The Sights at Silly O’Clock

25 May 2017 – I’m still waking up at “Silly O’Clock,” my body not entirely convinced it has left British Standard Time & must now respond to Pacific Daylight Time.

Daylight indeed! I bounce out of bed at 5:27 a.m., any time-zone frustrations immediately dissolved in the splendour of the dawning day.

From my balcony, I have an unimpeded view of the mountains that frame North Vancouver. Called the North Shore Mountains — and what could be more logical? — they are a subset of the Pacific Ranges, in turn the southern end of the Coast Mountains that run up the B.C. coast and right on through Alaska.

Both Grouse Mountain and Mount Seymour are in that line-up — Grouse, which I’ve visited by gondola ride, and Seymour, which I know only slightly better but at least with my feet on some of its trails. My friends Sally & Owen live on the last street of homes part-way up the mountain, their back yard right at the provincial park boundary.

Still mesmerized by the luminous early light, I drop my gaze to include Cambie Street below, here on my (south) side of the Burrard Inlet.

Vancouver City Hall clock glows in the dawn light, the most elegant use of neon I think I’ve ever seen.  But then, the whole building is elegant. Completed in late 1936, height of the Depression, it was both a make-work project and a hopeful symbol of an expanding city, with better times to come.

I think of it as Art Deco, yet architects Townley and Matheson made it more contemporary than that: the design blends the vertical, ornamental lines of Art Deco with the simpler, more horizontal lines of Art Moderne, just then beginning to emerge.

My thoughts shift from architecture to coffee.

I am just turning back into the house when I hear a great clatter, some thunks and grunts and … HONKKK.

Back outside! No far-flung gaze now, it’s close-up time as I peer north-westish onto a neighbour’s balcony.

Canada geese. Branta canadensis. Known, says Audubon, for their ability to adapt, “using different habitats in different regions…” Including, it would appear, Vancouver balconies.

I stare, stunned. They march around, with the bobbing heads and soft belly-grunts that mark curiosity and exploration. They check out the patio furniture, bump against the barbecue, peer through the glass into the kitchen.

Well, this is silly. Even for Silly O’Clock, it’s really silly. I rethink my plan to leave balcony doors wide open, to admit fresh morning air. Do I want a Canada goose in my kitchen, asking for toast?

I close the door. I, again, turn away. I, again, hear flutter-thunk-grunt. I, again, turn back & look.

Now one is exploring the ledge beyond my own railing. First southward, and then … back to the north.

He is quite splendid, silhouetted like that against the rising sun.

Even so, I am pleased when he abruptly loses interest, and flies away.

 

 

Moss & 13th (East & West)

14 March 2017 – The sky is exceedingly grey, & the air oozes moisture. The trees are grey-brown-black, sombre camouflage for a sombre day.

Only the moss stands out.

How happy it is! I stop thinking about the air, the mist, & focus on the moss.

I am besotted. I lurch along 13th Avenue, East 13th morphing to West as I go, following the moss, tree to tree. Admiring the branches’ furry sleeves, stretching out from the trunk …

Admiring swirls of colour, texture, pattern …

moving in close …

then refreshing my eye with the restraint of this narrow trunk, just one tree farther down the line.

Then a big guy, big fat trunk.

I step in to enjoy the sheen of the day’s moisture upon the bark …

which brings me close enough to see how the buds are just starting to swell.

Another block, and I start to laugh. No need to get close.

Nature’s very own Wretched Excess, flaunting herself out there in front of God & everybody, totally shameless.

I’m attracting attention; people turn, try to see what fascinates me so. They can’t find anything. Small dismissive shakes of the head, & they walk on.

Oh, but look …

is this not totally loopy-delightful?

I move even closer to the trunk, crane my neck backwards …

study the black & white of fern silhouette against bare branches & sky.

On westward, another tree, and I’m laughing again.

 

Visions of a mad orchestra conductor, resplendent in green velvet, raising his arms for the downbeat. “Our tempo,” he intones, “is 30.”

Out to Cambie Street & north to 12th. Time for some visual contrast.

No furry-fuzzy textures here.

Just the strong, clean lines of Vancouver City Hall — built & opened in 1936, a make-work & civic-pride project that tempered the architectural exuberance of 1920s Art Deco with the sobriety of 1930s Moderne. The only colour all those flags, and the neon-circled clock.

I giggle again, thinking of the old joke: “What’s black & white & read [red] all over?” A joke that only works when spoken. Because then you can triumphantly reference the other spelling, and contradict either correct answer.

(I debate not giving you the answers. I relent. Answer # 1: “A newspaper.” Answer #2: “A blushing zebra.”)

  • 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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