24 January — So there I was at the corner of King West & University, back on 20 January (“Faces, Laces”), when I interrupted myself and promised you clouds. “Think clouds,” I said.
Here come the clouds.
I was zigzaging my way east and north, heading for home, when I stopped flat on the south side of Temperance St. to stare northward across the street at… well, this.
Having seen so much demolition and reconstruction in the course of the walk (standard fare, downtown), my first thought is: ”They’ve knocked down the rest of the building, leaving this checkerboard wall exposed. But who’d have a wall like this?”
I cross over for a closer look, and discover what you can read on the right-hand end of the lower ramp: this is Cloud Gardens, a public park. Nice, fine, I’m a big fan of all these mini-parkettes, but I still don’t understand the checkerboard.
It’s really a very pleasing layout: strong lines and angularities, a small total area crammed with interest — the density of features made possible by the emphasis on vertical as well as horizontal space. See the ramped walkway, switch-backing to higher levels? (Closed for winter, I scramble over the barricade and climb on up.) See, too, that glass lean-to structure at the rear, jutting out into space?
I explore. First, I correlate some of those bold wall panels — designed by artist Margaret Priest, built by members of the Building Trades Unions – with the specific trade each represents.
This trio, lower right to upper left, pays tribute to Dovetailed Maple Millwork, Miscellaneous Metals, and Rough Carpentry.
Second row down, left to right: Concrete & Rebar; an open space that looks filled because of the glimpse of another building behind; Oak Grill Finished Carpentry; another open space. Below the Finished Carpetry, a panel of Copper Pipes (now oxidized); below that and to the right, Brickwork.
I look at the waterfall from several levels, loving the strong vertical line and the sound it makes as it tumbles — and the fact it’s tumbling at all, in winter. At ground level, it spills from this basin into channels that continue to criss-cross the front of the structure.
Perhaps the water can tumble so strongly at this time of year because it starts inside the building, and then has enough volume and vertical drop to keep moving. Here’s where it starts.
The waterfall is right next to the glass lean-to, which I now discover is a conservatory. I’m delighted, I push the door… and it’s locked. What? “Cloud Forest Conservatory,” says the sign, is open weekdays 10 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
So I take a picture through the glass…
… and vow to make it a destination for the Tuesday Walking Society.
If this were a 1930s movie, you would now see an image of calendar pages flipping past. Saturday, Sunday, Monday… Tuesday.
You with me? That was Saturday, this is Tuesday, and the city has changed because we now have snow, and we now have cold. As in, cold. As in, -12C.
All right, nothing by Arctic or even Calgary or Montreal standards, but a whole lot colder than my Saturday walk. Phyllis and I decide to spend most of our time on the 28-km underground PATH system (which I explored and wrote about on 3 December), with a side-hop up to city streets and over to Cloud Forest Conservatory.
The conservatory is small, as miniature and angular as the park to which it is attached, with the same emphasis on exploiting vertical space. But no, you’d never come here for the plant collection: it’s not that large, and the species, while indeed rainforest, aren’t that unusual.
You come just because it’s here, because in the downtown heart of the city you can walk through this door into a quiet moment in nature. It is particularly magic on a cold, snowy, blustery day… but still magic enough any time of year, I think, for harried office workers who need a break, or anyone else wanting a brief escape from the street.
Two others wander in, while Phyllis and I are exploring up and down the ramped catwalks within the conservatory.
This bike courier, for one, who peeled off several layers of protective gear before leaning back and relaxing into the warmth. We talk, and — of course! — he and Phyllis are not only fellow Nova Scotians, they grew up in the same area near Truro, albeit at different times.
Soon after a boy comes in, late teens maybe, who shucks his huge backpack quite casually into the corner, but props this up very tenderly indeed.
He’s wearing those unnerving baggy pants looped with heavy chains, but he has a sweet young face. We all enjoy the refuge a while longer. Truro-man leaves first; guitar-kid leaves when we do, exchanging friendly good-byes with us on the sidewalk.
It’s still snowing! We duck back into the PATH system and continue south and west, finally emerge where I did the other time — on the south side of the Metro Convention Centre, opposite the railway park and Steam Whistle Brewery.
Having muttered in my last post about the way some sculptures just don’t work in winter – giving you those naked guys as an example — I feel I now owe you a few that work gloriously well in the snow.
For example, this equally naked guy, just outside the Convention Centre…
Is he not perfect?
Or, this group just west of the Convention Centre, in a summertime water feature now full of snow.
They should look wrong, shouldn’t they, fish don’t swim in snow. Yet I think these fish swim quite wonderfully in snow. I bet they’re a lot less fun in summer, surrounded by boring old predictable water.
One last, this time in the plaza immediately in front of the CBC building. Real tree, sculpture trees, and real snow for both.
I come home to discover that my neighbour has snovelled my sloping driveway for me, so all is well in my snowy world.