Float

Inspired by the Richmond public artwork Float (2014) by Mark Ashby and Kim Cooper.

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on the corner of No. 1 and
Westminster Highway
there is a ball and chain and
beside it, a girl
standing on tiptoes
hands reaching to touch these
curious ornaments that
lean just enough
away

oh! the tension of the young
to feel everything so sharply
welded chain and painted steel
the pull to stay on the ground
the buoyancy to float
on

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School’s In!

One of the things I wanted to do over the Christmas holidays was explore a new part of Vancouver. I had never walked much of Broadway before, so on a sunny afternoon, I strolled the stretch from Granville Street to Bayswater, snapping pics of interesting things along the way.

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And one of those interesting things was the offices of the Vancouver School Board at 1580 West Broadway. The building itself wasn’t so interesting, but the sculptures of children playing in the park at the entrance to it were.

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It was like a game of hide and go seek, trying to find these 7 unobtrusive sculptures.

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This was the first one I saw:

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The second:

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Third:

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Fourth (and my favourite):

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Fifth:

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I love the movement, energy, and playfulness the sculptor captured in a hard medium like bronze, as well as all the realistic details: the pleats and wrinkles in the clothes, the yellow strip of tearaway pants, the girl’s barrette. The titles are fun too.

I couldn’t find the 6th and 7th ones, but stumbled across these letters in the ground, which immediately made me think of the Jackson 5 song:

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In the spirit of these sculptures, I thought this Raymond Carver poem fit well:

Happiness

So early it’s almost dark out.
I’m near the window with coffee,
and the usual early morning stuff
that passes for thought.
When I see the boy and his friend
walking up the road
to deliver the newspaper.
They wear caps and sweaters,
and one boy has a bag over his shoulder.
They are so happy
they aren’t saying anything, these boys.
I think if they could, they would take
each other’s arm. It’s early in the morning,
and they are doing this thing together.
They come on, slowly.
The sky is taking on light,
though the moon still hangs pale over the water.
Such beauty that for a minute
death and ambition, even love,
doesn’t enter into this.
Happiness. It comes on
unexpectedly. And goes beyond, really,
any early morning talk about it.

All the Light We Cannot See

Reading this book was one of the best decisions I made in 2015.

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This was the book I was so eager to tell you about back in December . I wrote a short review of it here on The Curator that I think actually managed to avoid any spoilers (I know, you’re all shocked!)

My mom was the one who told me about this book (she has good taste every now and then haha). Even though I told her I’m partial to the classics and I rarely read historical fiction, let alone WWII novels, she still said, “Trust me, you’ll love it.”

She was right.

Anthony Doerr captured everything I love about fiction in this “miniature” novel of epic proportions: a story that moves across time, spaces, and characters. A story that surprises me, grips me, guts me, and refuses to leave me. Prose that reads like poetry for all 530 pages, with words that roll into each other with such ease it’s enviable.

Listen to this description of the heroine, Marie-Laure, meeting her Uncle:

“His voice is low and soft, a piece of silk you might keep in a drawer and pull out only on rare occasions, just to feel it beneath your fingers.”

Sentences like this made me stop and re-read aloud for the pure pleasure of their musicality and originality. There’s so many more non-visual descriptions in this book because the reader sees through Marie-Laure’s eyes, and she’s blind. So your other senses come wondrously alive.

Put it on your reading list for 2016, and then come back and tell me what you think.

 

 

 

in celebration of surviving

Two years ago, I started the new year with a poem.

I know quite a few people for whom 2015 simply sucked. Knocked the wind right out of them. Pulled them under and left them gasping for air.

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It came like a blur for us in the winter and spring and then slammed on the brakes in the fall. The adrenaline, exhaustion, and excitement of planning a wedding culminated in the most joyful day of my life on May 16 when I married the Artist.

Things slowed to a good rhythm over the summer, as we settled into my apartment together and either got back to or started work. And then the fall hit us with a devastating wait for my husband’s work permit, something we are still waiting and hoping for.

So I chose this poem for all who felt like they just survived the past year. Sure, we’d all prefer to be thriving, but I like that this poet makes space to celebrate even the surviving.

And there’s always hope. The second or twenty-third wind is coming. May you catch it this year.

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in celebration of surviving
by Chuck Miller

when senselessness has pounded you around on the ropes
and you’re getting too old to hold out for the future
no work and running out of money,
and then you make a try after something that you know you won’t get
and this long shot comes through on the stretch
in a photo finish of your heart’s trepidation
then for a while
even when the chill factor of these prairie winters puts it at fifty below
you’re warm and have that old feeling
of being a comer, though belated
in the crazy game of life

standing in the winter night
emptying the garbage and looking at the stars
you realize that although the odds are fantastically against you
when that single January shooting star
flung its wad in the maw of night
it was yours
and though the years are edged with crime and squalor
the second wind, or twenty-third
is coming strong
and for a time
perhaps a very short time
one lives as though in a golden envelope of light

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Hello, Marine Gateway

Part of my rationale in choosing Marpole when I moved to Vancouver in 2013 was not just the cheaper rents, but the access to downtown and Richmond via the new Canada Line SkyTrain station at Marine Drive and Cambie Street.

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Where there’s a SkyTrain station, development always follows, and now when I walk to that SkyTrain station, I see soaring residential towers and a whole new shopping hub that has been named “High Street” (I don’t know if I’d go that far since it’s not offering anything out of the chain store norm, but you know marketers…)

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I have to say I am happy Marine Gateway has arrived in my neighbourhood— a neighbourhood that I love yet is sorely lacking retail shops and more variety of restaurants.

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No longer will the Artist and I have to go downtown to see a movie in theatres—we can walk fifteen minutes from our apartment! I am particularly excited about the Winners and Shoppers Drug Mart for the convenience factor.

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I walked around there the other day, checking out which stores have opened so far. Tim Hortons and Dublin Crossing are still in the works (shown above), but Starbucks, Shoppers, CIBC, BMO, T&T Supermarket, and A&W are up and running. (A&W is my favourite fast food joint so this addition really thrills me).

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There’s even some public art in the plaza! Here’s a statue of Simon Fraser by Ken Lum, the explorer after which the university is named.

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And on the pavement, some writing about the history of the surrounding places.

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On the stairs leading down to the bus loop, I discovered some more public art that looks like it might be back lit at night. I couldn’t find a plaque so not sure what it’s about, though I’m guessing it’s an homage to the Musqueam people and their tools/ways of life who lived in this area first.

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Here’s a complete list of the calls for public art at Marine Gateway.

Marpole is certainly getting more attractive features, and it will be interesting to see how this affects traffic and housing and rent prices that I hope can remain affordable for this neighbourhood I call home on the edge of the city.

Love Musically

You’ll have to wait a little longer to read about my favourite book of the year (sorry), but I’ll give you a review of something else this week that I went and saw—something a little more seasonal.

Who doesn’t like Love Actually?

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Actually, a lot of people don’t—my husband being one of them. So when I saw that a Vancouver improv company was doing an improvised musical based on this movie, I knew it would be a bit of a risk buying tickets for us. But I did anyway.

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And we loved it. Actually! (sorry, just had to throw that in there). We weren’t quite sure what to expect: all musical? Whose Line is it Anyway-style theatre games? A Vancouver version of the movie?

The show runs two hours with a 10 minute intermission and features 8 different characters whose storylines intersect as the show develops, much like the movie. We attended last night, and the pairings of relationships were:

  • two friends (male & female)
  • two friends (both male)
  • a mother & daughter
  • a husband and wife

As Off Key Improv’s website states, the musical relies on audience suggestions for the different characters’ storylines. At the beginning of the evening, a woman asked for a show of hands for the different pairings above and then called on these people to help provide the details, such as:

  • what’s a favourite Christmas tradition? (skiing at Whistler)
  • how do you spend Christmas day? (playing board games)
  • what’s a really difficult thing about Christmas this year? (cat died)

It was impressive to see how the actors developed the stories from such little information to make a complete musical from beginning to end with rising tension, laugh-out-loud scenes, heartfelt moments, and even some sad ones. They have a live band improvising music too, which added a lot to the scenes. All the actors took turns singing and did a fairly good job at rhyming on the spot. But the musical was more talking than singing, which I prefer.

I anticipated a little more audience interaction and hilarity, but I think that’s because the only precedent I have of improv comedy is Vancouver TheatreSports League, where there are new games the performers have to do every few minutes or so, much like Whose Line is it Anyway?

Apart from the intertwined stories and the complex, tangled love relationships, the other aspect of the musical that played tribute to the movie was right after intermission where a couple members of the audience could sit on stage under the spotlight with the chorus humming in the background and present a special message to someone in the audience like this scene in the movie:

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As this CBC article says, the actors play different roles every night, so hats off to them for changing it up all the time and not knowing what to expect either.

There’s still one more showing tonight and I would recommend it as a fun and different way to celebrate the holidays and the mix of emotions they bring. And even if you don’t like the movie, doesn’t mean you won’t like the musical!