I was driving north to Squamish, along the Sea-to-Sky corridor, when just a few kilometers past Lions Bay, I noticed a hanging flower basket dangling from one of the metal pipes that is used to reinforce the fjord walls along that highway. Given the area’s penchant for succumbing to rock slides after a long hard rain, MoT (the Ministry of Transportation, for those of you unfamiliar with the acronyms that pepper the pages of government texts) drilled holes into the rock walls, and carefully placed steel pipes into the rock. I’m not an engineer, so my best educated guess for the reasoning behind these pipes is so that any water that has trickled into the crags and crevices of the rock has an outlet, rather than possibly lying dormant under the middle of a harsh winter, freezing, expanding, pushing and prodding the rock until the rock eventually weakens and gives up the ghost, causing a rock slide.
The Sea-to-Sky highway wends its way from Horseshoe Bay, at the north end of West Vancouver, all the way to Whistler, where the 2010 Olympics were hosted. It is a beautiful highway, and is always breathtaking, particularly from the Horseshoe Bay to Squamish portion of the highway, as you have the mountains to your right, and the waters of the Howe Sound, and the islands that dot the Sound, to your left. I’ve driven that highway enough times to notice a discrepancy, usually because I am keeping an eye out for bears along the side of the road, or new rockfalls, which may be harbingers of worse to come. So it was striking to my eye to see the purple flowers of a petunia plant, sitting in a basket, minding its own business, along a rock wall, hooked onto a metal pipe. A brief moment, as I was driving 80kmph, but a poignant one, nevertheless.
How did the flower basket end up there?
1) Most unlikely reason: Squamish is full of landscaping companies, and perhaps one such gardener, rushing home for dinner, from a job in North Vancouver, forgot to secure a hanging basket that he was bringing home to his girlfriend, as he had an extra one from his job site. As he whipped his open-backed landscaping truck around a corner that warned drivers to slow down to 60kmph, he was actually going 90kmph, and took the sharp s curve at such a gallop, that the basket was jostled out of the back of the truck, bounced from the pavement and, by sheer fluke and specific physics, bounced right onto the metal pipe, which was about 3 feet off of the ground.
2) Slightly more plausible reason: One of the MoT maintenance guys, who traverses the highway everyday, decided to cheer his daily route up by placing a basket of petunias on this particular bit of piping, which he’d noticed, as he had been working this particular stretch of highway for the fourth year now, had the most water coming out of it at regular intervals. The regularity of water was key to keeping the plant alive. He’d chosen petunias because they were pretty hardy.
3) Tenuous reason, but with potential: Given the proximity of the Village of Lions Bay, one of the village’s local eccentrics decided to embellish the highway, in a subtle and silent anti-government protest, through the medium of a basket of flowers, echoing something similar that she’d done back in the 60’s, when she’d hung a garland of flowers on the hollow pipe of a soldier’s gun barrel. Those flowers, too, had been purple.
4) Most likely reason: The basket was near a particularly sharp s curve, where each year, people crashed either their cars or their trucks or their motorbikes, for taking the curve too fast. Though the corner had claimed several lives, no crosses were placed there. Perhaps roadside memorials were not permitted. So one of the friends of one of the victims had parked at the nearby viewpoint, one night, and had snuck across the highway at dawn, up to where the accident had happened, the rose coloured fingers of the light grazing the rock wall, pointing out the fortuitous pipe off of which to hang the basket in memoriam.
I wondered though, what the actual reason was, and how the basket had gotten there. It was pretty enough, to catch out of the corner of my eye, as I sped forward.