River-Watch

11 January 2022 — The capital-W Weather just keeps piling up. The snow I blogged about late December was followed by more snow and more cold, and then a windstorm combined with king tides that tore up Stanley Park seawall and flooded the Ambleside Park I’d visited just a little earlier that month.

And now plus-zero temperatures and a new multi-day Atmospheric River, due to start … well, any time now.

“Now” being a few hours ago, as I set out to walk east toward home. Ah, but, I am wearing my Seriously Waterproof Coat and my duck boots, and I trust them to keep me safe and pretty well dry. So I am watchful — aware of the grey sky and impending River — but perfectly happy to let my eye snag on tiny details as I walk along, and not particularly care whether I beat the rain home or not.

Here at Yukon & West 8th, it isn’t the motorcycle I notice first …

it’s the butterfly decal someone has stuck to the back of the traffic sign. I don’t care that it’s wrinkled and beginning to peel, I like it a lot.

I pivot east into the alley just south of West 8th, away from the construction for the Broadway Subway Project (an extension of the existing Millennium Line) that keeps pounding along, whatever the weather.

I see this bold taco-shop mural right at the intersection …

but again it’s a detail that draws me in: a delicate line-up of red dots above one of the florets on one of the plants.

I wonder if this is a later, complementary (and complimentary) addition by some other hand, but then see another touch of red in the swirls of ground cover, and decide it is all by the original artist.

Only later, looking at this image, do I see the magic continuity of colour — black/white/red, flowing from the mural across those cars to the red building beyond.

Just east of Alberta there’s full-tilt alleyscape, so much going on I barely register the young woman who walks into frame on the right, checking her messages …

because I’m focused on that mirror up there on the balcony. Looking very pretty, in the midst of a lot of not-pretty.

Just past Columbia, I see the pumpkin-coloured car, who could miss it …

but, really, I’m fascinated by that convex traffic mirror, and the art-nouveau swirls it bestows on tall trees and power lines.

East side of Manitoba, I’ve seen this before but for a change it’s not the H-frame hydro pole that makes me pause …

it’s the haunting mural tucked into the garage on the left. So instead of walking by, I walk in …

and when I turn to the back wall, my curiosity is rewarded — finally! — with this artist’s name.

J. Whitehead, I later learn, is a Saskatchewan-born member of the Cree Nation, a Fine Arts graduate of the Nova Scotia College of Arts and Design, and now resident in Vancouver. I’ve seen his distinctive work elsewhere, am glad to give you a chance to discover him as well.

Same alley block but closer to Ontario, I once again halt at this battered old garage …

but, this time, it’s the sway-backed roof that pulls me close. I really look at it, at the textures, the colours, the thriving moss on crumbling shingles — the sheer topography of it all.

And then … and then, I’m east of Ontario, on to Quebec, and the end of the alley.

I swerve north to East 8th, away from all those alleyscape details …

into the ordered, aromatic, calm and considered details of a latte at my favourite café.

I make it home, just before the River starts to flow. (And flows still, as I type this. And is expected to continue to flow, right through Thursday.)

Walking with Spirit

5 December 2021 — You bet. Spirit with a capital-S.

We’re in Pacific Spirit Regional Park, some 770 hectares of temperate rainforest in the city’s west end, neatly bordered along one edge by the foreshore of Georgia Strait. The network of trails, more than 50 km in all, lets you weave your way through mixed coniferous-deciduous stands of trees, taking in berry bushes, ferns, mosses, lichens and fungi as you go.

And that is exactly what we are doing.

Bark is a wonder, all on its own. Not just texture, but colour. And not just all the subtleties of black and brown, but, look, streaks of turquoise. Lichen is not always grey!

Last yellow leaves of a deciduous tree glow just overhead…

and, not to be outdone, other last-leaves flash bold patterns in the undergrowth.

Great webs of tree roots snake across the ground, tracing the hummocks of the long-buried nurse logs that gave them life.

Then there are the decidedly not-buried nurse logs!

Nurse-stumps like this one, crowned with its own full-grown progeny.

Tiny sprays of vivid fern, beside a fallen log ruffled with equally tiny fungi…

and a huge explosion of fern, so massive, so primordial in mood & presence that I look around for dinosaurs.

Jagged stand-alone stumps…

and the whole entangled dance of the forest: stumps & ferns & leaf mould and, overhead, moss woven around looping tree branches.

Whole entanglements within moss itself…

and the gleam of a boggy rivulet, deep and wide in this wet, wet season.

Enchanted, we follow our trail…

with its bends and twists and guiding stretches of snake fence.

On and on.

If Moss Could Talk…

27 December 2020 – Well, moss can talk.

It can say …

I ūüíö you!

In emerald green, of course. (And twice over, just to show off.)

The Colours of OH!

20 November 2020 – Right from my first visit in July, I’ve known that the Camosun Bog deserves a big, fat, exclamatory OH! of delight. What I didn’t know — until two dear friends (you know who you are) set me straight — is that the exclamation resides in the name as well as the location.

I’d been saying, “Cam-oh-sun,” equal stress each syllable.

But it’s “Cam-OH!-sun. ” Jump on the middle syllable, and pass for local.

I’m still ridiculously pleased with my new knowledge as I walk up that first stretch of boardwalk this morning, say good-bye to the last hydro poles I’ll see for a while, and enter the Bog.

It’s a misty, drizzly day — a bog’s idea of bliss. You can practically feel everything expanding into all that delicious moisture, and you can see how everything gleams.

I start noticing colour, and shine.

The silver gloss of surface water …

red twigs…

white tree fungus …

purple seed pods …

even turquoise fencing looks good. (Oh, come on. Make room for it in your heart.)

And then there’s emerald.

The emerald of mad moss, flinging itself onto every surface that doesn’t actively fight back.

Spiralling up tree trunks …

and carpet-bombing the ground.

(There is also the emerald green of a little boy’s rain cape, which he twirls for me with great panache.)

One last glance, backward over my shoulder:

green needles/silver droplets/russet shrubbery.

OH!

Up the Mountain

29 October 2019 – Not the world’s largest, but very beautiful & just fine by us. We’re east of Vancouver atop Burnaby Mountain, in the Burnaby Conservation Area, with its 26 multi-use trails that cross-cross some 28 km within the park’s 576 hectares.

Good thing they’re multi-use, because we have multi uses in mind: two to go haring up & down on their serious bicycles, and two to go walkies at an altogether gentler pace, enjoying views from high up and connecting with this far-west end of the Canada Trail. (I’m in the walkies brigade, as if you had to be told.)

We start in the wondrous Playground of the Gods, more than a dozen wooden sculptures created by Japanese sculptor Nuburi Toko and his son Shusei, to honour the relationship between the twin cities of Burnaby and Kushiro.

The sculptures are dramatic, in a dramatic setting, views westward across Vancouver to Georgia Strait and even the Fraser River.

Many soar …

some angle …

and they’re all confusing for this Pileated woodpecker, who keeps tapping away, certain that somewhere in all this wood there must be an insect or two.

Onto a trail, into the woods, we play Spot-the-Nurse-Logs, and agree this one is queen of them all: six sturdy babies, climbing straight up.

After-the-rain rich smells everywhere, and the slightly acrid smell of late autumn, rustling leaves underfoot. Near our feet, ¬†tiny-tiny mushrooms …

and ‘way far below our feet, over the cliff edge, down in Burrard Inlet, some freighters.

Orca whales through the trees, entirely out of place if you’re being literal about whales & water, but just fine if you can relax into their being in their part of the world.

And a happy rock, to send us back to town.

We catch up with the bicycling brigade. The visitor wins admiration for doing it on his gravel bike (not owning a mountain bike); the local rider wins admiration for choosing to bring us all to this location, and for being cycling guide.

We’re all as happy as that rock.

 

Ready … Set …

5 February 2018 – And, already, the occasional “Go!” Nature is bursting out from the starting gate, here in Vancouver.

“The witch-hazels are in bloom,” says the ticket-taker, as we enter VanDusen Botanical Garden. “All over the place.”

Indeed they are.

Tawny golden tassels everywhere we look, taking pride of place even though we are in the Rhododendron Walk. Not a spectacular tree, once the leaves take over, but, oh, just look at those blooms.

So loveable. Perhaps because they are such an early harbinger of spring?

The rhodos are not going to take a back seat much longer. All around, big, healthy shrubs, laden with fat buds.

That lot, still closed. Others, much closer to open. This Rhododendron Ririei (Great Bell), for example:

And the smallest species we happen to notice, the Rhododendron ledebourii, in full bloom.

These last two examples are native to Russia’s Altai Mountains and to Mongolia respectively. That may explain their jump-start in Nature’s great spring race.

Then there are sights that have nothing to do with spring. They are just part of what makes Vancouver such a visually striking Rain City.

Moss on bare branches …

and Hart’s Tongue fern gleaming by a mossy rock, in the Fern Dell.

We pass the Maze, guarded from on high by its huge Monkey Puzzle tree …

and a great gnarl of tree boll in a copse.

Finally, as we cross the little zigzag bridge over Livingstone Lake, another mossy tree branch, this one hanging green-angled over its black reflection in the lake below.

Then it’s a peaceful downhill walk to Max’s Deli & Bakery at Oak St. & West 16th Avenue.

Where I have …

oh, go ahead, take a wild guess …

Of course.

Humans, Birds, Food

We already knew, didn’t we, not to feed wild birds? Or we are at least now willing to take the BC SPCA warning seriously?

I was sufficiently taken by that message on the Granville Island ferry dock to include it in my previous post.

What it doesn’t point out is that — along with protecting the birds from our food — we must sometimes protect our food from the birds.

Presumably the Vancouver Art Gallery café grew tired of patrons stomping back inside, muttering rude things about feathered thieves.

 

 

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.

 

 

Moss & 13th (East & West)

14 March 2017 РThe sky is exceedingly grey, & the air oozes moisture. The trees are grey-brown-black, sombre camouflage for a sombre day.

Only the moss stands out.

How happy it is! I stop thinking about the air, the mist, & focus on the moss.

I am besotted. I lurch along 13th Avenue, East 13th morphing to West as I go, following the moss, tree to tree. Admiring the branches’ furry sleeves, stretching out from the trunk …

Admiring swirls of colour, texture, pattern¬†…

moving in close¬†…

then refreshing my eye with the restraint of this narrow trunk, just one tree farther down the line.

Then a big guy, big fat trunk.

I step in to enjoy the sheen of the day’s moisture upon the bark …

which brings me close enough to see how the buds are just starting to swell.

Another block, and I start to laugh. No need to get close.

Nature’s very own Wretched Excess, flaunting herself out there in front of God & everybody, totally shameless.

I’m attracting attention; people turn, try to see what fascinates me so. They can’t find anything. Small dismissive shakes of the head, & they walk on.

Oh, but look …

is this not totally loopy-delightful?

I move even closer to the trunk, crane my neck backwards …

study the black & white of fern silhouette against bare branches & sky.

On westward, another tree, and I’m laughing again.

 

Visions of a mad orchestra conductor, resplendent in green velvet, raising his arms for the downbeat. “Our tempo,” he intones, “is 30.”

Out to Cambie Street & north to 12th. Time for some visual contrast.

No furry-fuzzy textures here.

Just the strong, clean lines of Vancouver City Hall — built & opened in 1936, a make-work & civic-pride¬†project that¬†tempered the architectural exuberance of 1920s Art Deco with the sobriety of 1930s Moderne. The only colour all those flags, and the¬†neon-circled clock.

I giggle again, thinking of the old joke: “What’s black & white & read [red] all over?” A joke that only works when spoken. Because then you can triumphantly reference the other spelling, and contradict either correct answer.

(I debate not giving you the answers. I relent. Answer # 1: “A newspaper.” Answer #2: “A blushing zebra.”)

  • 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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