While it takes a fair amount of time and effort to get here, by day -from some vantage points- you can see the city’s skyline in the distance. At night its glow -a dull, diffuse, orange- is an aurora urbanus marking North.
It’s on the periphery of what passes for the metropole’s economy, far enough away from the daily disruptions of place but still within the blast radius. Lately, a certain sub-species of mainlander has been making the rounds, peddling tired dreams.
But on a quiet weekend morning in winter, on an all-but-empty road doing a fair imitation of a rollercoaster, for a moment it’s a million miles away.
In the somewhere between the morning downpour and the chilly dusk, the treeline and the surf, the heat is tempered by a cool breeze. It’s close, but far away –far from the crowd, anyways.
Al Green and Nina Simone, Van Morrison and Roxy Music are tickling the inside of my ear, the digital transmission magically transformed by a mono earbud -a bit vintage hardware off a Super 8mm sound movie camera- into the warm analogue of a transistor radio from my youth.
Lying low, riding high, for a long little while.
For Johnny Drift.
Stepped out the back door and into a confrontation between a murder of crows and an impressively-sized raccoon; the crows took off and I could hear my new friend breathing as we regarded each other.
Walking down the alley, a coyote crossed my path moving at full tilt.
Robins serenaded me on my walk to the bus stop.
At Main & Hastings a flock of seagulls harassed an eagle making its way south and east, presumably to its nest in Strathcona Park.
Finally, and long overdue, the admonition came to mind: “Remember Vancouver: you are wild.”
After the cold water bath, light deprivation and heavily-structured seasonal gaiety of early winter, a restorative tonic comprised of human libraries and real-time narratives, winners and losers, photogs and cyclones, and a dram of single malt magic in the form of The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart.
Nature’s dance made all the more remarkable by its industrial stage. An organic kaleidoscope accompanied by a symphony of traffic, airplanes and pressure release valves.
Here, the Douglas Firs reached 400 feet. A steady diet of salmon fertilizer, the remains of feasting black bears, produced the tallest trees on the planet.
The forest housed, clothed and transported First People, proclaimed their kinship and myth.
Early European colonist earned their keep as loggers and sawmill workers, quaffed their thirsts is wooden saloons, and slept in wood frame homes heated by wood fires. And they walked streets paved with wooden blocks that support us still.
“Blackberry vines are one of the first plants to appear when soil is left uncultivated or is exposed by clearing. Left alone, they form thick evergreen mats along the edges of fields, streams, power lines, railways, parkland, and highways. In dense urban areas, they may find space in cracked pavement, along fence lines, or in untended gardens and back lanes. Their strong, barbed canes will grow to reach several meters long, arching over fences, walls, and small buildings. The surfacing of Rubus ursinus in Vancouver is an example of real wild.”
Stacey Moriarty, “blackberry”, Vancouver Matters
A cluster of malls are nearby, but this is the antipode of greasy food courts and ready-made goods. At this confluence of stream, railway, highway and park, cash and credit have no force but a bounty of sweet fruit is on offer for no greater price than a little labour. A refuge marked by stained fingers, and the odd -if vicious- scratch.
The days shorten, the air cools; the quiet blackberry harvest underscores the change.