Walk & Gawk

28 July 2017 – Tuesday we do indeed go walkies on the Arbutus Greenway, as promised in my previous post. Another bright sunny day, so I’m armed with hat/sunblock/water.

I’m first to arrive at the 6th and Fir Park, the north (False Creek) end of this 11 km pathway stretching south along a disused rail corridor to the Fraser River. (In fact, we’re still on temporary pathways, with the final work yet to be done, but the details are beyond me and … frankly … at the moment I don’t care. I’m happy as is.)

Being first to arrive, I kill time reading messages on the Park noticeboard. Here is my favourite:

Have you ever seen tattooing so winsomely advertised? I am thoroughly charmed — though not enough to respond to the ad.

Lots of notices, lots to read, and this lady ignores her pooches long enough to scrutinize them all. Maybe she’s local, checking for updates?

Busy park, 9-ish in the morning: a volunteer (I assume) watering & pruning, a visitor checking her messages, parents & toddlers (out of frame) in the mini-playground. And a discarded water bottle. This is real life, after all, not Fantasy Land.

The Park’s online write-up includes, in its list of amenities, a water fountain. It should, but doesn’t, point out there is a canine fountain as well,

Frances arrives, we slap on another layer of sunblock, swig some water, and set off.

And stop pretty darn soon, because who could resist this gate?

Not us. The gate is unlocked, even better, so we head in. I linger to admire all the fun someone has had, creating the objets d’art — all from objets trouvés — on the gate.

Turns out we are visiting the Vancouver Compost Demonstration Garden, which since 1990 has been a joint project with the non-profit City Farmer Society. The Society manages the Garden; the City taps multiple departmental resources (Solid Waste, Water Design, Parks, Health, Green Streets…); all this to show Vancouverites a whole range of ways to “go green” at home.

Raised produce beds and other features show us water conservation techniques, pest control, and composting options. Including — but of course! — a very classy composting toilet.

Back to the Greenway.

We’re still in the northern section, with community gardens and wild greenery all around. Including blackberry bushes, their fruit just beginning to ripen.

See those few fully ripe berries? They are no longer on the bush. They disappeared, lickety-split, down our throats.

Not a lot of art on display, and it would be ungrateful to demand that the Greenway also be an art installation. All the more reason to enjoy the artist’s palette on a signal box (or something) ’round about where we cross West 16th.

Farther south, we’re on a long staightaway of naked paved pathway. Not pretty. It’s a relief to arrive at a stretch that is, we suddenly realize, lined with painted rocks. Well … at least it’s something.

I warm to it when I see a Vancouver Biennale sign, explaining that this is a BIG IDEAS Education Program carried out by grade 2 students at York House School. After seeking community input, they decided to beautify their stretch of the Greenway with these long lines of rocks —  more than 800 in all, moving from one colour block to another.

But! Wait-there’s-more! Turn over a rock or two. Go ahead, says a sign; do it.

So, in a red-rock stretch, we do.

Love it.

Even farther south, we’re back in cascading greenery, here up and down a retaining wall with trees soaring overhead. Vancouver keeps stunning me, the way green stuff just tumbles over other green stuff…

And suddenly we’re crossing West 41st, where, I am very reliably informed, there are excellent cafés.

We admire yet another harlequin painted signal box (it seems to be the Greenway theme), plus the wooden bench behind it with old railway axles (or something?) for end pieces …

and head for a near-by bistro.

Which is as good as promised.

I pass up my usual almond croissant & try something new: a flaky sacristain —  twisted puff pastry with ground almonds and cinnamon.

All I can say is: go find yourself a French bistro, and try it for yourself! (Or follow this recipe.)

 

The Poetry Walk. Almost.

7 August 2016 – Here I am in High Park on a hot Saturday afternoon, eager to join the the Poetry Walk that will tour us around this 161-hectare urban park, hearing site-inspired poetry as we go.

Alas for the plan. I have misread the info sheet: the walk started at 1 pm, and here I am all bright & bouncy at 2 pm.

So I console myself with other discoveries. Of which there are many.

The picnic for the Former Thu Duc Reserves Officer Cadet Association of Ontario, for example …

the ietnamese & Canadian flags at the picnic

complete with flags & speeches & long food tables filling plates as fast as picnic-goers can present them.

Right across West Road, an equally busy baby shower. The signage in English, but the MC definitely latino, pleading again & again, “Por favor … por favor” as he struggles to bend the chattering crowd to his agenda.

Bright, busy splash pad over here …

the splash pad off West Road

and nearby an ice rink, stripped of its ice but the hockey nets still in place. The little boys do what any true-Canadian group of little boys would do: they grab some basketballs …

basketball hockey in a summertime ice rink

and play “hockeyball.” (The adjoining outdoor swimming pool has equally enthusiastic, but more orthodox, use.)

High Park is billed as a mixed recreational/natural park, and it does seem the most amazing combination of facilities — off-leash dog areas, garden allotments, a zoo, food stands, trails, public art, you-name-it — plus natural areas and other areas undergoing naturalization.

And Shakespeare.

roped off venue for the summertime Shakespeare presentations

A summer institution.

And formal ponds & hedges …

in High Park

and the signature great maple leaf in a broad expanse of lawn approaching Grenadier Pond. In winter, the outline is black and dramatic; in summer, it is a-blaze.

in High Park

Typical: the mum lining up her little boys for a photo. A-typical, but unfortunately true this year: the parched grasses of our very dry summer.

I see sketchers …

one of two sketchers by a hillside pond

and sleepers …

in High Park

and fishers in the designated area in Grenadier Pond.

fishing is permitted in a defined area

I walk a pond-side trail, its shoreline plants almost obscuring the helpful signs.

signage typical of High Park

On the left, the role of cattails & sweetflag in stabilizing shorelines; on the right, the habits of the pond’s diving ducks. Lots of High Park nature information, here in signage and online too.

I climb back up from Grenadier Pond, begin working my way back north playing tag with Colbourne Lodge Drive. One foray off-road takes me , most unexpectedly, to the High Park Labyrinth.

High Park Labyrinth

Who knew? Well, I suppose I should have known: I showed you the labyrinth next to the Church of the Holy Trinity (Into the Labyrinth, 7 July), and noted the website giving all the other locations as well.

Back up near Bloor Street, I stop to admire a few of the sculptures in that north-east corner of the park. I am particularly taken by this one …

a sculpture in High Park

perhaps because it reminds me of the strong, minimalist work of Inuk carver John Pangnark (1920-1980). Art historian George Swinton rightly called him “the Brancusi of the North.” Since High Park doesn’t credit its sculptors (or not anywhere I could find), all I can say about this piece of art is that it is by “the Pangnark of High Park.”

More art as I pile aboard a streetcar at the Dundas West subway station. Right outside my window.

alley next to Dundas West subway station

And look! Some art inside the streetcar, right before my eyes.

passenger in my streetcar

So there we are. I blew my chance to walk with a group, and hear poetry inspired by the Park’s black oak savannah, the wanderings of its buried creeks, and the assorted plants, birds, snakes & insects that call the Park home.

But it all worked just just fine.

 

 

 

  • 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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