A Walk Around the Park (1 of 3)

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Had I tried, I doubt I could have picked a colder day to go outside. It was -23ºC (-9ºF) with the windshield factor. The sun was shining and the sky was that perfectly saturated blue — not a speck of a cloud in sight — the kind of beautiful sky which any seasoned local knows is the telltale sign of a heck of a frigid day.

I had been wanting to take a walk over to that park, which is not ten minutes away from my place for months. Last summer, I kept thinking I should go sit on a bench facing the water fountain and read a book there, but was too paralyzed with depression to do anything about it. Then when winter came I made a plan to go take photos of that square on a clear sunny day, shortly after a snowfall. Many such days came and went, but then yesterday, with the fresh fallen snow still shimmering white, I convinced myself that if I didn’t go out then, I wouldn’t have such a beautiful opportunity again.

There is no such thing as dressing too warmly for a day like that. And no matter how good a job of it you do, there’s bound to be more than an inch of flesh exposed somewhere, which makes for a tortuous experience — something akin to having needles inserted all over one’s face by an untrained acupuncturist. It was mad of me to think I’d be able to take my time taking pictures in arctic weather like that.

The short walk was worse than I had imagined. I was walking along a shaded street which happened to be a wind tunnel and I was tempted to turn back, but I kept going. It’s amazing how long 10 minutes can seem when it’s damn cold like that. But I knew there would be lots of snow at the park, and when I got there I saw my efforts were well rewarded. You can see from the photos of the benches how high it was, and there were areas where it was higher still. I was cautious walking around but soon realized he lower layers had hardened so that I could walk everywhere without sinking down to the waist in snow, which was a nice touch, I thought. The sun provided some warmth and the park, which is tucked in a square was protected from the wind which felt positively cozy, all things being relative of course.

My procrastinating had paid off that day too — I arrived there just in time for that gorgeous late afternoon sun, which, along with early morning light, is the best to work with — it just makes everything look gorgeous. I was transported… I spent a good long while in and around the park finding the best angles, and then photographed the great big fountain with it’s statue of Jacques Cartier (what is that hand gesture he’s doing I wonder?) and moved on to some of the lovely homes around the square.

That little enclave is quite special to me. It’s built in the heart of St-Henri, which historically was and still is a proletarian part of town, although it’s being slowly gentrified. But considering that the typical St-Henri apartment building is drab, dilapidated and shouts of desperation, this section of the neighborhood positively stands out like a jewel. I’d be curious to find out how this little enclave of petite bourgeoisie came to be built right in the center of the surrounding desolation.

More to follow (click here to view part 2)…

All pics by Smiler

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