“Being near water …”

6 January 2018 – The quote continues: “well … anything is possible.”

We don’t see the quote, or its context, until late in our Tuesday walk, but by then we have ample cause to agree.

The Tuesday Walking Society (West Coast branch) is out in full three-some force. Our first walk of the new year has us in North Vancouver, smack on the north shore of Burrard Inlet by Lonsdale Quay, about to explore the new Polygon Gallery.

New as Polygon — it opened last November — but with deep roots. It is the rebirth of Presentation House, which spent 40 years a bit farther up the sloping streets of North Van. Polygon sits between water and mountains and speaks to both: its south-facing glass alive to the Inlet, and its serrated roofline companion to the Coast Range at its back.

But the truth is, I don’t much notice the architecture until I am inside. Then I am wowed. It wraps us in the light-filled, warm minimalism that I love so much. All that quiet, highly functional beauty…

I fixate on the staircase.

Sally waves us on up, but I take an extra moment to admire the railing. Staircase railings protrude, right? Not here. This one, instead, is a calm, clean incision into the wall.

And it functions perfectly.

I scurry on up, discover the architect credits at the top of the stairs. Patkau Architects, I read — a Vancouver firm with an international (and award-winning) practice that emphasizes education and culture, along with their research projects.

Artspeak usually makes me itchy. Patkau’s capsule comment about Polygon seems exactly right: “Hovering, gleaming, framing the city of Vancouver, presenting a curated stream of photography and media art, reflecting the sky, flooded with northern light.”

And it is flooded with light. Provided by skylights, up here on the exhibition level. Even on this grey-brooding day, they fill the space with light.

And, occasionally, frame a construction crane on the building site next door.

Which works well with the exhibit, now that I think about it. This inaugural show, “N. Vancouver,” offers 26 existing and commissioned works by artists who have a history of engagement with north-shore themes.

My friends respond to the show as native Vancouverites: it brings back memories. I respond as the newcomer: it teaches me about this place, it builds dimension for me with backstory.

The works are strong. The archival pigment print of Kinder Morgan Sulfur Terminal, North Vancouver (Greg Girard, 2013/2017), for example …

or the hand-tinted black & white photos of Crossed Ski Poles Touching Shadows (N.E. Thing Co. Ltd., 1968).

I’m glad I read the small print. It explains how the shadows of these crossed poles shows them, instead, touching at the apex. (Never mind expanding the photo, here’s the story: the photos were taken at an angle.)

Brimming with curated North Van — photos, video, sculpture, weavings — we go out on the balcony for the physical North Van. Perhaps it is because we have just seen so many strong images, but we see this, too, as art. Nature’s art.

We’re looking south over Burrard Inlet, with the “Q” of the Lonsdale Quay logo here on the north shore to our right, and the city of Vancouver skyline across the way. With a line of cranes there on the left, marking the working port.

I orient you for a purpose. Things are about to go back-to-front. The Gallery’s glass wall behind us is either mirrored on the exterior, or, at this moment in the day, perfectly reflective. (How embarrassing not to have checked. Sorry.)

See? A slice of sharp-angled balcony floor beneath us, and a wall of glass that bounces the view on our right back at us from the left.

So we play with it.

Eternal nature meets 21st-c. electronics — Frances about to take a photo with her tablet; me with my phone to my eye, taking this very picture; Sally checking her tablet for the shot she has just taken. All of us facing north, aiming at the glass wall, and captured south.

More magic outside, when we rejoin the external world. The side wall of the adjacent building — and it’s not even an art gallery. It’s just (!!! “just”…) a working building, with a beautiful wall.

Lunch next, the weather raw enough to make us choose hot ramen over cold sushi at a neighbourhood Japanese restaurant, then along West 1st Street as we make our way back to Lonsdale Quay.

It takes us into Jack Loucks Court, a small & charming urban parkette dedicated in 2001 to the man who had served as North Vancouver’s mayor for many years. It contains attractive plantings, benches, water  — all elements that welcome you, make you linger.

But what really makes us linger is the series of life-sized, metal sculptures, each with a incised quote from the person who (we assume) was model for that sculpture. They talk about North Van, what roots them in this place.

When we read this one, we find ourselves nodding at the figure, and at each other.

I look out at the ocean.

Being near water … well …

everything is possible.

It stretches your imagination.

Pretty well sums up our day. And, perhaps, the inaugural exhibit in that new gallery next door.

 

 

The Charm of a Sunny Day

24 January 2016 – Nippy, but brilliantly sunny, that was Saturday. The kind of day to reward an inquisitive eye, and pop even our muted winter palette into high relief.

I’d had a preview the day before, as I prowled some neighbourhood streets & alleys.

in a Cabbagtown front yard

See? All that colour & texture, doing its Happy Dance under our winter sun.

So I set out lake-ward on Saturday, full of optimism. The first amusement is just one block from home.

cat prints in replacement sidewalk pavers

Not exactly a dance of colour, I’ll agree, but certainly a dance of cat paws. Prancing across those sidewalk pavers, complete with their very feline message: “I’ll go where I please. Even if it’s gooey.”

I have no particular reason to head for Lake Ontario, just the belief, confirmed by experience, that there’s almost always lots to see and enjoy.

I cut through Sherbourne Common, the recreational park cum water-treatment facility immediately north of the waterfront.

Kiddie play equipment, so busy with children all summer, sits still and silent in the winter chill. This spinning disc, for example, a blur of motion in July …

in Sherbourne Common

is now transformed into pure, sculptural art.

Big contrast with the southern (lakeside) portion of the Common. It is home to the Paul Quarrington Ice Rink & Splash Pad. No prize for guessing which activity is currently in season!

Paul Quarrington Ice Rink & Splash Pad, in southern portion, Sherbourne Common

Right.

I follow the lake edge west to Sugar Beach, named for the Redpath Sugar Refinery on its western boundary. Sugar Beach is one of a string of high-concept, very urban parks developed in the central portion of the city’s lakefront over the last decade or so.

At first I laughed at the mid-winter sight of its oversize Muskoka chairs and bright, rigid beach umbrellas. Fine in summer, I thought, but couldn’t they have come up with a décor that worked in all four seasons?

I take that back.

I have not only seen visitors lolling in those chairs mid-winter, as of this Saturday I have done it myself. In the sun; out of the wind; looking out over Toronto Harbour and Toronto Island; listening to gulls & geese & ducks & the occasional airplane on its final approach to the island airport.

I pass a lean, young cyclist as I enter Sugar Beach. We nod, he strips off his helmet as we agree it is a major-fine day to be out & about, and we each sink into a chair, mine somewhat farther down the beach than his.

cyclist doing his stretching routine on Sugar Beach

You’d be excused for thinking I’d stumbled on a sun-worship cult, but no — while I am content just to sit back and breathe gently, he is soon on his feet again, working through his stretching routine.

When I finally walk on, I’m amused to see more footprints — different species & ephemeral not permanent, but they still make me remember those busy little cat prints I saw earlier.

footprints in Sugar Beach sand & snow

The shifting sun brings out stronger shadows. I cock my head at the foot of Yonge St., admiring the way the railing plays against the sidewalk.

Ground zero - foot of Yonge St. at Lake Ontario

Also admiring, as always, the litany of names of all the major communities along Yonge St. and their distance from the lake. Its purpose: to demonstrate that Yonge is the world’s longest street. (Assuming you allow it to change name as it goes, that is.)

From Toronto at 0 km, to Rainy River at 1896 km. With North York – Richmond Hill – Aurora – Newmarket – Barrie – Orillia – Gravenhurst – Bracebridge – Huntsville – North Bay – Iroquois Falls – Cochrane – Kapuskasing – Hearst – and Thunder Bay in between.

My ambition is more modest. I just walk on west for a bit, past Bay St. and the ferry terminal, into Harbour Square and HarbourFront Park.

Soon I’ll pass the outdoor skating rink, positively heaving with people & the hiss of skate blades. First I pass some ducks, most of them swimming about but a few tucked up on their very own patch of ice. Complete with their own trademark hiss!

ducks in Toronto Harbour

Farther west & farther west, and then finally I head north into the downtown core, beginning my loop eastward toward home.

The sinking sun still flashes fire. It highlights a group of buildings and throws their reflection against this office tower at Simcoe & Wellington.

S/E corner, Simcoe & Wellington

I have a knee-jerk objection to these glass towers, typically thinking only of all the energy they must consume winter & summer, to maintain comfortable temperatures.

But, sometimes, I just enjoy the view.

Year Five!

I’ve just realized: this is my anniversary month for blogging. My first full month was January 2012, when I began training for my Iceland trek and needed a way to engage with my donors. Back from Iceland later that year — and I just kept going.

All 2012, and 2013, and 2014, and now 2015 as well. Walking, and sharing my walks. Encouraged by your response to keep walking, and keep sharing.

Thank you for joining me. May we all continue in good health, doing what we love to do and sharing it with each other.

 

  • 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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