Photos I took in DTES
Since my workplace recently moved to the Downtown Eastside (DTES), I have been contemplating beauty in this part of Vancouver. In as environmentally harsh a place as the DTES that the media exponentially portrays it to be, there are tender moments to be found.
I have experienced such moments, but wanted to observe things of beauty in this neighbourhood. Of finding, or rather seeing (i.e., witnessing) beauty in the midst of this poorest neighbourhood in all of Canada, where drug use and homelessness are rampant. Where intersecting iron or steel bars form some interesting patterns of art while protecting window panes and doors, whether commercial or housing, not to mention its occupants and contents inside.
Despite this, I knew there was a sense of community in the DTES before my work transplanted its roots there. I had witnessed it to a degree. It was events, such as a memorial walk, in the neighbourhood where I observed a strong sense of this.
This walk and its ensuing ceremony were held to commemorate the many DTES women and other women, mostly Aboriginal, who had been missing or found murdered, some along notorious Highway 16 (dubbed “Highway of Tears”), between Prince George and Prince Rupert.
As I write this, I have a recollection of an Expressive Arts Therapy instructor specializing in addictions, who shared some stories of her experiences working with people from the DTES. How they watch out for each other and help one another. You may not think that that would be the case in such an area, but it does happen.
You also may not think that, as I was walking in the area during a lunch break, I might discover an angel - yes you read that right - in my midst. And it is located relatively close to my work. Interestingly enough, I hadn’t noticed it before while walking on the other side of the street. It is as if she is guardian over the area, keeping watch over the community and its residents.
The angel is formed of various materials including some grey, gauzy flowing fabric. She hovers overhead on the side of a building facing an empty lot that is covered in grass. I wasn’t sure of the materials that made this amazing art form, but what struck my curiosity the most was how it got there in the first place! Who put it there and how?!
Never mind the why! I didn’t care much about the reason(s) why she might be there. Although I wonder if it was simply to provide some aesthetic beauty to the area. Perhaps someone who just felt inspired to do so.
Or was it simply meant to inspire others? If so, how? Could it bring even more beauty? A sense of grace or peace, or even hope? To an individual or group of people? To the community?
I was in such a state of awe, that as I was walking away, I kept looking back at her as she faded away in the distance. I suddenly turned around to face the direction I was heading in and almost bumped into a tree! (Silly me.) Though just as I turned my head, I saw a man gazing in the direction where I had just looked and then he noticed her too.
He immediately made the sign of the cross in front of his body as Christians do. His gesture in juxtaposition with the angel was a symbol or sign of beauty. This rare and precious moment felt like a gift, a treasure to behold.
At such times, a camera or videotape would be incredibly handy to record such instances. But though these touching experiences are so profound on an emotional and spiritual level that is challenging to articulate, they are also personal and intimate. I imagine it would feel extremely intrusive if I had captured this on film (if I could even do so in the first place!).
Instead, I believe my mind’s eye will remember this image as I witnessed what seemed a sense of grace, both in the physical form of the angel and of the signing of the cross.
I wonder: What else can this and other pieces of art (or moments of beauty) inspire? Especially in the DTES where it seems like it's needed the most, but also in our homes, our workplaces, our communities ... overall in our everyday lives.
How can we ensure that we see beauty? Can we see it even in the midst of chaos? Or if it is barely visible? Does it really matter? And if so, why?
Just some questions to ponder though I'm certainly open to your comments and feedback.
Till my next blog, ‘see’ you then! ; )