One, Two, Ruckle My Shoe

24 August 2018 – “R” not “B” — my shoes have laces not buckles, and they’re walking me through Ruckle Provincial Park. At 486 hectares, it’s the largest park in the Gulf Islands.

Getting here is part of the fun: first a bus from Ganges to the village of Fulford, then 15 minutes or so before another bus comes along for the trip across this south-easterly knob of Salt Spring Island, on over to the park.

The village is clustered close to Fulford Harbour, its shops geared not only to residents but also to transients waiting for one of the ferries than run from here to assorted other islands. I hang out on the dock, slowing down & settling into all this space and beauty. (Marred still by wild fire haze.)

Our bus arrives, and away we go.

I’m looking forward to Ruckle, even though I know nothing about it other than that it exists, and it can be reached by public transit. That’s enough for me! So, with lunch & water in my daypack, off I go. It becomes a figure-8 sort of exploration that keeps me close to water, first ranging well beyond Beaver Point going this way, and then looping back that way as far as Bear Point.

But really, I don’t care exactly how many klicks I walk or which landmarks I reach. As far as I’m concerned, everything is a delight.

The park offers dirt trails, here with the flourish of a tree-gate …

dirt trails with a footbridge …

rocky climbs …

and clearings with picnic tables.

The path in front of this table …

leads on to a secluded cove.

 

There are peek-a-boo views of the Swanson Channel …

and panorama views from high rocky ledges (with a sailboat and a ferry ghost-visible in the haze).

While well out beyond Beaver Point in my first loop, I realize I am coming to a camp ground. Tents only, no looming RVs, but I’m still working up to a pout. I want Nature, not campers.

Oh, all right, says Nature. Here!

If he’s not bothered, why should I be?

So I calm down, and promptly discover a second reason to appreciate the camp ground.

Isn’t this the best? I have to wait a moment to meet the host, though. At the moment — and you can almost make it out, in the shadows under the tent awning — he is pouring a bucket of rinsing water over his wife’s freshly washed hair. I wave at him to take his time, and a few minutes later he and his be-turbanned wife join me, smiling and happy to talk.

Turns out they are a retired couple, not islanders but quick to join other volunteers who take turns camping here each summer, living among the visitors, answering questions, generally being a helpful (and watchful) presence on-site.

They are typical of my day. Everyone I meet is affable, happy, having a good time and up for a moment’s chat. Just the right number of day-trippers, I decide: plentiful enough for the occasional exchange about where-are-we-now and what-a-great-day … but rare enough that there’s lots of time to enjoy the solitude.

Mid-afternoon I’m on the bus and back to Ganges. It’s a small  community, but after a day in the park’s tranquility how bustling and big-city it seems!

And then it offers its own enchantment.

I pass another of those painted pianos, watch two little girls fall under its spell, and promptly fall under their spell. Plink, plunk… giggle, giggle …

Then it’s up the hill toward my Airbnb, walking along the playing field by the school yard — and look, it’s a village soccer game. A couple of islanders have hunkered down to watch, I find a convenient spot on the edge of the skate park opposite, and join them.

It’s Yellow Vests vs. The Other Guys, all ages on both sides, and a female ref, her thick black braid bouncing on her back as she keeps up with the play.

I am a tourist, just another in the endless chain of tourists that come and go, doubling the island’s population each summer.

But, just for a moment, I feel like I belong.

Stares & Chairs

12 January 2018 – Out on a walk, you hope for some stare-worthy moments. But, chairs? Not unless your path takes you through furniture stores.

I am not walking through furniture stores, I am heading east from Cambie Bridge along False Creek. Chairs don’t come into it. Yet.

Staring, is what I’m doing.

At the ferries puttering back & forth; at the lone kayaker who has just glided past; at the “beehive” installation out there in the water; at the agreeably rough wooden structure nearer to land, which seems to fit so well into its nautical environment. And, yes, at the neon slogan picked out on its cross-beam.

Should I Be Worried? Truth is, despite all the issues the question teases into mind, I prefer — this bright, sunny day — not to worry. Not right now.

I prefer to cock an ear to the murder of crows in an adjacent tree, busy composing their latest Cawcophony Concerto.

Then I stop for another public-art slogan, just steps farther east than the first. This one has been around longer, so it’s familiar to me, but I always stop anyway. I like the message.

Let’s be thankful.

Something else to stare at, as I zig-zag through Hinge Park, this time courtesy of Nature: a winter palette of colour.

Intense green, tawny gold, wine-red. Boom boom boom.

I’m approaching Olympic Village Square now, with its tidy insets, pedestrian bridges, stone hard-scaping to enhance the natural setting.

And a blindingly white chair.

It’s a photo-shoot, the photographer as focused as her camera, her assistant at her shoulder. Other passers-by slow a moment, take it in, speed up again and move on.

Well, I think, it’s not the only white chair around here.

These chairs are always here, well used and a little the grubbier for it. Warmer weather, they support visitors — I’ve been one of them. Right now, their broad arms support only the photo-shoot notebooks.

Just before the Square, another inlet of water, with its tiered stones that always (inaccurately, I know) make me think of ancient Greek amphitheatres.

And what do I see? More white chairs!

Another photo-shoot. This time the photographer is male, he & his assistant svelte in black, both as carefully composed as the scene before their camera.

A latte-break in the Square, and I’m off again.

Do these qualify as chairs?

Somewhere to sit, but benches not chairs. Handsome, though, and cunningly staggered.

I turn away from the water, back toward town. No more chairs now, I think, but always something to stare at.

I’ve looked at this installation before, a cluster of “salt” mounds in tribute to the Vancouver Salt Co. Ltd. building (now restored as a pub) that they frame. But I haven’t looked at them from this angle, and I decide I like it better.

Then I’m really back in town, climbing the hill southward toward home. ‘Way up there, I walk past a favourite park — not just landscaping & benches & kiddie play stations, but also a whole set of bike repair tools. Carefully tethered, mind you, but right out there in public, for all to use.

And I see all that again, yes I do.

Plus one addition.

Of course. There had to be one last chair.

 

 

 

 

“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.

 

 

Night Light

26 November 2017 – I pause for a moment, as I cross the Cambie Street bridge in the gathering dusk.

I enjoy all those lights blazing out over False Creek, powered by BC Hydro, but that’s not what really snags my attention.

I am captivated by the still-vivid maple tree, just as forceful a presence in the twilight, and powered solely by Mother Nature.

The Magic of Water

10 August 2016 – Not a particularly profound thought, but a profound visceral reaction: in the dry, hot season, we respond to water. (And feel, or should feel, great gratitude to have it available to us.)

The Tuesday Walking Society is in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, a peaceful & largely shady route to the Discovery Walk trail south through Moore Park Ravine and on down to Evergreen Brick Works. We pass fountains in the cemetery but, even more soothing, this limpid watercourse weaving through some memorial gardens.

watercourse in Mount Pleasant Cemetery

We pass poignant inscriptions, as well.

memorial inscription, Mt Pleasant Cemetery

Across Moore Avenue, and we start the descent into the ravine. Sun dogs dance in the camera lens, & dapple the path.

Moorre Park Ravine trail, at Moore Ave.

Everywhere, thistle fluff exploding on the seed heads, waiting for a breeze to whirl them away.

thistle heads, exploding into fluff

And the suction cling of burdock pods, proving why they were the inspiration for Velcro.

burdock pods clutching our finger tips

By now path-side greenery is almost obscuring bike racks at the upper entrance to the Brick Works.

side entrance to EBW, from the ravine trail

We leave the trail, enter the parkland that surrounds the Brick Works itself … and again stand entranced by the magic of water.

ex-quarries, now the Weston Family Quarry Garden

Once quarries for the raw materials for the bricks produced here from 1889 to 1984, the mammoth cavities are now repurposed & naturalized as the Weston Family Quarry Garden. We don’t sit in the Muskoka chairs, too hot.

We walk on, up & around the perimeter of the site, back down to cool off inside … and then linger a moment for one last glance at the water before we head home.

Small Pleasures

20 September 2015 — The first pleasure isn’t so small: it’s the day itself — a big, bright, fresh come-play-with-me September morning. So I do. Even though it’s not one of my “official” Walking Days.

I am rewarded with the sight of more pleasures along the way. Small things, all of them, but proof that small can be big.

Tai chi under a shady tree in Riverdale Park East, for example …

morning tai chi, in Riverdale Park East

or imbibing liquids of choice, in a pleasant location.

Can be humans, savouring coffee on the Rooster café patio …

Rooster patio, on Boadview

or sparrows, beak-deep in bubbling water in a midtown garden fountain.

a mid-town front yard

And then — speaking of water, as we are — a fish out of.

alley w. of Parliament, s. of Carleton

Or so it says!

 

  • 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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