A park named Queen Elizabeth: Queen Elizabeth Park, Vancouver
September 11, 2020
This contribution from Naomi Steinberg is part of Park People’s A Day at the Park series, exploring how city parks shape us. Be sure to check out all of the contributors throughout the summer months.
When I was a toddler, my grandparents, visiting from France, would watch over my sisters and me as we explored the park’s duck pond. Like many children, I tested comfort zones and capacities, hurtling down a steep slope just above the pond on a sled in snowy weather. These days, in my innocence, I peer into flowers, honk at geese, and enjoy hearing families singing together.
As a teenager, I remember a romantic kiss while sitting under the spreading maple trees of the North facing slope, just below that same duck pond. Many fine formative explorations of the semi-wild fringes of the park occurred, basalt outcroppings – volcanic vestiges, with fascinating mossy toppings were found. These days, in my passion, I weep when seeing fir trees more than 150 years old, cut, lying on the ground, sawdust all around.
Now an adult, the formal lushness of the garden, cultivated over the remains of a quarry, pleases and soothes me as much as the cedar and fern stand still growing in remarkable contrast, squirrels and coyotes wild. The park’s tropical plant conservatory sits buckyballish, high above, glowing, a welcome alien. These days, in my inspiration, I can imagine a dragon, descended from an ancient craggy volcano, here to exercise our delight and to nurture right-action.
For four years I have been fortunate to live near QE park, this place where I can move my body, finding solace and respite from the pace of the city, gaining in health and wellness. Yet, when I consider the encroaching condominiums crowding the view, the need to protect, maintain, and enhance green spaces and parks in urban environments seems evident. Concern regarding access to fair and adequate housing arises, as does regard for indigenous Coast Salish protocols. I wonder what could emerge through a community process committed to decolonizing the park’s name. These days, in my desire to weave meaningful inter-cultural and intergenerational relationships off the spindle-whorl of our collective humanity, I asked a question: what do place, home, belonging, and indigeneity mean?
Calling on experience as an arts-based community engagement worker, and focusing on an approach to the park, Dragon Walk inaugurated a pop-up shrine where the Cambie Heritage Boulevard (running South-North) crosses the 29th avenue bike path (extending East-West). This location is within the city’s only heritage designated landscape, which is of city-wide importance and recognition. The boulevard is an extension of QE Park and its intended function as an arboretum and celebratory sightline to the North Shore mountains has been well described by the Parks Board.
Inviting contemplation and conversation, the shrine uses the dragon metaphor to honour the park’s geologic history, to appeal to all cultures, and to call on each person’s inner fire. It is through our innate capacity for warmth and creativity that we can forge resilient, caring communities. I feel strong forces weaving together an irresistible flow.
These days, is it innocence, passion, inspiration, or desire being called in to play? With a dragon’s roar perhaps we can say: civic engagement, fostered through fun, relevant activities are the basis of a healthy, empowered society where folks have agency. I love QE Park very much and celebrate how much has been given me by the plants, animals, earth, air, water, and fire. We are grateful to the TD Park People Grants for supporting Dragon Walk.
About Naomi Steinberg
Naomi Steinberg is an internationally recognized artist and storyteller. She has brought traditional folk stories, fairy tales and community-based art projects to life in countries around the world since 2001. In 2014 Naomi voyaged around Earth without taking an airplane. She told her hand-spun story, Goosefeather, wherever she went and has since published a book about the experience. www.goosefeather.ca.
Recent projects include Dragon Walk, an opportunity to engage in a joyous celebration of the ecological diversity found in Little Mountain. Recognizing the need to foster resilience and neighbourliness, over Summer 2019, six arts-based community engagement activities culminated in a parade. Ongoing place-making is occurring. As part of this legacy project, Naomi hopes you feel invited into the contemplative space located on the 29th ave. bike path and the Cambie Heritage Boulevard in Vancouver, Coast Salish, supernatural land.
Thank you to our generous supporters:
This contribution from Naomi Steinberg is part of Park People’s A Day at the Park series, exploring how city parks shape us. Be sure to check out all of the contributors throughout the summer months.Choose Another Park Story