The Rough with the Smooth

26 September 2019 – Some days, you get it all.

We encounter the rough while walking westward through Thornton Park, just in front of Pacific Central train station  …

and later on I encounter the smooth while walking eastward again past David Lam Park on the north side of False Creek.

This is one of my favourite sculptures, Marking High Tide by Don Vaughan, and look — rising tide is just beginning to lap across the lowest of the stepping-stones.

Brown Trout & a Whole Bunch of Frogs

11 September 2018 – First, the frogs. We aren’t looking for brown trout at all.

Come to that, we aren’t even specifically looking for frogs, but we welcome them — the whole dancing tug-of-war of them — with a whoop of delight.

A whoop & a sigh or two of relief. Because we are searching out Burnaby’s eco-sculptures, and, despite an astoundingly confusing map, we’ve just made our first sighting. So who cares if it’s raining?

Burnaby, an adjacent municipality to Vancouver, launched this community eco-sculpture project in 2005, and has been developing it ever since. Each summer, to the delight of residents and tourists like us, the City’s parks, event floats and public spaces show off the current crop of birds/bees/eagles/whales/pollinators/frogs/cranes/owls/etc-&-so-forth.

Summer drought and heat took their toll, but recent rain and some judicious replanting have given the works a new — if necessarily brief — lease on life.

The details are just terrific.

On down the way a bit, and look! a trio called the Pollinator Series. Complete with a caterpillar …

a lady bug …

and a spider. (Not shown. Use your imagination.)

Some confused driving around while we try to sort out where to go next. My Vancouver-born friends consult maps, sat-nav and smart-phone apps up there in the front seats; I sit behind and keep my newbie mouth shut. No back-seat driving from this girl!

We whiz past a grouping of owls. They’re on a triangle of lawn surrounded by busy streets; no possible place to park and enjoy them; we circle around; there must be a way — and, yes, there is. If you don’t mind pretending you’re in that school parking lot because you’re about to visit the school.

Two adult owls, three baby owls, and absolutely worth that bit of vehicular trickery across the street.

Each baby owl has his own, very Canadian, underpinnings. This guy: snowshoes. His siblings: snow boots, and a toboggan respectively.

These sculptures are magnificently detailed on all sides. Check out mama’s back!

And while you’re there, check that red umbrella in the background, being held over someone in a yellow jacket. We can see they’re City maintenance workers, fiddling around with an open sewer grate. We’re curious.

Us, smiling: “Hi, what’re you doing?” Yellow Jacket, also smiling as he spools more wire into the sewer: “Fishing for brown trout.” Ho-ho-ho all around. Us: “Oh come on, what’re you really doing?” YJ: “Okay. We’re checking a repair we made.” Us: “Did it work?” YJ: “Yup.” Us: “Well, you’ve earned your trout.” More ho-ho-ho all around.

More sat-nav (etc) consultations and off we go, headed for Deer Lake Park. Miss Bossy-Boots on the sat-nav tells us to go here, and go there, and we do, and end up parked on a residential street, hoping Miss B-B got it right. Well, it’s right enough, and after a few human directions from passers-by we embark on the Deer Lake Trail.

But not before reading the Wildlife warning.

Isn’t that fun? Not enough you have to watch out for bears and coyotes and cougars — even the black squirrel is on the loose and dangerous. (What? He’ll chatter you to death?)

The Trail is lovely. And we don’t meet a single black squirrel. Or bear. Or cougar.

This brings us to Deer Lake and, over to one side, the Century Gardens and the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts. Where we again ask eco-sculpture directions. Fortunately, these Gardens are being given some early-fall TLC, and the crew help us out.

Good, thank you, got it: a couple of whales just down the road. But we are happily diverted en route. First by the three 14-ft ceramic poles in the Gardens, labelled Past, Present and Future.

They are the result of the Burnaby Community Clay Sculpture Project, which used Shadbolt Centre facilities and resources to engage professionals artists with students, seniors groups and other community members to create the three poles, each rich with imagery for its own theme.

The future, I discover …

will include Cloning.

Another diversion: we go into the Centre, expecting to indulge idle curiosity nothing more — and come out having pounced on the up-coming concert by Martha Wainwright. I’m more the era of her mum, Kate McGarrigle (as in Kate & Anna McGarrigle), but yes, my interest does extend to Martha and her brother Rufus. We buy tickets.

So that’s a big bonus to the day, and we don’t much mind that the eco-sculpture whales, when we finally get to them, are … underwhelming.

Back down Deer Lake Trail, enjoying the feather tucked into a post as we go …

and into the car, for the trip back to Vancouver.

“Look!” we cry, as we zip along the highway, and see Burnaby banners dancing on light standards …

“There’s the owl!” Now it means something to us. We feel good.

And the sun even comes out.

 

 

 

 

Time Well Killed

11 May 2018 – Yes! You can kill time and still hold up your head in polite society.

(Credit, by the way, to Comedy Central, whose old tag line “Time Well Wasted” I have just appropriated.)

Select your location, open your eyes, and enjoy yourself.

Exhibit No. 1

I am in George Wainborn Park, smack by the walking/cycling paths along the north shore of False Creek. I’ve never noticed this park before, and it is not my destination: it is simply a meeting point. “By the fountain,” said my friend, as we planned our outing.

I am a few moments early. I kill time.

Admiring the fountain, of course.

Admiring all that “geometry at work & play,” as I like to think of it — vertical waterfall on the left; horizontal black fencing left to right; stone triangle on the right; great arch of the Granville St. Bridge overhead.

I watch a father carefully hold his toddler high enough to peer into the triangle. The child gurgles with delight, flexes his tiny starfish fingers in-out-in-out toward the spray.

I wait ’til they’re gone, then go and do the same. (Peer, that is, but perhaps even gurgle.)

Then my friend arrives, and we leave.

Exhibit No. 2

Next day, same need (same opportunity) to pace myself between appointments, and kill some time.

A quick visit to the Vancouver Art Gallery and then, because it’s a lovely day and I am in no hurry, I plonk down on the VAG steps terracing down into Robson Square.

Many others are on the steps as well, including one permanent resident.

Meet Bird of Spring, one of at least three authorized bronze replicas of a 14 cm. original by the Inuk artist Abraham Etungat, of Cape Dorset.

Bird and I watch the action below, in the Robson Square skating rink.

In season, well … it’s a skating rink, isn’t it? And off season, well … it’s whatever people want to make of it.

At the moment, it’s a studio for choreographed routines. Foreground, two young martial arts practitioners, with batons; background, a trio of dancin’ fools.

I stroll down around the rink, zero in on the dancin’ fools.

They are just a-shimmying their little hearts out.

Bird of Spring and I now bracket the rink, on the watch from opposite ends. The baton couple are still hard at it, in that sweet-spot combination of athletic precision and sheer flowing beauty.

Overhead, an audience of pigeons.

On I walk.

Still with some time to kill, but I have another destination in mind.

Exhibit No. 3

Another destination, with another overhead audience, if we may refer to inanimate objects in such terms.

It’s a tower of the Woodward’s Development on West Hastings —  the multi-use redeveloment of the old Woodward’s department store site.

The tower rises over, is visible through, the Atrium, which is a welcoming pass-through space open to all. Last summer I sat here & listened to a series of Hard Rubber Orchestra rehearsals; today I listen to the piano.

The  bright-blue piano chained to a bicycle, always there & available to anyone who wants to play it.

This intent young man is playing Chopin. He is very good, and we applaud when he ends a selection. He doesn’t look up, but, eyes still on keyboard, he does give one quick nod of the head.

He is playing again as I leave.

Nicely in time to meet my friend at our Purebread Bakery rendezvous.

 

 

 

Eagles in Winter

15 December 2017 – We are on the Squamish River, between Vancouver & Whistler, in Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park. We’re here for wintering eagles, not for salmon.

The salmon deserve their sculpture, and our respect. Without the prolific chum (Onc orhynchuus keta) run each year, and the resulting salmon carcasses, Bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) would not congregate here each winter.

But the chum do run, and the carcasses do accumulate. This riparian area therefore offers the eagles one of North America’s best wintertime habitats — and offers humans one of North America’s most significant locations for viewing them, December-March.

Frances and Sally, Vancouverites both, know the area, know what it offers, and I am only too happy to benefit from their knowledge and enthusiasm.

Even the naked eye spots Bald eagles in all directions — in trees, swooping over the water, on sand & gravel bars in the river.

We read the information boards, including the four points of Eagle Viewing Ethics.

We stand there, amazed by the river tumbling to the Pacific Ocean between mountain ranges, by the mountains, by the habitat and, of course, by the eagles.

Sally has the better camera, one capable of seeing more than naked eyes — or phone cameras — can possible capture.

An eagle swoops in over the bar. Click!

He has lots of company. Click!

Later we follow the riverside path, mindful of Eagle Viewing Ethics, carefully staying on the path, trespassing neither on the sand bars to our left nor on Squamish Nation property to our right.

Eagles perch freely in these trees, apparently unfussed by the parade of human gawkers. Close enough, now, for any kind of camera.

Here a speckled juvenile (or so someone tells me) and an adult …

and there a majestic adult all on his own, glorying in his white head, visual counterpoint to Sally’s red toque.

After the park, on to some feeding of our own.

Frances, with insider knowledge, guides us to Fergie’s Café, a local gem tucked away on the neighbouring Cheakamus River. A “locally sourced, innovative menu,” I later read somewhere, and it’s true — everything from red meat to vegan, made right there, by a serious (but not solemn) chef.

Oh, yum.

Afterwards, we lollygag for a bit on the banks of the Cheakamus.

More eagles.

Yes, those two dots on that tree branch = eagles. My camera, so you have to take my word for it.

But that’s not really why I’m using this photo. I’m using it because it’s just so back-country Canadian: rushing river, rock, coniferous & deciduous trees, sturdy little workhorse bridge, mountains.

I’ve stood in the equivalent of this spot so many times, in so many places, across the country & across the decades.

It still takes my breath away, stings my eyes.

We finally drive out, ready to head back to the city — but make one last stop just outside Squamish itself, down bouncy rutted roads to another viewpoint, right on the river.

Mid-afternoon sun warms the rock, glints off Diamond Head’s snowcap in the background.

And then we go join Hwy 99, and drive 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"

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