When I run in Stanley Park, I connect with myself. But when I walk, I connect with my dog, Monty, nature, animals and people in the park.
Today, I parked at Prospect Point and Monty and I hiked down the steep switchback trail to the seawall. After the first turn, Monty dove into a large pile of maple leaves collected under a fern. He rolled around in bliss, like when you’re exhausted and finally slide under your down comforter and revel in how amazing your bed feels. Then he did it with the next fern. And again and again. He was like a chocoholic in the Hersey museum. What’s going on here -- did some new botanical drug hit the trails?
A border collie ran around the curve and pulled Monty out of his elated state. “Does this trail go to Prospect Point?” the dog’s owner asked. “Yep, straight up these switchbacks,” I said. Then a cyclist appeared and asked, “hey, does this go around the lower trail?” “No, it goes up to Prospect Point, that one there goes down to the seawall,” I said.
Maybe I could be the official Stanley Park ambassador, like a Walmart Greeter for Vancouver’s first park.
Monty and I hit the seawall and walked clockwise, not our normal way. It felt like we were walking up a down escalator.
I watched how the birds reacted to Monty. The crows flew away. The seagulls held their positions. And the Canada geese looked over their shoulders as they moved slowly away, like a pack of cool, teenage boys that are terrified by a horror movie but refused to admit it.
We passed a middle-aged asian man, standing beside his bicycle, fishing.
“Good morning, what are you fishing for?”
“Fwanda,” he said.
“Fwanda? Do you eat that?” I asked.
“Yeah yeah,” he nodded and laughed.
“What kind of fish again?” I asked.
“Fwanda, fwanda, you know?” he asked. No, I didn’t know.
“How do you spell it?” I asked.
“Oh, flounder!” I said. We both laughed.
“How many will you catch today?” I asked.
“Nothing,” he said.
“You already know that? How long will you be here?” I asked.
“One hour,” he said.
“You’ll try for an hour, knowing you won’t catch any fish?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said.
I wondered if he was a glass-is-half-empty type of fisherman? Or did he just cast for relaxation?
As we continued our walk, I saw a white German shepherd mix who kept gazing over the wall. As we passed him, I looked too -- a mangled green tennis ball! Did he drop it in the ocean, like I once did with my Sony Discman? Or was it the canine equivalent of a bottle with a note tucked inside? “Monty, don’t look,” I said.
We ducked into the woods and strolled to Beaver Lake. I wanted a photo of Monty, “wait, waaait, waaaaait” I said. This man in track pants, a rain jacket and toque stepped out of the woods behind me, “wait?” he asked with a smile. “Jeesh, people are literally coming out of the woodwork today,” I said. I always seem to get busted when I am impatient with my dog.
We chatted and he said he used to come to the park a lot when he trained for marathons. But today, he took photos. We compared the difference between a moment captured with photography versus writing. “Do you incorporate photos in your work?” he asked. “Not really, I’m trying to write the story that the photo would show,” I said. He showed me a stunning macrophotograph of a grasshopper with frost on its wings. “There’s three seasons worth of story in that photograph, how do you explain all that in less than a thousand words?” he said. “Exactly. That is the challenge that I’m exploring” I said.
Beaver Lake is quiet. I heard only the occasional horn honk amongst the chirp, tweet and quack of the resident birds. Lily pads were everywhere, but no frogs’ croaks. Four foot high reeds stuck out of the water like dropped pick-up sticks. And of course, the lone beaver dam in the middle of the lake, like a scoop of chocolate ice cream in a root beer float. I exchanged hellos with runners, photographers and tourists.
Our silence was interrupted by a panicked guy, Mike, who asked if I’d seen his lost pitbull, Phoenix. “She got scared and took off last night,” he said. “Sorry, I haven’t seen her, but let me take your name and number, I’m in the park for the next few hours,” I said. Okay, Phoenix, come out, come out, wherever you are.
We looped around the one kilometer path and then obeyed the green, divided overpass that crossed Georgia Street, equestrians to the left, pedestrians to the right. We passed the red fire hydrant where my mom’s adolescent standard poodle first raised his leg to pee. And where a guy exposed himself to me during a run many years ago. Huh. Was this some sort of task marker, like on a car rally? “Yep, displayed my penis at the red fire hydrant. Check.”
The hello exchanges continued as six, forty-something runners raced by in silence. One raised his hand “hello” as if he was swearing an oath in court. I do this too if I’m wearing my headphones and I pass others on the seawall.
As we walked the final twenty minutes back to Prospect Point, Monty picked up a four inch diameter stick that was wider than he was long. He soared along the trail like a five year boy with airplane arms.
Everything I experience becomes a part of who I am. Today, in one thousand acres of park, I crossed paths with people, plants and animals. I connected with each for only a few seconds but perhaps, affected for a lifetime.
Photo by: shimelle