November 11: an Ordinary Day

11 November 2019 – A little cool, a little grey, but a perfectly ordinary, peaceful day. A good day to do whatever you want, go wherever you want.

Wander down to the south-east curve of False Creek, for example. Enter via Hinge Park, where the “Rusty Sub” sits in perfect camouflage amidst the rusty bullrushes of the adjacent tiny watercourse …

Or lead your dog into (or out of) the off-leash dog park that borders Hinge Park …

Eye the remaining produce in the Village Community Garden, but politely keep your fingers to yourself …

Cock a thoughtful eye at the public art atop that pedestal in False Creek or, if it’s not much to your taste, focus instead on the man peacefully sculling by  …

Eye the ferries (Aquabus left, rival False Creek line right) that just as peacefully share the waterway with scullers, dragon-boaters, kayakers, assorted yachts & each other …

Check the ferry schedule on Spyglass Dock …

Feel free to write a moving plea for gratitude on a nearby tree …

Or feel equally free to denounce the plea as vandalism …

Rest beside your bicycle in Olympic Village plaza, or perhaps hunker down behind one of its public benches in a game of Hide & Seek …

Indulge yourself with a selfie in Mollie Burke’s Unfolded art installation …

Or settle down outside an Olympic Village creek-side café, while you check your smartphone for messages.

But keep that Remembrance Day poppy (above) close to hand.

Because an “ordinary” day of peace, calm, safety, choice and good humour is an extraordinary gift.

Those of us fortunate enough to experience it should always be grateful, always remember all the people and all the effort and vigilance that make it possible.

So, as a whistle echoes across the water at 11 a.m., and the Fraser Blues fly overhead in tight formation …

look up, say thank you,

and remember.

 

 

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.

 

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.

Love That Dude

8 September 2019 – This is a love story …

about this Dude.

In 1991, the Vancouver Parks Board installed a handsome new cedar sculpture, Reclining Figure, in Guelph Park — a not particularly large or widely known park in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, bordered on its east side by Guelph Street.

By 2017, as you can see in that Georgia Straight photo above, the wood was busy repurposing itself. Just fine for the planet as a whole; not so fine for lovers of the sculpture. The Parks Board paid to have it returned to the artist, Michael Dennis, on Denman Island.

And then… what to do, what to do?

Because, you see, this wasn’t really about Reclining Figure at all.

It was about The Dude. And Dude Chilling Park. And a community icon.

A little back-story:

  • November 2012, local artist Viktor Briestensky, in tribute to the sculpture, puts up a hand-lettered sign renaming the park, “Dude Chilling Park.” The Parks Board removes it.
  • February 2014, after an online petition gains some 1,800 signatures, the Parks Board thinks, Why not?, and puts up a Dude Chilling Park sign next to the Guelph Park sign. The park is still legally Guelph, but has dual-sign status.
  • The park’s alternate name gains international media attention; the “Dude” sign keeps being stolen as a souvenir; lots of people visit the park; and on we go.

And then it’s 2017, and the Parks Board finally removes decomposing Cedar Dude from the park, and reunites it with its creator. Guelph/Dude Chilling Park has lost its soul.

What happens next is a grassroots campaign to “Save the Dude.”  The Mount Pleasant Community Centre is a driving force in the campaign, local media get behind it, people and various societies chip in, Michael Dennis adds support — and, finally, there is money to back the public will to save The Dude by casting it in bronze.

Mid-August this year, Bronze Dude is triumphantly installed. (But I only catch up with it today…)

We love our Dude!

Fibre-art on the park’s tennis court fence proclaims it.

More fibre-art, twined around nearby tree forks, illustrates several more reasons why people love this park.

One reason, the park’s large community garden, visible behind that tree.

Spin about, sight along one of those two wrappings for another reason.

See? There to the left? People laughing and story-telling around one of the park’s many benches.

Just chilling with The Dude.

 

Tributes

15 July 2019 – The first is a deliberate, specific tribute. It frames how I look at things for the rest of my walk.

** Outside the Native Education College, tucked into an alcove in the base of this soaring totem pole (Wil Sayt Bakwhlgat, “The place where the people gather”) by Nishga master carver Norman Tait …

a fresh bouquet of flowers in vivid orange wrapping …

a loving tribute to someone, from someone.

** Bordering one side of sleek new condos just where False Creek meets The Flats, an equally sleek channel of water running through deliberately rusted new steel & installed above age-rusted old railway tracks …

a developer’s tribute to the industrial/railway history of this area.

** By the seawall and children’s play area at the east end of False Creek, in a discreet line of porta-potties …

a tribute to fully-accessible (and very regal) raccoons. (Though it would be a more impressive tribute without the padlock on the door.)

 ** Under the Cambie St. bridge, where it runs into Coopers Park on the north side, a view of the painted pilings, A False Creek, by Rhonda Webbler and Trevor Mahovsky …

a public-art tribute to the need for environmental activism. These stripes mark the mid-point in the 4 – 6 metre rise in sea levels predicted by the UN body, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

** Just east of David Lam Park, where pedestrian and bicycle paths run right next to each other …

a tribute to public caution and common sense. (Or so The Community Against Preventable Injuries devoutly hopes.)

** At one end of the Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre, in the CPR Engine 374 Pavilion, on the site of the one-time CPR roundhouse …

the engine herself, lovingly maintained and displayed by the West Coast Railway Association …

a tribute to our first national railway line, and to this very engine which, on 23 May 1887, pulled the first train into the city of Vancouver.

** Outside the Pavilion, in the Arts & Rec Centre courtyard …

a tribute to Bastille Day! Food, drink, music, displays, and lots & lots of tricolor.

** In the sidewalk at the north end of the Burrard St. bridge, one of the City’s 22 mosaic tile inserts, each 9 ft square and containing 3,500-4,500 hand-cut ceramic pieces …

this one, Fireworks Over English Bay by Bruce Walther, a tribute indeed to fireworks and to English Bay, but also to the lavishly-styled Burrard St. bridge, such a tonic for Depression-weary citizens when it opened on 1 July 1932.

I walk on for a bit after that, but no more tributes.

Except for my own silent thank-you to my faithful feet…

 

 

 

 

Water, Water, South & North

30 June 2019 – We’ll start South.

Having given no more than passing reference to the Fraser River in my post Up the Mighty Fraser — all about the street, not the 1,375-km river — the least I can do is show you a photo of the river itself.

The Vancouver Heritage Foundation advertises a walk along the Fraserview portion of the river as it winds through south Vancouver, and I jump at the chance.

Wonderful walking/cycling trails now, and condo/retail development, but it is still a working river, so, yes, logs still come down in booms, and sure-footed men still walk among them. (Sudden memories of childhood visits to my grandparents by the Ottawa River in Woodroffe, and our game of “riding the dead-heads” as we swam — i.e., clambering up the exposed end of a half-sunk rotten log, and bobbing up and down.)

And now … North!

Another day, another exploration.  I ride the Seabus across Burrard Inlet to Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver, wandering first among the docks, public art, natural beauty and retail temptations of the Shipyards District, right next to the terminal. The name is developer’s language, but fair enough: this was once a very long and very busy stretch of ship yards and dry docks.

No fog horn, not even in the day, but it didn’t matter. They had Joe Bustamente, a one-armed former Chilean mariner and — more to the point — a skilled trumpeter. Circa 1900, he and his trumpet guided ferries through the fog to safety.

I walk the length of the Burrard Dry Dock Pier and use its railings to frame a view of the St. Roch Dock, in the process catching a Seabus plying its shuttle route.

Then I head west onto the North Shore Spirit Trail. This is, or will be, a 35-km bike/pedestrian greenway along the waterfront right from Horseshoe Bay to Deep Cove. It is also a joint project of First Nations, municipalities and the provincial and federal governments, so my hat is off to all of them. Let’s just take a moment to imagine all the negotiations, and be grateful that everyone persevered.

I’m sampling a modest number of those kilometres, the ones immediately to hand (to foot?), starting at Wade Baker’s Gateway to Ancient Wisdom, which welcomes visitors to Squamish Nation land.

I pass a stone marker at the bridge over Mosquito Creek, which features, well-of-course, a mosquito. Plus a very small sparrow…

Look downstream into Burrard Inlet. There’s a whole colony of 21st-c floating homes at rest in the water, sharing space with a working marina.

Look upstream instead, for a reminder of 19th-c history. There in the distance, the twin spires of St. Paul’s Indian Church.  (Yes, “Indian” — gone from contemporary vocabulary, but sanctioned in this historical reference.)

Built in 1868 and the oldest surviving mission church in the Vancouver area, St. Paul’s combines Gothic Revival style architecture with Coast Salish interior details. Still a working church, it has been restored four times, most recently in 2017, and I’m hoping it will be on the list for North Vancouver’s next Doors Open event, because I’d love to go inside.

A red cautionary hand, marking the road crossing ahead. Was prudence ever more beautifully delivered?

On along Kings Mill Walk, rightly named for the mammoth lumber mills that once stretched along this section of waterfront. Out in the water, a circular boom. No, I don’t know why. A seal swims through, that’s enough for me.

 

I see gates into an off-leash dog park. It is a long, winding and very beautiful pathway along the Inlet, I see no signs demanding a dog as price of entry, in I go.

And, anyway, I want to get close to some of the 15 artist-designed birdhouses, part of the Birdhouse Forest created in 2005.

Pretty sure this one is by J. Gauthier, apologies if I’ve got it wrong. Also pretty sure that, although these are meant to be working birdhouses, they aren’t. Far as I can see, the intended chickadee and tree swallow inhabitants have turned up their beaks. Well, at least we human enjoy them.

On out of the dog park, with its polite instruction to owners, and equally polite apology to the dogs…

My turn-around is the 280-m pedestrian overpass at Mackay & 1st Street West. It rises over train tracks, and you know what that means. Where there are tracks, there will be box cars. Where there are box cars …

Equally bright artwork, but this time officially sanctioned, on a utility box on the homeward stretch.

And a stop at Thomas Haas Fine Chocolates & Patisserie, just off Spirit Trail. (Truth is, I’ve woven two North Shore visits, one within days of the other, into this single post. The second visit is with my great friend Sally, who guides me to Thomas Haas.)

No latte this time, I order a house specialty — spicy Aztec Hot Chocolate. Then Sally & I try our luck with the bright red chocolate dispenser in the wall separating café from workspace.

See the white arrow pointing to a bright white circle, just below & left of the open tray? There are a few of these arrow/circle combos scattered over the façade, each swinging open a tray when pushed. Each tray contains a single free chocolate. If nobody got there before you, that is. (Frequent refills, but frequent eager fingers as well.)

All empty. I have to make do with my Aztec Hot Chocolate.

First-world problems.

 

A Lake & a Latte

1 May 2019 – Assorted obligations at the VanDusen Botanical Garden today, and, with all those obligations duly met, it was time for play.

Time to stand with the Michael Dennis Confidence couple, soaring figures of salvaged red cedar, and with them admire the fountain’s dance in Livingstone Lake …

Time, also, to sit for a while on that lakeside bench, listening to the water, the ducks, the geese, the occasional chickadee, scraps of visitor conversation …

and, finally,

Time for a latte inside.

My sentiments exactly.

Before the Rain

5 April 2019 – Vancouver a Temperate Rainforest? Nicknamed “Rain City” for a reason?  You wouldn’t know it, by March stats: 31.7 mm of rain all month, versus the historical norm of 113.9 mm.

But then rain slapped its forehead, remembered its duty, and got back to work. (It is oozing gently down as I write this sentence.)

Which makes me all the more grateful for those first still-sunny and suddenly-warm days this month, and the walks with which I celebrated them.

One takes me along the north-shore seawall on False Creek, past the Burrard Bridge all the way to Second Beach, tucked into the edge of Stanley Park.

At Sunset Beach, I stop to visit one of my favourite False Creek sculptures. This one.

The work of French artist Bernar Venet, it was acquired by the Vancouver Biennale Legacy Foundation in 2007. It has one of those cryptic titles that usually make me very cranky: 217.5 ARC X 13. This time I am not cranky, because it succinctly describes the work, which consists of 13 arcs of metal, each curved at an angle of 217.5 degrees.

Crankiness threatens as I read the subsequent artspeak about the meaning of the work, but I do agree with the final observation that “the seemingly unfinished surface invites you to give the raw material a closer look.”

I move in for a closer look.

As did those two crows above!

My next walk is again largely waterfront, but this time along the south shore of Burrard Inlet. It gets a kick-start in Mink, a café overlooking a sliver of walk-through park just south of Canada Place.

The café’s website promises that “the view in spring when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom is awe-inspiring.”

They’re right.

In fact, the starting logic for this walk is just that: to admire the cherry blossoms. Now suitably caffeinated, Frances & I head on up to the water and begin walking west toward Coal Harbour.

We dawdle as we go. Lots of cherry blossoms to enjoy — and apple blossoms, and magnolia, and forsythia — and other waterfront visual treats as well.

Float planes, for example, with a whole mix of tourist/private/business purposes animating them now, and with a long, rich history of innovation, exploration and adventure behind them.

Plus … they’re just fun to watch.

Rows of them here at the Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre, this particular line-up leading the eye across the water to one of North Vancouver’s distinctive sulphur piles glowing an incandescent yellow in the distance.

Extracted from natural gas, this powder has gone from waste-product status to sought-after status as a component of fertilizer. Some 35% (I read online) of the world’s trade in sulphur passes through the Port of Vancouver.

Something else I love to observe: houseboats!

We see various groupings as we amble along, this bright duo in a marina just off Cardero Park at the west end of Coal Harbour.

We keep walking, more and more, and eventually there we are at Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park. It seems a fitting turn-about point, so that’s what we do, and then head for our separate destinations.

I finally hop a bus. As I cross the city eastward, I watch the clouds roll in.

Loop to Labyrinth

27 January 2019 – “Yes,” I said to myself, “a loop. Down to the very end-curve of False Creek, west along the north side of the Creek to the Cambie Street bridge, over the bridge, back east on the south side of the Creek, and home.”

You are not where it says you are. You are with me — in the magic of the historic present tense — in the end-curve next to World of Science (aka “The Golf Ball,” thank you Frances).

Looking west down the Creek, with the Cambie bridge arching one side to the other.

I head past the reeds and rushes in the parkland next to World of Science, hear the Redwing Blackbirds and read the warning, but without alarm.

None swoop down. Children swoop, on the other hand, exuberant with the park’s activity stations, their parents laughing and trotting along beside them.

I round the Creek’s north-east curve, then pass & briefly cut through the new Concord Community Park.

It is reminiscent — in its bright colours, high design and high functionality — of the new breed of urban parks I’d come to love in Toronto as well. Urbane, yet at one with nature. The perfect city combination.

The seawall scoops me by BC Place Stadium and the adjacent Casino, its metallic tawny walls the perfect foil for sunrise, sunset and — at the moment — dark reflections of its angular neighbours.

I’m barely past the canine off-leash area in Coopers’ Park when I come to its logical conclusion — dog benches!

First I see, and start laughing at, the dog faces. Only later do I notice the water bowl beneath each muzzle.

Up the long switch-back ramp onto the Cambie bridge. Even here, carefully distinct lanes for pedestrians and for bicycles. (The baby carriage may be on wheels, but mum wisely opts for the pedestrian lane.)

Approaching the south side of the Creek, I look east to the rest of my loop …

and then, just before starting down the spiral pedestrian staircase, I look west.

The Granville Street bridge is out there somewhere, but here in the foreground is Spyglass Dock, “my” dock it used to be, and still my favourite. Oh, how those colours punch through the day’s flat light.

And down the spiral ramp.

More colour punch on the bridge pillar, this time with an environmental message. The blue bands of “A False Creek” rise 5 metres above sea level, showing us mid-point of the predicted 4-6 metre rise we can expect through melting ice caps.

Eastward-ho, with great, grating swirls of crows on a line-up of trees between the bridge and Hinge Park. I remember seeing them here before, it must be a favourite roost.

Past the noisy crows, on to the peace of public lounge chairs and a cyclist peacefully lounging, bike propped to one side, tuque’d head barely visible, and an Aquabus chugging by in the Creek.

The City has tucked a small artificial island into the Creek just opposite Hinge Park, engineered to mimic nature’s own wisdom and provide additional rich habitat for wildlife. It creates a side-channel in the Creek, with the island to one side and the seawall path to the other.

After Hinge Park comes Olympic Village, with its shops, condos and big open square. I’m already anticipating the latte I will order in one of the cafés.

I am not anticipating the city’s latest labyrinth!

Oh yes, we are becoming a city of labyrinths, and look how engaged we are with this one before it is even complete.

See? A woman to the right guides her child along a path; mid-distance on the left, Turquoise Jacket cantilevers herself along another path, with Red Jacket not far behind.

And farther back — straight back from the “a” in the foreground word “Vancouver,” yes, that crouched dark figure — the artist.

Meet Himy (as in, he tells me, “Hey, It’s My Yogurt”) Syed, heart & soul & artist of the Toronto + Vancouver City of Labyrinths project.

I have to wait my turn to speak with him: one after another, passers-by stop to ask about his work, and thank him for it. I discover he’s another Toronto expat, so we swap a few Rob Ford horror stories before chattering about street art and artists in both cities.

Then he returns to his chalk, and I go find my latte.

Where I find myself still smiling about Himy’s project, and all the joy he creates for the rest of us.

 

HOME and Democracy

15 October 2018 – I tilt backward, slide my eyes up those skyscrapers, know I won’t see any for the next few days.

I’m heading out of town, north to join friends who live by Lake Simcoe, in a community just outside Barrie.

They pick me up at the GO (= Government of Ontario) bus station, explain we have one important stop to make on the way home.

This is the first voting day in the municipal elections being held throughout the province. First voting day? Times have changed. It used to be, one official voting day plus several advance-poll days. Now, with the switch to electronic voting, people may vote across a range of days — or from home.

My friends will do it the (relatively) old-fashioned way: we’ll stop at the Innisfil town services building, where they will make their electronic mark in person.

The building is festive. Voting has become a family-friendly event. There’s a (I swear to you) Batmobile parked nearby, to amuse the kiddies, and balloons galore.

Balloons plus a list of relevant stats and fun factoids …

balloons plus pumpkins plus local band (plus Batman watching) along one side of the building …

and a Batman-meets-shy-fan moment when said hero finally walks away from the band.

We go in. Assorted smiling helpers on all sides, both town staff and volunteers, and welcoming signage right inside the door.

My friends head off to find voting kiosks. I spy all these rosettes clustered on a far wall …

and go investigate.

Turns out to be the results of a local ideaLAB & Library project, which invited people to paint a pair of donated shoes to symbolize what “HOME” means to them. Participants also stated what they were portraying, and their comments were neatly printed up and put on display as well.

I start checking out the many meanings of HOME.

Dogs!

Forest & lake — though with a nearby sign talking about a “very fat cat,” which I found confusing …

until I looked to the right instead of the left.

Certainly a very black cat and, I am happy to assume, the beloved Chubby-chubbs in question.

Someone loves his solo life …

someone else loves Toronto …

and someone else creates delicately intricate waves.

Someone reminds us that all Canada is HOME.

And what could be more appropriate than that, as, all around, citizens are gathering to care for their home with this fundamental act of good stewardship?

Much later that day, in failing light, I sit on a rock on the beach, and think about voting, think about HOME, think about that final shoe.

Yes. Lucky us. All Canada is home.

Meanwhile, back in Digbeth …

Click right here: This is what happens when a whole chunk of Birmingham decides to woo street artists.

Thanks, Rick!

  • 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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