The ferries from Departure Bay to Horseshoe Bay are more crowded than ever. Even traveling on a weekday afternoon you will be glad of a reservation. And the traffic on the mainland is busier than ever so you’ll be creeping along the Upper Levels highway long before you reach Taylor Bay. As you inch your way down towards Marine Drive, you’ll see an advertisement for a new development billed as “a prestigious enclave on a natural rise” and featuring a Presentation House. Language these days is hyperbolic and always requires some translation. They’re actually just talking about a demo suite for some exorbitantly expensive townhouses on a sidehill.
But I’m learning to be positive about change, attempting to look on the bright side. As I drive across the Lion’s Gate Bridge I make a point of enjoying the view that looks like one of the Margraf paintings we so admired in the Seventies: blue-grey water and sky, shadows of mountains, ethereal skyscrapers against the Vancouver skyline. Of course there are a lot more of these gigantic structures now than there were then, and they do grow taller and more plentiful.
I don’t allow myself to drift into negative thoughts about the overcrowded downtown, the horrendous real estate prices, the homelessness. Instead, I take the first turn from the bridge and follow the winding paths of Stanley Park, through the trees and on to familiar landmarks: the totem poles, Siwash Rock, the Hollow Tree, Prospect Point. All preserved as they should be, although there are more cars, more parking spaces, and at least sixteen signs saying Pay Here, Pay Here, Pay Here.
Looking on the bright side, it’s a real pleasure to see so many people enjoying the park and the beach as they have done for at least the past ten or twelve decades, and the Sylvia Hotel has the solid elegance that impressed me on my first visit over six decades ago. The hotel, an inspiration when I was a teenager and my Vancouver bolthole for a great many later years, seems pleasantly unchanged, its stone and ivy façade as reassuringly tasteful as ever. But when I am signing in to the Sylvia, the young woman at the front desk asks me for photo ID as well as my credit card. This has never happened before. I used to know most of the staff, and even last year I received a Christmas card from the hotel which was signed by many of them. Happily, at least Wally is still here, hoisting bags, carrying trays, doing whatever is needed. As always.
Change is everywhere, but it doesn’t have to be all bad. As Alice Walker said, “You’ve got to learn to ride with it and even enjoy it.” Change does always extend possibility for improvement. After all, the infant mortality rate has been greatly reduced, dental care has been vastly improved, we have very impressive medical technology, illiteracy has decreased significantly. Our lifestyles have changed: smoking has become socially unacceptable; fitness has become fashionable, ethnic foods are now widely available. Lots of small but positive change has taken place.
Laws change, governments change, social patterns change. Often such shifts seem to be for the worse, but, in fact, they needn’t be. If millions of people could quit smoking, surely it is possible for us to elect good governments, to reduce climate change, create a just society.
I’m determined to be positive. Things look desperate yet, as Martin Luther King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” However, unless we are prepared to wait for a very long time, we might just need to put quite a bit of weight behind it.