“Stay home” has been a dominant message during the pandemic, in addition to frequent hand washing, social distancing, wearing masks and, in BC, being kind, calm and safe. Early on the instruction meant sheltering in place, especially for older adults. Then we were encouraged to go outdoors for walks, while maintaining 2 m distance from others at all times. Soon we could purchase our groceries in person rather than online. And play tennis. Later restaurants, museums, galleries and other indoor facilities opened up. Eventually road trips within our provinces became acceptable. As restrictions eased, however, we had to determine our own level of comfort in resuming — or not — various activities.
Once staycations were permitted, hotels began offering exceptional deals. Glen and I discussed possible staycations here and elsewhere in BC but opted instead for outings near to home that don’t involve accommodation. I dub them ‘staydays’ — which a dictionary doesn’t like, but I do.
Staydays provide an opportunity to show our cities or towns some love. Don the guise of tourist, download a map of trails and self-guided tours (or use GPS routes if, unlike me, you have data on your cell phone), and delve into your local area. To structure my staydays, I devised a bucket list sorted by themes.
I’ve become intimately acquainted with the seawall around Stanley Park, as well its trails — formerly logging skid roads — within. My favourite reading bench at Lost Lagoon looks at the Jubilee Fountain that marks Vancouver’s 50th anniversary (1936). An online petition aims to rename the Fountain in honour of BC provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry for overseeing with aplomb our response to the pandemic.
Glen and I watched our dog gallop on the vast beach in low tide at Spanish Banks; wandered on trails at Cypress Mountain that hosted freestyle skiing and snowboarding for the 2010 Winter Olympics; ambled alongside the roaring Capilano River beneath towering Douglas fir and red cedar trees; enjoyed evening picnics in the park as scofflaws drinking illicit beverages; and toured other places new and familiar.
CULTURE & HISTORY
Museums offer a form of treatment for mental health issues such as anxiety and loneliness. While my visits did give me a welcome boost of serotonin often, as the sole patron, I felt rather lonely being alone with the artists and the artifacts. Still, I was pleased to observe beauty and to learn more about Vancouver, the good, the bad and the ugly choices made in growing to the third largest city in Canada.
Along the seawall of Coal Harbour, three dozen interpretive plaques tell stories of noteworthy BC personalities and events — about Billy Barker striking gold in 1862 (his claim yielded over a ton of ore yet he died in poverty some 30 years later); about Hok Yat Louie opening a small general store in Chinatown in 1903 that expanded to acquire the IGA franchise in 1955 and to repatriate London Drugs from a California company in 1976; about the “On to Ottawa Trek” from Vancouver in 1935, one of the greatest labour protests in Canadian history; and more.
I also followed maps of walking tours published by the Vancouver Heritage Foundation; reading about the history of a half dozen neighbourhoods enriched my strolls through them.
Public art invigorates public spaces and, best of all, is freely accessible to everyone. Well, let’s say physically, not always aesthetically, accessible. My photo on the left shows a steel sculpture that commemorates Captain George Vancouver, the first European to sail into the Burrard Inlet in 1792 after whom our city is named. I doubt any groups will cry for the removal of this monument because few will recognize the artist’s intent. But therein lies an asset of public art. Outdoor sculptures and murals challenge us to pause, reflect, and interpret — to our own satisfaction.
The pandemic gives me the blues. That’s the bald truth. I guess a silver lining is the security of retirement on fixed pensions; our lives have not been harmed financially. But I fret about our children, grandchildren, people younger than us — society in general. Lacking 20/20 vision about 2020, I cannot make much sense of this year, despite trying to heed Albert Einstein’s advice: “Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better.”
I must find the “serenity to accept the things I cannot change” and the capacity to live composedly — and safely — in these troubling times. Working through my bucket list of staydays helps. •