Benched

10 August 2018 – How much civility is added to our lives by the strategic placement of public benches! They allow us to sit, to consider, to rest, to be at ease in public space, perhaps to share that space with others, or simply to enjoy the present moment — or a succession of present moments, if we are patient enough to allow them to unfold for us, in their own time and way.

I am particularly enamoured of benches at the VanDusen Botanical Garden. They exist in great variety, and in magic settings.

These Michael Dennis red cedar figures (Confidence, 2012) need no bench as they gaze upon Livingstone Lake, but we humans appreciate the one down there in the shade at water’s edge.

It is a classic bench shape ..

as simple and timeless as the lines of a canoe.

I sit there, mentally floating with the water lilies on the lake.

Then I sharpen focus, both mind and eyes, my attention snagged by movement in the lake. One lily pad, just one, is jigging back & forth.

I watch. I wait.

And I am rewarded by the sight of a tiny black triangular snout popping up on the lily pad’s far side. A turtle is busy doing turtle things, and I would have missed it but for my willingness to just … sit there.

Many benches have plaques, most of them just a commemorative name. I am so grateful to discover this one, for it perfectly captures what I am doing, what benches offer us if we come to them on their own quiet terms.

The plaque is attached to this bench beside the R. Roy Forster Cypress Pond — another classic bench shape

From here I often rest my eyes on knobby cypress knees all around the Pond and, one memorable day, listen to a young woman chant mantras at the far end of the floating boardwalk, just out of sight.

Very plain, these flat benches, but they often have ornamentation.

An impromptu walking stick, for example …

or a whole smother-load of plant life.

Another classic bench shape, with arms-and-back, this time also with guy-and-cellphone, up by the Scottish Shelter and Heather Garden.

Same bench shape elsewhere, but minus the guy — and minus a few back slats as well.

All the different ways, to make a bench part of your meandering exploration of this botanical garden.

Walk quietly into the Meditation Garden, rest on a stone bench.

 

Walk the narrow wood-chip Azalea Trail, sit a moment tip-tilted on the world’s most rustic bench …

and, farther down the Trail, sit a more stable moment on the world’s second-most-rustic bench.

Say good-bye to rustic.

Loop to the north-eastern side of Heron Lake, cross the open lawn between the Giant Redwoods and the South African Garden, do a double-take, suddenly realize that the elegant green ellipse down by the water is not a companion sculpture to the David Marshall work in the background …

it is a bench.

That is my discovery this very day, after a year-plus of visiting the VanDusen. So I sit there, and I laugh at myself and all the discoveries we can make as we go through a day. What fun this is!

I think a moment about what I have seen and heard, just by sitting quietly on one or another of their benches — ducks carving a slalom curve through thick lily pads in Livingstone Lake; hummingbirds darting back & forth among shrubs above the Cypress Pond; a heron suddenly landing on (where else?) Heron Lake; chickadees calling; squirrels scolding; ducklings plonking along after mum, past my bench & back to the security of the water.

I walk on, read another plaque.

“A place to sit in the garden.”

Yes. Exactly.

 

 

City Math

14 July 2018 – Given my severely modest school grades in math, it is very odd that I am so fascinated by lines & shapes, as I wander around town. You’ve met this fascination at least twice before — in Recti/Curvi-Linear and in Geometry at Work & Play — and here it is again.

I’m downtown on Burrard and, as I eye a group of towers reflected in another tower …

I think: “Vertical!” More precisely, Jagged-Vertical, as tends to be the case with reflections.

Somewhat later, I’m on a bench in Emery Barnes Park, enjoying the sound & sight of the fountain at one end of the long watercourse that runs the length of the park to a waterfall at the other end.

I don’t know why it makes me remember the reflected office towers, but it does. That in turn makes me think about verticals and horizontals, and the other lines and shapes of the built city. And the way each category has its variations.

More than one kind of vertical, for example. A fountain, I realize, is Arching-Vertical.

Now that I’m looking for lines & shapes, I see the connecting watercourse with a different eye.

Never mind the sparkle of the water, the colourful mosaics in the canal bed. I’m alert to shape, and this is Horizontal. No, wait a minute: it’s Downtown-Horizontal with Pigeons and Park-Bench Feet.

I sit on my bench, watch park life for a while. Despite signage that this is not a wading pond, small children & indulgent parents think it is a wading pond, and behave accordingly.

Which brings us to the next category of Horizontal:

Horizontal with Small Damp Vertical Humanoid. (Plus rock-arch, footbridge-arch, water-jet arching-vertical.)

I begin to walk along the watercourse, and realize it offers even more geometry than that.

It is also Cruciform! And, ‘way down at the end, it leads into yellow Triangular cranes above the Verticals of the waterfall.

Close to the waterfall, I see that, at this particular moment, it is Downtown Vertical with Pigeons.

Eventually I wander on, following the very Horizontal guidelines on the sidewalk …

down through Yaletown and its many shops.

Which expose me first to …

Retail-Vertical, Foodstuffs Division; and, a little farther along, to …

well! Let’s just call it, Retail-Geometry, Rental Bicycle Division.

My eye first reads those horizontal handlebars, then registers the vertical bike frames, then adds in the circular tires and, up above, the  horizontal rack of curved baskets.

Plus, on one of those handlebars, an off-kilter vertical. (Tower of Pisa Division?)

It’s relief to hit Yaletown Dock, with a simple clear example of Horizontal (Passenger-Direction Division) …

and, a short ferry ride later, to arrive at Spyglass Dock, with its distinctive Woolly Vertical.

I sink into a Muskoka chair for a bit, and listen to a teenage girl improvise some jazz on the dock piano while I admire the Verticals (all that real estate across the water) and Horizontals (the waters of False Creek) shining in the mid-afternoon sunshine.

I catch myself trying to calculate the angle of the ferry dock ramp, and how to capture the vegetation in a suitably geometric description. I start to laugh.

Quite enough math for one day! I go home.

 

  • 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"

  • Recent Posts

  • Walk, Talk, Rock… B.C.-style

  • Post Categories

  • Archives

  • Blog Stats

    • 88,443 hits
  • Since 14 August 2014

    Flag Counter
  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,633 other followers

%d bloggers like this: