/ The Vancouver Guide

Stanley Park: Muse of Poets and Painters

Stanley Park has always been the Muse of poets and painters. When the famous B.C. painter Emily Carr came to Vancouver in 1906 to teach art she often went to Stanley Park to sketch.  She frequently took her students to the park and they would sit under the tall cedars in a grove known as “The Seven Sisters”.  She wrote:

“The appalling solemnity, majesty and silence was the holiest thing I ever felt.”

You can see collections of Emily Carr’s watercolours of this forest glade at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Another famous person who loved the park and wrote many poems about it was Pauline Johnson, a Mohawk princess from a Six Nations Reserve in Upper Canada.  She was the daughter of a Mohawk chief and an English woman and called herself Tekahionwake.  By the time she was 12 she had read all of Scott and Byron. In her 20’s she crossed Canada nineteen times reading her poetry.  Eventually she made her home in Vancouver.  She loved Stanley Park and wrote poems about some of the sites including Siwash Rock “where the twining roadway branches in two”. This famous rock was a reminder to the Squamish people of one of their legends — a monument to Skalash, a warrior who was turned to stone by Q’uas the Transformer as a reward for his unselfishness.

Lost Lagoon was another favourite place where Pauline Johnson loved to paddle her canoe.  She named this tidal pool “Lost Lagoon” because back then, when the tide receded the lagoon emptied. She wrote in one of her poems: “O! lure of the lost Lagoon/ I dream tonight my paddle blurs/ The purple shade when the seaweed stirs/ I hear the call of the singing firs/ In the hush of the golden moon.”

Along the quiet paths that skirt the lagoon you’ll see a variety of wild life including turtles, swans, ducks and long legged herons. Occasionally bold masked racoons will come out of hiding looking for handouts. Imagine the poet, paddling her canoe along the shoreline.

Pauline Johnson died in Vancouver, age 53, on March 7, 1913.  There is a memorial cairn in a cedar grove above Third Beach near the Teahouse Restaurant, near the roadside in the forest where water flows from the rocks into a small hollow pool at it’s base.  Her ashes and two of her books Legends of Vancouver and Flint and Feather are buried near Siwash Rock.

To get to Lost Lagoon and the Pauline Johnson Cairn

Lost Lagoon is located just as you enter Stanley Park by the Georgia Street entrance.  The #19 Stanley Park bus takes you into the Park but ask to get off at the stop just as you enter and walk under the causeway to Lost Lagoon.  The path goes along the Lagoon to Second Beach and from there you can walk the seawall or upper pedestrian walk to Third Beach where the cairn is located.

You can drive around the Park to the area near Third Beach.  The cairn is on a path above the beach between Second and Third Beach.  Siwash Rock is just beyond Third Beach.

Stanley Park information and map

PAULINE JOHNSON SKETCH: Wikimedia Commons, Library and Archives, Canada C-085125 (copyright expired)

PHOTOS by W. Ruth Kozak

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