In my neighbourhood there is a park with three parts to it; there are tennis courts, a playground for kids, and a small area for walking or sitting, complete with park benches, trees and shrubs. It’s a lovely park and I take for granted what a hub of activity it is in the summer. People walk their dogs around and through it, lots of kids enjoy the playground equipment, and the tennis courts are busy day and evening. All of this makes a wonderful public space for the humans of our neighbourhood. It touches all the bases; some structured play areas for kids and adults, and the unstructured area with a circular gravel walk surrounding a large lawn. This would be enough to make this a valued space in our community, but some bright light in the public works department (whose name I wish I knew so I could send him a fruit basket on his birthday) decided that the park needed a flower garden component. So, part of the grassy area is given over to a large flower bed with a few other beds planted in random corners of the park. These beds were planned by a wise gardener who chose his plants with care. The season starts with tulips and daffodils and moves through the perennials. Many are the tried and true echinacea, bee balm, and black-eyed susans, salvia and various shades of rudbeckia; now, in August, the dinner-plate sized Rose of Sharon are blooming in vivid shades of pink. It’s the perfect plant for a park bed, because you can see them from a distance and they really pop. In the fall, the shrubs here and there in the park turn a vivid red, adding to the beauty of that season. The loveliness touches me every day as I walk through it with my dogs, and every year that it continues to exist increases my wonder and pleasure at it.
Indoor public spaces, with few flowers to draw my notice, rarely capture my imagination. However, I recently whiled away a pleasant half hour at Complexe Desjardins in the heart of downtown. Although I work right next door and have been through it many times, I’ve never sat down to simply experience the space. Essentially a mall and office building, it has an enormous central atrium, perhaps three stores or more high with a balcony running all around on each upper floor where you can lean over and people-watch. The stores face inwards from all around. They’ve recently restyled the area and set up benches where you can sit and watch the fountain do its thing in the centre. It is a simple, large , square, plate-shaped fountain, but the water dances in it in an intriguing way, every so often sending plumes almost as high as the ceiling. The day I was there, there were families with kids hanging around and every time the plume went up the kids squealed with delight. I sat there enjoying my ice cream cone and marvelling at the simple structure of the building, its enormous concrete pillars holding up the parapets, its vast open space, and the amazing fountain. It was a beauty unlooked for and overlooked. I was glad to have found it.
In honour of this sunny day, after many days of rain, here is Joni Mitchell singing “A Chelsea Morning”. Enjoy!
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