Stanley Park



I went to Stanley Park this week to see some eco-art.   Eco-art is made of natural things and left to decompose in a natural setting.   The best one was in the old zoo area.  Some small sawdust-stuffed sacks, bent into the shapes of bears, were positioned around the empty Polar Bear pen.  The empty pen is  overgrown with flora and filled with leaves.   Crowds used to come to watch the bears there – now the area was almost deserted.  The bear-shaped sacks looked strangely appropriate – like an weird infestation.

The other art was underwhelming.  Local plants seeded in a nurse log stump.  Root system of a tree painted with red ochre.  A string of horsehair under a bridge.

Stanley Park doesn’t need human art – in my opinion.  It’s enough just to walk through the dark, deep, breathing rainforest.  I especially love the little streams that run out from the paths after a heavy rain.  The strangeness of the tree shapes.  And to stand still and listen to the forest sounds.

 B. loved Stanley Park and said it had saved him many times.  He was a funny, friendly man about my mother’s age.  B. was even from Duluth, her home town – although he didn’t know her and didn’t want to talk about his childhood.

 B. fought in WWII and came home traumatized.  He loved jazz and found work in a record store.  One day at closing, B. simply refused to leave the store and went on working.  He was having a breakdown.  The authorities were called and B. was institutionalized.   There was a fairly happy ending though.  He met his wife,  they trained in the same profession, came to Vancouver and had a long successful marriage.   Apparently,  there were still difficult times when B. had to come to the Stanley Park forest for healing.  

One day I was walking through the park, amazed by the birds, the beauty of the forest and the cycle of life there.  I said to myself, “B. was right about the power of the park.”   A few days later, I met his wife in the West End.  She told me B. had passed away that week.

These lines from the poem – Lost, by David Wagoner – remind me of  B., and the restorative powers of Stanley Park.

Stand still/The trees ahead and the bushes beside you are not lost…/The forest knows where you are/You must let it find you.


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