Last Walk, First Wish

31 December 2017 – My last walk for 2017, and it wasn’t even planned. At least, not the Granville Island bit and the discoveries that followed.

I’m just out there to celebrate the fact the early morning fog has yielded to a sparkling bright day. My path takes me toward Granville Street, remarking lingering hoar frost as I go …

and still marvelling at all the happy palm trees. With their holiday lights woven around their trunks.

One footstep leads to another, you know how that is, and here I am, under the Granville St. bridge.

I decide not to plunge into the shops and other temptations of the Granville Island Market. I turn right — eastward — to make my way to the Seawall along False Creek and then back home.

Indeed, I am away from the jolly shops. Look, a working crane.

Seven tons max, in case you care.

I love its strong lines, its beauty-through-utility, its sheer domination of the scene.

And I love the sturdy metalwork that supports it …

and the multi-coloured teardrop I discover at its base.

No, of course I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s another bit of beauty-through-utility, or maybe just beauty. Because it is beautiful, is it not?

More step-step-step, and I’m walking along the backside of Sea Village, a private houseboat enclave I have admired during ferry rides but have never seen up close.

Very swell houseboats, I must say, with clever mini-gardens …

and completely wonderful mailboxes! I want one of those mailboxes.

I’m still bush-whacking, wondering how/where/when I’ll find myself on the official Seawall path — but not worried. Too much to enjoy meanwhile.

Such as a wedding couple being posed for their photos at the crest of Ron Basford Park (eastern knob of Granville Island) …

and a very handsome but frustratingly anonymous sculpture down here at water level.

A pedestrian wire-mesh lock-up for lifejackets and boats near-by, made colourful by its contents.

Really, really colourful, when you get to the boats.

But they’re not colourful just for the sheer giddy fun of it. Those colours have purpose. As I discover.

One last glance back at the park, with Alder Bay to its right and False Creek beyond.

I think I’m about to join the Seawall … but no! A whole great chunk of it is closed for reconstruction. Big red detour signs arrow the alternate route. Bye-bye False Creek.

I follow the arrows eastward, then angle up through Charleson Park, admire more hoar frost (and, equally, the snake-fence construction) …

and head home.

A First Wish

Not quite 2018 where I am, but close enough to salute the year, and also all of you who, through your interest, add so much to my walks.

Here is my wish: may we all experience what poet John O’Donohue describes in the poem below. I first heard it when a dear friend brought one of his books to our Solstice Lunch on the 21st.

She opened the book …


and read us this poem.


Happy New Year. “Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning.”




All Bike, No Hike (Spit! Spit!)

30 September 2015 – I told you I’d take you out the Spit, didn’t I? So here we go.

No danger I’ll exceed the posted max speed for bicycles …

speed limits, even for bikes

and I don’t see anyone else giving the limit a serious challenge, either. But, goodness, every kind of bike you can imagine is out here: tandem, recumbent, ultra-lightwight, & regular old plonkers like mine.

We cyclists are just a few of the 100,000 visitors each year to this 5-km-long, 250 hectare urban wilderness, the Tommy Thompson Park that is open weekends & holidays only. Why the limitations? Because the Spit is also an active clean-fill dump site all week long.

Green park, grey rubble. You see the Green-Grey contrast very neatly in this 2013 aerial view, which I took the easy way — standing on land, on my own two feet, behind an official van. (The shot looks north, from the tip back toward the city.)

Leslie Spit 2013

The original plan, 40 years ago, was pure Grey. The city organized dumping off the end of Leslie Street, planning to build a breakwater with the accumulated rubble. Needs & interests changed, the breakwater idea was scrapped, but the dumping went on.

Then people looked over their shoulders and saw that Green — unplanned (& unanticipated) nature — was climbing all over the Grey. They changed course, began planning for the Green, organizing & contouring dumping locations to facilitate an eventual park. Currently, we have both activities; in time, the Spit will be all parkland. It already has its organized devotees, Friends of Leslie Spit.

So a visit to the Spit is all about enjoying nature, and enjoying rubble as well — more precisely, the art visitors make with the rubble.

I bike down the expanding east-side angle of the Spit, known on the latest maps as the Endikement. An ugly word, & I’m not convinced it even is a word. But, look, great ridges of new rubble have much the appearance of a dike.

rubble on the east flank of the Spit, the Endikement

See how much plant life has leapt up all around? By now Leslie Spit is home to some 400 species of plants — plus (year-round or seasonally) to some 316 species of birds, 50 species of butterfly, and many mammals and reptiles.

I spin on my heel, take in Cell # 1 now being contoured just across the gravel road, joining other cells that will help shape the eventual parkland in this part of the  site.

Cell # 1, under development

Then I bike on, enjoying more nature. Waves splashing up over the rocks, for example …

along the eastern edge of the Spit

and, something I always check, the beaver lodge in Triangle Pond.

Triangle Pond, with its beaver lodge

Next — and just as eagerly — I check for the latest installations of rubble art. Some of it signed by brand-name artists, I’ll have you know.

Poser, out on the Spit

First I see the panda bear, then the signature. Street artist Poser is known for great loopy rabbits, but where would he have put the ears on this concrete block? So that’s fine, hello Mr. Panda Bear.

And then I see the rest of the block and whoop with laughter. I first photographed it back in January 2013, when all it bore was the inscription you see here — now faded — on the surface to the right: “Respect your city’s vandals.” Loved it then; love it still.

A little farther out the Spit, stacks of small concrete blocks, some brightly painted.

more rubble art...

More great mounds of rubble right out at the tip, at Lighthouse Point. Some with one or more humans a-top, in this case members of a cycling team.

at Lighthouse Point

We just have to climb this stuff, don’t we?

And then we make things with it. Inuksuks, for example …

inuksuk at Lighthouse Point

or, um, little houses. Or something.

very tiny house? at Lighthouse Point

Another inuksuk, this one my favourite because it has been built at water’s edge, looking out to the horizon. It reminds me of Inuit inuksuks I have seen on the Arctic tundra, also overlooking the water.

inuksuk, Lighthouse Point

Then I notice something small & wonderful, my best rubble-art find of all. It excites and touches me, because I think I recognize the handwriting, the style of poetry, the sensibility of this artist.

rubble-art poet

He (or she, but context makes me think probably “he”) has neatly written a poem on a jagged piece of composite, then posed it against the turquoise backdrop. It is dated 20 September 2015, and begins:

You must have / jogged another’s memory / of / baby blue / baby eyes /

Did their memory also hold the indigo / rimming irises / (irides if you want to get medical about it) /

That indigo is still there / around the baby blue.

He writes of memory, but it is my memory that he jogs.

I have never forgotten the rubble bed I saw here in that January 2013 visit I have already mentioned, surely the work of this same person.

rubble bed, at Lighthouse Point, Jan 2013

Each “pillow” is neatly incised with poetry, poetry in the form of a haunting diary, dated at intervals through fall 2012.

And now here he is again, this anonymous artist, this rubble-art poet. I am happy to think he still visits the Spit, still creates his lyric poetry.

I think about his work off and on as I pedal back north along the Spit, cross the little pedestrian bridge …

pedestrian bridge, part-way up the Spit

and head on home.

I’m smiling now, as I write about it.








    "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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