All Hail, Rain City

23 November 2018 – And there was, literally, a rattle-drum’s worth of hail along with the rain.

But rain is the constant, not hail. It is the pulse of Vancouver winter.

It makes headlights gleam, in the late afternoon of our ever-shorter days …

it bounces expanding circles into parking lot puddles …

and it plays polka-dot on a balcony glass wall.

Umbrellas again define us.

Waiting for use, they sit neatly furled by the front door …

in use, they bubble the sidewalk …

Inside shops, they are jammed into some kind of wet-umbrella stand …

and, once finally home, they are propped open, to dry.

Along with big, bright rain hats!

Rain City Takes a Stand

24 March 2018 – It’s been raining. To be expected, here in Vancouver.

How else would that dog grow such a magnificent crop of moss on his head?

Lots of rain = lots of umbrellas = lots of umbrella stands.

Right there inside every public access door, upmarket or down, retail or public sector, frivolous or serious or medical or artsy, or whatever.

I first noticed the phenomenon last October 12, when a deluge had us all shedding more umbrellas in the Scotiabank Dance Centre than the receptacles could handle.

You may remember the shot. It was my first umbrella stand photo, and I’ve been taking them ever since.

Today’s rain is a good excuse to show you some.

Mimimalism is the rule at both The Mighty Oak grocery & coffee bar on West 18th …

and at Elysian Coffee on West 5th.

Crema, down by the West Van Seawall, is also a coffee bar, but takes a much more exuberant approach. Their umbrella stand is in fact a coat-cum-umbrella rack, but, this drizzly day, umbrellas have commandeered the whole thing.

 

Colourful brollies and yet more colour right outside the door — all those daffs happily blooming, even though it’s still early February.

The Dr. Vigari Art Gallery on Commercial Drive takes a surprisingly austere approach — where’s the artistic flair? On the other hand, it does provide clear instructions, and one handsome resident brolly to show you how it’s done.

Pfui! says Exposure Clothing over on Main Street: instructions, yes, but let’s have some fun with those demo brollies.

The stand at VIDA Eye Care on West Broadway is suitably clear …

while an oral surgeon farther west swathes his umbrella stand in a big lavender bow. (Perhaps to take your mind off the fact that you are indeed at the dentist’s?)

The Sally Ann Thrift Shop on East 12th takes a thrifty, but highly functional, approach . ..

and the Art Gallery of Ontario — I couldn’t help myself! — offers functionality as well, but probably paid more for the container.

In fact, it is so elegant that it is not an umbrella stand. It is an umbrella drop station, and don’t you forget it.

(It is also empty. That’s because the sky was heaving down snow that mid-March day, not rain.)

 

 

 

 

It’s Raining

9 January 2018 – And I am out walking. Not despite the rain, but because of it. I am inspired by Melissa Harrison’s book Rain (Four Walks in English Weather), the gift of very dear, and very perceptive, friends.

Don’t sulk at what rain subtracts from your walk, is the message: celebrate, instead, what it contributes.

I’m in the right city for that! Rain is at the heart of Vancouver’s self-image.

I am not en pointe; I am en rain boot. My umbrella is not flung gloriously back & up; it is snugged firmly down around my ears.

Droplets dance on the clear plastic …

and, out there beyond my protected head, shine every plant leaf to brilliance.

I’ve noticed before: rain makes colours pop.

A beacon of light spills across the VGH (Vancouver General Hospital) parking lot. It illuminates the eddies of water sluicing their way to sewer grates.

Chrome yellow & white in that image; here turquoise & white, punched out against all that shiny black.

Water beads dance on the metal curves of this bench …

and pick out the lines of these tree branches.

(Yes, well, all very magic — but let us also sober up long enough to notice the amount of moss on the roof. I’m glad it’s not my roof.)

Every shop with its umbrella stand at the door. So handy! Stash the brolly beneath, while you check out the bright red rain boots above.

“Rain City Dance,” I decide, applies to more than one local studio. We and our umbrellas, we are all part of the dance.

Usually as members of the corps de ballet …

but, sometimes, at just the right moment on just the right street corner …

as prima ballerina.

Really-Rain

16 November 2017 – Sometimes, there is no “almost” about the rain. It is really rain.

But if you’re out in it anyway — which, I am learning, is the appropriate response — it delivers its own kind of nifty moments.

There is Red on Grey, for example …

and Water on Water …

and finally, from the Cambie Bridge in the gathering dusk, Lights Through Water on Water.

After that, it’s all about Umbrella Choreography, through which we, its many creators, constantly adapt the Dance of the Crowded Sidewalk to our collective numbers, skills, and patience.

The Story of 38.2

14 October 2017 – That’s millimetres. Of rainfall. Setting a new day-record for Vancouver, drowning the old one by an additional 7.2 mm.

My phone’s weather app promises mere “Showers,” as I set out to join friends for a noon-time tap dance extravaganza. “Pfui,” says I (acclimatizing fast to my new environment), “what’s a few showers?”

And it is still only showers, as I pass the Tandem Bike Café, admiring this bike’s weather-wise accessory.

An hour later, we are in monsoon-land.

Leaves block sewer gratings, rivers course down the streets, cars shoot rooster plumes into the air as they aqua-plane through intersections.

In the theatre lobby, umbrella stands bloom with offerings.

I stuff mine in with the rest, tell myself there is a whole umbrella culture here that I have yet to learn.

An hour of tippety-tap magic, a half-hour’s homeward navigation on a meandering but very peaceful bus, and then …

It stops raining.

My window sparkles …

my balcony fern shimmers …

And I open an email from a long-time friend. Not just long-time — prescient as well.

She’s sent me a link to an article about umbrella culture in Japan.

Thank you, Linda.

But Wait! There’s More!

18 March 2017 – At the risk of sounding entirely like an infomercial, there really is more.

More reigning to the rain than I’d noticed in my previous post.

So … stop!

And walk around the corner with me to see the rest of the parade.

There’s someone with a big purse hung straight down …

and someone with a potted plant (I think) balanced forward …

and someone with assorted gear slung backward.

Each also with a coffee cup, you’ll notice.

And an umbrella!

 

Wet City

18 February 2017 – “Wet City.” That’s a clue. Make a guess.

Oh, never mind. The answer is: Vancouver, B.C.

I’m back in Vancouver, and, currently at least, this art gallery in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood has exactly the right name.

art gallery, Main St. nr East 6th

Moments later, in a near-by alley, I see some hot art.

alley s. of East Broadway at Quebec

Though perhaps not exactly what the gallery owners had in mind.

It’s a damp, drizzly sort of Saturday, the moisture so soft & diffuse I mostly don’t notice it & never put up the hood on my jacket. A landscape, & seascape, of gauzey grey.

But… so mild.

Cambie & West Broadway

See? Bare legs. And my jacket is half-open. (I mention all this diffidently. A pet peeve among eastern Canadians is the flood of photos this time of year from BC-coast friends, flaunting their crocuses & snowdrops & lattes out on a café patio.)

On the other hand, pooches must be pampered, even in mild weather.

down near False Creek

I this this warning unnecessary — at least, today. Surely the attraction today would be unguarded expensive umbrellas!

nr Columbia & Broadway

So far, I’ve been looping around East & West Broadway Ave. Now I head on north to the water, to False Creek. Lots of people out & about — with dogs, with kiddies, with their FitBits & serious running gear, with snazzy bicycles — drawn to the parks & the Greenwall (seawall) that define south-east False Creek.

People out on the water as well. Dragon boats skimming in all directions. From ‘way out there somewhere, I can hear a cox barking at his crew, “Just think about what you’re doing!” But that’s the cox’s job, is it not? To bark?

And here’s another dragon boat, just about to set out from Spyglass Place Dock, by the Cambie Bridge. Though that’s not why I’ve stopped. I’ve stopped to enjoy the art.

Spyglass Place Dock, False Creek

Emily Gray is the artist, and if you click, you’ll get an aerial view of this mural.

I like the details all along the edge, including this fat little bumble bee.

detail, mural at Spyglass Place Dock

I walk on east a bit along False Creek, into Hinge Park, admire yet more art. This time on wooden posts out in the water.

just off Hinge Park, looking east along False Creek

But, this time, I can’t tell you the artist. Or anything else about it. I just like it, I like it in combination with the tall towers & the spherical World of Science to the east. I’d like it with the mountains as well — if they were on offer. Which they aren’t.

Because, even though we’re having a moment of watery sunshine, the atmospheric theme du jour is, pervasively, droplets of rain.

pedestrian walkway in Hinge Park

When I reach Olympic Village, I make another stop. This one you can guess…

Of course. For a latte. (Some rituals travel so easily!) Then I walk on east & a bit south, angling to Main Street and my temporary home just beyond.

With a passing glance, on Main near East Broadway, at an editorial comment on life in Wet City.

shop window, Main nr East Broadway

Should I go back & buy it?

 

 

  • 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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