" SpiritofSaltSpring:BC:Canada:GulfIslands:SaltSpring:Salt Spring:

October 24, 2007

"My" Park

Usually in the morning, whenever I have been without work, I try to walk around the park even when the monsoons arrive. This morning - grey, wet, rainy - I don my raincoat and my boots, put up my umbrella and as I begin I like to fantasize that the park is actually my own personal backyard.

I'm just on a wee walkabout something which is a cross between what the Scots and the Aussies do; one high up on the bonnie Glen between the heather and the other in the dusty outback. I'm just surveying how things are on "my" palatial property.

I survey "my staff" working diligently in the rain, driving their little tractors and trucks clearing away weeds, cutting down trees that may prove to be hazardous. Much to their wimpering protestations, I've left the corgis at home. I wouldn't afterall want them to catch colds.

At 10 am along the seawall there is next to no one else except the requisite Vancouver jogger, the retired man, and a young female tourist from Japan wearing sweats and a baseball cap, raindrops dripping from her hat like water off the eaves. She comes towards me motioning with her camera and I take her photo. I realize the flash needs to be on. I can't figure out how to do that on her camera, so her face isn't even defined in the photo. I try to explain this using bad sign language to no avail. But, as Japanese females are socialized to do from birth she thanks me profusely.

I have a special route I follow. Down under the underpass, past the Vancouver Rowing Club and the Yacht Club, looking down the water towards the city and the building of the new Trade and Convention Centre. The floatplanes fly overhead except on days like today it seems when perhaps it's too socked in with white to fly safely.

Although it has been quite a while since I've attemptd, badly, any watercolour painting, when I'm walking around on these wet days, it's hard not to see the colours and the tones as if they have been dabbed from palette to canvas.

I pass the cricket fields and decide to take a shortcut past the totem poles and back down onto the seawall. I look past the lady in the wetsuit sculpture across to the yellow sulfur piles in North Van.

I notice the leaves under my feet, the ones that are perfectly formed and the difference in sizes as if some are the babies of the others. I wonder why some are red, some are brown others green and gold. I know there's a scientific reason. Another bit of common knowledge I should know and don't.

I always look across at the memorial to Pauline Johnson hidden in the trees as I pass that part of the seawall and I try to imagine what this place was like then. More silent, more green, and I can almost hear the paddle of her canoe in the waters of Lost Lagoon when it actually connected by water to Coal Harbour. This year it seems to me that the colours in the Fall palette are more vibrant. They also just happen to be my personal colours; the ones I'm supposed to wear: Browns, greens of every shade, baby lettuce coloured moss a cloak for the rocks, auburn, mustards, gold.

Maybe because I've been consistently employed during the past five years or so, and therefore my attention did not have the luxury during the day to focus on such minute details, I'm surprised at the vibrancy of colours declaring Fall at the peak of this season. I can't recall the colours being so vivid.

I'm nearing Lumbermen's Arch and pass the kids waterpark. Today it is empty with only the water falling from the sky but I can see the ghosts of little boys screaming and running, energy personified, plotting to attack their friends with the hoses. I can see parents guiding their babies first steps as tiny toes shrink in reflex at the cold water in the puddles; images left over from my summer walks. The top of the Lions Gate Bridge is vanishing behind cloud.

I head up past the concession stand and the Japanese War Memorial and stop in at the free part of the Aquarium where the belugas are floating as if they are asleep. One of them floats towards me, rolls on his side and his jellybean black eye checks me out briefly. I try to stare right into it through the glass as if to communicate with him. He does this a couple of times and then lets out one of those whale sounds; the high pitched squeal. I wish we could have a conversation. One that we could both understand.

I carry on around the corner and a dog barks at the big sea lion in the next tank. I head up the walkway between the Japanese cherry trees. I slip ever so slightly as I cross the wetness of the wooden bridge, water in a small stream rushes underneath.

The Stanley Park Pavilion is just at the top where a photography class is determined to carry on,in spite of the wet, there cameras wrapped in Safeway bags. They position themselves as if they are surveying the land in preparation for a new highway. I try to figure out where some of the lenses are pointed and think of my own photography. What captures our attention? I find that fascinating. We're all looking at something different; something that speaks to us, alone, and if we're lucky says something, on that rare occasion, that is universal.

I wonder about the Dubrulle cooking school and imagine how nice it would be to host a large party inside the Pavilion, maybe a 50th birthday party. I'd like that. The party, not the 50 part! But, even that doesn't seem so bad. It feels good just thinking about it.

Coming up to nearly an hour, I continue down the walkway through the rose garden now lying dormant, with only sad, withered petals, light brown around the edges remaining as hints about what was and what will be again.

Having walked around the park so many times, through so many seasons in the past, especially when things were not good and this place, my own personal backyard was my salvation. It's as if every image has stayed with me: light, colour, shade, texture, and these form a collage of seasons and memories like one of those tole paintings, layer upon layer so that even in sepia Winter, yellow Summers are present, in the Fall, blue Spring is here too.

Stanley Park 365 days a year.