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.

A Lake, Another Lake, Lakes

26 June 2021 – “Siempre hay algo,” as a philosophical collectivo driver once told me, high on the Peruvian altiplano: “There’s always something.”

And indeed, just as COVID trends offer us cautious new freedoms, along comes the Heat Dome to imprison us once again. Only (!!) 33C today here in Vancouver, but headed for 39C by Monday, with 45C or more predicted for the Interior. (And that’s before we talk Humidex.) Not the weather for vigorous outdoor activity.

Yesterday’s visit to a cool, shady lakeside trail therefore had extra value: it felt like a final treat before 4-5 days of renewed lock-down.

Rice Lake lies within the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve in North Vancouver, with some 100 km of trails on offer through the forested slopes. We did a short, simple loop around the lake — proof that delight and beauty bear no necessary relationship to length or difficulty of the walk.

A gravel trail through the trees …

with bird song in the trees, ferns & moss all about, and numerous nurse logs on view, complete with their offspring.

We were particularly taken with this pair of adult siblings, their arms thrown companionably over each other’s shoulders.

I was definitely in a BC forest, by a BC lake, but I am imprinted by my decades with the Canadian Shield lakes of Quebec & Ontario.

As we stood at a viewpoint and looked down-lake, I felt all those other eastern lakes right there with me, dancing in and out of the one that was physically before my eyes.

I began talking about the other Rice Lake of my experience: the one that belongs to the Kawartha Lakes and lies south of Peterborough, Ontario, on the Trent-Severn Waterway. It is named for the wild rice that once grew there in abundance, but was drowned out by the rising water levels that followed Waterway construction.

Once home, still deep in lake mode, I browsed for images of that other, eastern Rice Lake.

And found this one:

Yes of course they are different: a mountain backdrop here in North Van, a granite outcropping there in Ontario. But … just look at them!

One specific lake, another specific lake, a cavalcade of memories. And, finally, just … lake.

My lake imprint.


    "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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