Yesterday afternoon, I spend a couple of very enjoyable hours at the recently renovated and newly opened Devonian Gardens in downtown Calgary with my editor, Rachel Small. We both took work with us, so while she edited I read a book on writing.
I had wanted to take Rachel to see the gardens, because I enjoyed many hours there during the late 70s when I worked at a bookstore on 8th Ave. and could easily walk the few blocks to eat my lunch in the indoor oasis, sitting on a bench next to a pond and lots of green vegetation. Especially during cold winter months, this place proved to be a sanctuary and a relaxing break from work and customers in the middle of the day. Since Rachel moved to Calgary while the remodeling of the gardens was still taking place, she hadn’t yet had a chance to experience the gardens. I told her to bring some work along and to be prepared for a surprise. Unfortunately, it was me who was surprised as the costly renovations had taken most of the character out of the place, as I remembered it, remodelling my memories into yet another mall space, albeit with ponds, fountains, and greenery, but far too much tile and metal for my taste.
Where were the wooden benches built into the sides of the gardened areas? Where were the wooden bridges that used to curve up and over small streams that linked ponds? Where were the narrow walking paths and secret alcoves with space enough at their dead-ends for just one person to sit and curl up with a good book, successfully escaping the busy city for whatever imaginary place was contained within its covers? While the new gardens did prove to be a respite from the outside world, and I know they will be very popular during snowy, sub-zero winter days, for me the surprise element has disappeared – that surprise of stepping off the elevator into a vegitated world that you would never imagine was actually inside a downtown building… my very own secret garden, if you like.
But, never one to miss a photo op for my novel, Island in the Clouds, I used the backdrop of one of the tropical Sago Palms and asked Rachel to hold the book while I took a picture with my phone.