Five years ago today, I boarded the London-bound Eurostar at Gare du Nord in Paris. It was my last day after spending three months in the city.
Three months is a long time. Even so, I remember that last week as a frantic one because I was running around trying to do everything I wanted to do and see everything I wanted to see before it was time to leave.
One of the privileges of spending a winter in Paris is getting to experience scenes like this one. This particular street corner is opposite Père Lachaise Cemetery in the 20e arrondissement.
Oh, who am I kidding?
I’m no suburbanite.
Walking through Deer Lake Park while I’m hanging out in Solo is all well and fine, but I couldn’t wait to get back to my own urban park. (That would be Stanley.) I even felt a pang while crossing the Lion’s Gate Bridge the other day on my way back from snowshoeing with a friend. I looked at the wide expanse of Stanley Park from high above Burrard Inlet and said, “Ohhhh, I miss my park!”
What I like best about “my” park is how I can fit a walk through it in between errands. Like today. I returned some library books, headed over to Lost Lagoon to say hello to the ducks and to check if the river otters were out (they were), walked back along the beach, picked up a few groceries, went to the post office, and then came home.
And what did I see on that walk?
(What didn’t I see?)
Lots and lots of trees. The beach.
Ducks (including mallards, Wood Ducks, American Wigeons, American Coots, Common Mergansers, and Lesser Scaups), Canada Geese, a couple of Spotted Towhees, the above-mentioned river otters, and a raccoon.
And that was a short walk.
Oh. And, um, daffodils.
In full bloom.
So remember when I told you how Deer Lake Park in Burnaby was an all-season park and I intended to go back and explore it some more? Yeah, I know. I forgot too.
I’m hanging out in Solo again, which means I have no excuse to not get myself back to this park. And so, one afternoon last week when there was fresh snow on the ground, I went for another walk with the friend who introduced me to Deer Lake Park.
It was stunning. I’m rather partial to my own park (that would be the one they call Stanley), but whenever I get a bit uppity about the park in my backyard, something or someone reminds me of how many fabulous parks there are all over Greater Vancouver.
Have a look at what I saw that afternoon.
It is equally true, I should add, that as some countries have too much history, we have too much geography. ― W. L. Mackenzie King
When Prime Minister Mackenzie King was giving his geography lecture in the House of Commons way back in 1936, it was generally believed that he was referring to Canada’s youth (a mere 69 years at the time) in comparison to our vast size (second in the world only to Russia). In my opinion, based on my travels, his assessment was bang on. Just take a look around.
Which is what Canada’s landscape artists have a propensity for doing.
Which is why I had Mackenzie King’s statement running through my mind like an earworm when I went to see the Vancouver Art Gallery’s exhibition Embracing Canada: Landscapes from Krieghoff to the Group of Seven. The exhibition’s position is that Canada’s natural world and our relationship to it has often been a major subject for Canadian artists, particularly during the hundred years that bracketed Confederation.
I finally got around to seeing this exhibition during the Christmas holidays. It’s a good exhibition; I was impressed with its depth and scale, and am intrigued by who could own such a collection. (Most of the pieces were loaned to the gallery specifically for the show and the lender wished to remain anonymous.)
I’ve written before that, even though Canada has a great tradition of landscape painting, most of us don’t get much beyond the Group of Seven when asked to name a Canadian landscape artist. So here’s a tip for my Vancouver readers: if your New Year’s resolution is to increase the amount of CanCon in your cultural life, get yourself down to the Vancouver Art Gallery before January 24 (the last day of the exhibition). You will learn something about the many (other) landscape artists who have lived and worked in this country of ours that has too much geography.
If only for that reason alone, the exhibition is worth the price of admission.
Last year around this time, I was bemoaning the lack of snow on the North Shore mountains. The ski season proved to be a washout ― one of the worst ever.
This year, the snow conditions couldn’t be more different. The North Shore mountains received a record amount of snow in December, and the three local ski resorts are reporting their best holiday season ever. The quality and quantity of snow we’ve received thus far this winter promises to give us one of the best ski seasons ever ― quite the contrast to last year.
The mountain where I play was operating at capacity the entire Christmas break. I witnessed those crowds for myself yesterday when I was up there to go snowshoeing with some friends. I’ve never seen anything like it at Cypress Mountain.
But for all the chaos, once we got going, it was like we’d passed through the Wardrobe Door and entered Narnia. It was certainly a winter wonderland. And that is what I love about Cypress: as busy as it gets, once you’re on the ski runs or the snowshoe trails, you have the mountain almost to yourself ― the resort is that big.
And it’s only a 20-minute drive from downtown Vancouver. I, for one, certainly don’t take that kind of wilderness access for granted.
Here are a few of the many photos I took yesterday. I kept stopping my friends so I could take yet another photo, although by the end of our snowshoe trek I did wonder aloud how many photos of snow-laden trees one might need.
Maybe just one more.
Oh, look! It’s another holiday photo.
I know, I know. You thought I was done for the season ― so did I ― but then I found this photo. I took it two years ago almost to the day when I was exploring Key West, Florida. I liked the incongruity of the various bits of greenery in this shot.