and against) Nature, as we take the boardwalk across the Cypress Pond, to head for home.

More shimmer.

I’m into it now.

Between Mist & Drizzle

20 August 2015 – Tuesday was like that, all mist & drizzle, with the threat of lightening thrown in. The Tuesday Walking Society headed for the lakefront anyway. It was still hot, hence the lake; it threatened rain, hence the Beaches boardwalk area, with Queen St. & its many cafés close by should we need to run for shelter.

First stop, the Beach Community Garden in Ashbridge’s Bay Park. The weather only hazy so far, nothing actually falling on our heads. Phyllis, a community gardener farther north in the city, swaps community-garden lore with a couple of Beach volunteers; I watch a counsellor lead some day-campers to crane their necks at these great, big, ever-so-tall sunflowers.

Wow!

sunflowers in Beach Community Garden

The kiddies are wowed. Even more so when a Monarch butterfly flutters past, right on cue, just as they are being told about butterfly-friendly garden plants.

On we go, into the parkland & trails that thrust into the lake, where we can see just how heavy the mist has become.

Ashbridge's Bay Yacht Club marina

We’re looking back across Ashbridge’s Bay Yacht Club marina toward the Port Lands and east downtown. There ought to be a dramatic city-tower skyline out there… somewhere … Instead, just a few ghostly hints are on view, above the foreground boat & to the left of the bright green trees.

Later, lakeside, we can see how the mist is thickening. This is a minute indent, barely a cove, barely a spit across, yet the far-side rocks are smudged to near-invisibility.

lakeside cove in Ashbridge's Bay Parky

Looping back out of this park, we continue east on its lakefront neighbour, Woodbine Beach. (Each beach blurs into the next, along here — sufficient proof to me why the community should continue to be known as Beaches and not by the newer & presumably tonier name, Beach. But oh, don’t let me start.)

There must be going on 200 volleyball nets strung here each season, pole to pole to pole (to pole to pole to pole…). It’s home to adult recreational beach leagues under the Ontario Volleyball Association, and often has every net in action. Today, not so much, just some adult die-hards, and what look like a few teen groups as well.

Woodbine Beach volleyball

We’re probably somewhere around Kew Beach when we spy this concrete path out across the sand, curving right along water’s edge. But … why?

Then we see the familiar blue symbol and know why, and love it: this path makes the beach wheelchair- (or baby stroller-) accessible. Isn’t that the best?

wheelchair access to the waterfront

And if it looks awfully blank out there, a sure sign of ever-thicker mist, well, not exactly. Even on the clearest days, you can’t see across Lake Ontario, not from here.

But.

But, you should be able to see ducks & Canada geese & a whole flotilla of paddle-boarders who are practically at water’s edge, just beyond the lifeguard station. Instead, they are barely there. They shimmer, they glimmer. Now you see them, now you don’t.

ducks & geese & paddle-boarders in the mist

Once we run out of boardwalk, at the eastern edge of Balmy Beach, we head north to Queen Street and start back west. It proves a well-timed (no, a dumb-lucky) retreat to city streets, since mist thickens to drizzle thickens to, well, not exactly pelting rain, let’s just say extremely insistent drizzle.

We duck into a café. We know how to out-wait the weather: scones & coffee, you bet.

Phyllis keep her umbrella handy as we continue; I snug the big duck bill of my cap lower on my forehead.

A bit farther west on Queen, a burst of defiant nature. Definitely not a planned community garden — let’s call it a vacant-lot garden, an unplanned gift to the community. The metal bars in front add bonus colour.

Queen E. vacant lot

At Carlaw, Phyllis hops aboard a streetcar to head home. I keep walking, find myself loitering at Broadview & Queen, mesmerized by another bit of unplanned cityscape. Normally, you don’t register these tangles of stretcar wires — or if you do notice them, you quickly avert your gaze, because that’s all they are: a tangle.

But here, shining against the dark netting that shrouds a building under restoration, the arcs of wire take on pattern & form & beauty. They become an art installation, dancing with the traffic lights & the ebb-flow traffic below.

Queen E at Broadview

 

Not that anybody planned it that way.

I angle north-west through Joel Weeks Park, to take in some art that has very much been planned. Three sculptures here, all by First Nations artists Mary Ann Barkhouse and Michael Belmore.

This one is my favourite — especially today, when we’ve been watching black squirrels all along our walk, in a nut-gathering frenzy.

Joel Weeks Park sculpture

We humans may still be panting with heat, but squirrels know better. Time to start stocking up; fall is coming.

 

 

  • 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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