May 24, 2011
In 1985, my mom took us on a vacation – the family road trip, one repeated too many times to count in this country – to the Canadian Rockies. I was nine years old, had never seen the mountains. Although this experience was checked off my kiddie-size bucket list just south of the border in Montana, it was time spent in the five iconic Rocky Mountain national parks (Waterton Lakes, Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho) that set in stone for myself a lifelong fascination with our national parks. An oversized, dog-eared coffee table book on Canada's national parks arrived for my birthday soon after this trip, a gift bought with cash sent from my grandparents. I was hooked.
Our family vacation, taken after Labour Day in place of my first two weeks of Grade 5 – on a shoestring budget outside of peak season (kids don't care, and... ooh! the Lake Louise hostel has a pool!) – opened my eyes to the size of the country. Previously, any personal real-life grasp of Canadian geography extended to Manitoban day-trips and visits to my dad in southern Ontario. To his great credit, he took me to Point Pelee to satisfy my rapidly-developing childhood birdwatching jones, and to Flowerpot Island, to witness incredible quirks of geology.
Some of my greatest stick-with-me moments have happened in these places. My Crayolas, melting on our car's dash while I day-hiked with my family in Waterton (I got in shit for that from mom). A four-hour bike ascent to the base of Mount Edith Cavell in Jasper (and 30-minute comfort cruise back down). Beachcombing with Kerry and my mom – and a few hundred migrating sandpipers – at Kejimkujik's seaside adjunct (after sneaking behind the lines of trail closure signs). Leaping to high heavens as a frightened moose crashed from the bushes metres away in Gros Morne. Watching Kerry on the dock at Riding Mountain's Kinosao Lake, the entire scene quiet as a mouse. Kerry and I dropping from exhaustion after our trek to Crypt Lake. Playing park rangers together on a backcountry hike last summer. We would have gotten engaged on Bruce Peninsula, had a thunderstorm not rolled in and delayed my requirement for the perfect moment (which happened the next day in the unholy sanctity of – gasp! – a provincial park).
I sometimes like to think, as well, that the parks even had a hand in my becoming a designer. I quickly became fascinated with the 1980s-era mini-brochures, that visitors would receive on entering any given park, themselves a take on the Unigrid-and-Helvetica materials of the U.S. Parks Service. I collected them, marveled in their continuity. I could draw the old beaver logo from memory, a symbol, in my mind, as much a part of Canadiana as the CN doodle or CBC burst. I'd wonder why the rest of the world couldn't adopt clean, common signage design like the brown-and-gold world inside a national park.
This year, the Canadian national parks service turns 100 years old. And I'm happy about it. There are not too many things that make me as openly patriotic. Gros Morne, Cape Breton Highlands, Kejimkujik, Fundy, Point Pelee, Georgian Bay Islands, Bruce Peninsula, Riding Mountain, Waterton Lakes, Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho – that's my list. It should be greater, and it will be in time. There's too great a desire in me to watch waves crash in Pacific Rim, scan the expanse (and four trees, total) of Grasslands, or to somehow reach the high Arctic and truly get lost.
May 20, 2011
Kerry and I went to Vancouver last week. I had never been (minus the airport), nor had she since she was a kiddo. Kerry was attending a conference, so for a few days we shacked up in a ritzy, gleaming hotel tower. The hallway mirror told you what the weather outside was like...
While she conferenced, I entertained myself. One day, I hoofed the paths at Lynn Canyon Park. The lushness of the place, I will never witness at home – no matter how long I accidentally leave the sprinkler on. If green was my favourite colour, I would have experienced bliss. As it was, I was content with scenic splendour to bask in. But I tore myself away from the place to join Kerry and see Bill Clinton speak – I had never seen a president before.
I rented a twenty-dollar bike and toured the coastline another day. Having recently received my pre-summer buzzcut, I was unprepared for the potential of a sunny day, and toasted my exposed forehead. It was worth it, even as my face peels as I type this. I located the Go Fish seafood stand, and ate the best fish-and-chips of my life. All told, we ate very well: Bin 941, Hapa Izakaya, Latitude, Burgoo, Nuba – no one disappointed. Toss in a Kurobota Terimayo Japadog, and I was a super-happy eating camper.
On another day, I toured the Vancouver Art Gallery – and got lost in Ken Lum's Mirror Maze with 12 Signs of Depression. When Kerry was finally set free we shopped, before striking camp and moving to cheaper digs in Mount Pleasant. I bought four shirts at the H&M.
The rain set in the next day, but never enough to stand in our way. It actually kinda suited our excursion to the UBC campus for the trifecta of the Museum of Anthropology, Nitobe Memorial Garden and a wizzo forest canopy walk at the botanical gardens (with a peek in at Wreck Beach; no nudies). By the end, we itched for a warm, dry place. I had steaming macaroni and cheese for dinner that night. It was decidedly more palatable outside the next day, when we hit up Kitsilano and the Emily Carr University of Art+Design grad show (wow).
Time to come home. One more beautiful morning, in Queen Elizabeth Park surrounded by more tulips than what is probably legal, and afternoon up and down Main Street, peering in windows, visiting with friend Kathy, quaffing final beers in the sun before our airport run.
We had fun. I knew we liked the place because we checked out real estate sites while we were there. But, we are decidedly not rich enough. We think.
I am working on photos. I have these ones and more, here. And there will be more, soon.
May 04, 2011
Experts of paleontology rarely debate the existence of prehistoric superwaterfowl, whom I believe waddled the earth during the late Jurassic epoch and the early stages of avian lifeforms. These illustrations – on grid paper no less, thus chockablock with scientific merit – depict a savage territorial battle between Aythya valisineria amplus and an unidentified carnivorous theropod.
The small, silhouetted airplane-like shapes are indeed 1920s bi-planes; they have been included in these illustrations only for effect, in that they make the scenes more epic.