Research Walk #1

Mystery bone found inside a mysterious concrete cylinder.

We decided to make our first official day a Sunset a double header: a research walk in the morning, and our first pop-up event in the afternoon. Though we’d been in the centre many times before, something about the day felt different, like a first day of school and first rehearsal and party where you don’t know anyone all rolled into one.

Coffee cups from the Sunset snack shop.

This time of year, all the nests are visible.

We started at the front desk, leaving our bag of noise makers, trusty chalkboard sign, and yellow striped umbrella in safe hands. Our next stop was the snack counter where we met the Monday morning team and armed ourselves with two hot cups of coffee. One of the things that most excited me about the chance to work in this community was the promise of exploring the spaces between Sunset, the Ice Rink, and Moberly, particularly the under-construction park and pathway that will link Sunset to the Ice Rink and Sunset Park/John Henderson Elementary. As we walked along E 53rd towards Prince Edward Street two things were clear: 11am is prime time for strollers, and the new park was ripe with possibility.

Trees from the Sunset nursery to be planted in the expanded and reconfigured connector park.

Walking east, we greeted a grandmother and her small charge whose face was pressed against the chain link fence. We read the names of the soon-to-be-planted trees, and warily passed two large off leash dogs. Crossing Fraser we noted the view, how the city seemed to open up in both directions, and how smaller houses sat next door to larger, presumably newer ones with basement suites and laneway lodgings. I was surprised by the number of lions flanking the entrances to homes of all sizes, and delighted by a front yard filled with trees─including a one pruned to grow nearly in a circle above the entrance gate! E 53rd seemed to go on forever (Vancouver’s longest block?), but we found passage south on the pedestrian-only section of Ross and turned towards Moberly.

Strange wheeled object that resembled (somewhat) the horizon of mountains.

At Ross Park we stopped again to admire the view of the mountains to the south and east, and I was chagrined to realize I knew neither the name of the peaks nor which range they were a part of. It’s humbling to realize how much a new view can reveal how little we know, or don’t, about the places we live. In Ross Park we gathered fallen seed pods from the base of a large tree, and again realized how much there is to learn: What is the name of this tree? Where does it come from? Is this type of seed typical, or highly unusual? I hope we can organize some walks with a naturalist so I and others can learn more. I also want to unearth personal stories about these trees and places─who climbed this tree and fell out? who hid under it and shared a kiss or a picnic or took refuge from the sun on a hot day? There is so much to learn, and on so many levels.

Discarded coupon found along Main Street.

We walked back on E 61st, past a group of children throwing pinecones up a tree and women in saris exiting the Khalsa Darbar Sikh Temple. Along the way we started to notice the collection of trash on the sidewalk: paper coffee cups and lids, candy wrappers, colourful bits of plastic. We discussed what a “trash map” walk might look like, and what it might reveal. I wondered, for example, if there would be more candy wrappers by the school and more coffee cups by the bus stop. As we turned south on Main Street and back toward Sunset we again turned to face the Fraser River valley and the neighbourhood to the south, the possibility of connection and exploration all around us.

- Julie