Vancouver – City of Stories

What a weekend!

Friday morning set the tone with the keynote speaker at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference (SIWC). At the very same time, the Vancouver Writers Festival was in full swing, hosting 100+ authors from around the globe.

We are a city of storytellers!

But why?

At one of SIWC’s workshops (put on by The Creative Academy), presenters Eileen Cook and Crystal (CJ) Hunt asked the question “why” to the class of participants.

That is, why do we tell stories? Any of us?

Thanks to the SIWC keynote address by Daniel Heath Justice, a Cherokee Nation professor of First Nations Studies at the University of British Columbia, I know.

Stories, whether they’re personal stories, fictional stories, or the stories we learn about our neighbors or our cities, connect us.

If we visit Athen’s Acropolis, or Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall, or London’s Kensington Palace, it’s one thing to experience the smells and sights and textures of these places. Beyond these sensory highlights, it’s the stories that give these places meaning and context.

Thomas King said, “The Truth about stories is that that’s all we are.”

Stories shape our relationships, they connect us to others and to ourselves. When we don’t have stories, we don’t have context… individually or as a city.

So why do I personally want to tell stories about Vancouver, my home city?

It’s for all these reasons.

When I know the Guinness family built the Lion’s Gate Bridge, I feel connected to Ireland (and beer).

When I learn about the 10,000+ years of continuous civilization by the First Nations where Stanley Park now sits, I feel a connection with the past.

When I discover Vancouver was a major stop on the Vaudeville circuit back in the 1920s, I’m connected to a whole other era of performers, from Houdini to the Marx Brothers.

And all these connections make Vancouver come alive. They give a sense of time and place to a city that’s changing faster than a speeding cyclist.

Our stories, the stories of Vancouver, bring a sense of shared community. And not just within city limits, but with the world.

Surrey International Writers’ Conference

The Creative Academy

Daniel Heath Justice

Vancouver Writers Festival

Vancouver – Not The Little Mermaid

 

She may look like a little mermaid, but she’s over 350 pounds of solid bronze.

And she’s not “The Little Mermaid.”

Not exactly.

A Vancouver sculptor wanted to replicate Denmark’s iconic statue, but was given an emphatic “no” to that request.

So what did our inventive sculptor do? He took what was basically his version of Denmark’s Little Mermaid, put some flippers on its feet, a pair of goggles atop its head, and named it “Girl in a Wetsuit.” Disingenuous!

If you come across it as you’re walking, jogging, or cycling around the Stanley Park Seawall (or driving for that matter), you’ll notice the “Girl in a Wetsuit” can also be a tide marker.

At high tide, the water rises to the bottom of her flipper. At low tide, the entire rock upon which she sits is exposed.

You can find her between Brockton Point and the Kid’s Waterpark on the North side of Stanley Park. Go for a visit and let me know if you think the sculptor copied Denmark’s Little Mermaid? Or was it really, as he claims, simply an homage to Vancouver’s watery environment.

Vancouver – The Crows

These strutting generals of the avian world are plentiful in Vancouver’s residential neighborhoods. And when dusk comes, you might see one of the  eeriest sights ever, as thousands upon thousands of these jet black birds fly towards their nightly rookery around Still Creek.

Vancouverites tend to have a love or hate relationship with crows. Not “love and hate”, but “love or hate”.

On the dark side, crows like eating songbird eggs for breakfast, which means fewer birdsong-filled mornings, and more squawking wake-up calls.

On the crow-lovers side of things, some locals have made entire documentaries lauding the intelligence of these birds that make and use tools and have facial recognition as a skill.

This however leads back to the dark side of crows—that being if they feel one of their brethren are threatened, for instance, by a passerby inadvertently strolling under a tree where a crow’s nest is housing some crow chicks, they’ll divebomb the person.

What exactly does this mean?

It means they fly at full-speed from behind and crash into your head, or perhaps a hairs-width from your scalp. And, remembering your face permanently, they and their family will forever see you as an enemy who deserves a good scare or an outright collision every time you pass by.

Many locals know someone who’s been on the wrong side of a crow. One local, a lifelong tennis player, found himself dealing with an onslaught of crows on his deck. So he got out his tennis racket and… well, he no longer has a crow problem. Game, set and match.

Another local, on the meeker end of the scale, has taken to carrying crackers in her pocket, hoping to appease the neighborhood crows. This, in addition to carrying an umbrella rain or shine.

Why?

Because she was divebombed and hit with such a powerful and unexpected thump, her neck went out. Not hard to see how this group of birds came to be known as a ‘murder of crows.’

You know anyone who’s had a run-in?