City parks

Victoria Park, which runs a long block length near my house, is one of those formal-but-not-severe boulevard parks that date from the era of its name. It’s got a few small monuments, all to Scottish icons, including a Scott Memorial that is the dead opposite in grandeur from the Edinburgh‘s, for which the visitor earns a certificate for having climbed 280+ steps up a cramped spiral stone staircase. Here, the “monument” is small, completely approachable and with a bas relief face that is just about life size. There’s a cairn sort of monument at the south end of the park, built of stones brought from a Scottish castle.  And the north end has the largest memorial bit, the obligatory celebration of Robert Burns. [The picture linked here must be from this past winter as the the three Victorian houses razed in order to start building the Trillium are already gone from view in the background.]

But the part I love is the middle: three straight walkways, with a few angled cross paths, cut through the length, under–in summer–a canopy of elm trees. park benches are lined up in Victorian-straight rows along the centre walk, where the trees meet overhead. The benches are green (and peeling), the trees are green, the grass is green and lush and smells differently as the weather changes.  

The view from the sidewalk along South Park delights me at this time of year:  the elm trees wear ground-brushing skirts where this year’s twig growth has sprouted full-sized leaves.  That is one of the delights (for me) of elm trees:  how they put forth twigs along their trunks, no matter how old the tree.  I suppose squirrels and birds and gardeners clean away the middle bits but the level that reaches about a foot and a half from the ground is left green and wrapped, almost like hula dancers.

The view from Tower Road is different as is the elevation and perhaps I don’t favour it simply for lack of habit in walking along that side of the park. I know this: it takes me some time to come to love a city park like this one but then I do and am very picky about which vantages through it are “best.” I almost got to this point with Cornwallis Park, for all my days last year cutting through it between ferry and apartment, but, in the end, its dimensions and quiet failed me. (The protests there, too, seem to be centred entirely on the park’s namesake, while Victoria offers a rallying point for anyone-everyone with a cause and the skill to draw a chanting crowd).

There’s something familiar about Victoria Park; I’ve met it at another time, in another city, or else other times in other cities. The denizens are different:  last evening there seemed to be a shoving match between two groups of adults that looked remarkably like a bloated satire of a grade schoolyard power struggle; when I sit in the park and read, there’s no sense of watchfulness either required or emanating from the other readers (of whom there are many); there’s never the sound of amplified music.

The park is there, as rooted as the trees that make it, and beyond just the trees, and I’m glad for that.


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