Minus six degrees seemed almost tropical earlier in the afternoon on January 16th compared to the cold snaps since Christmas. In Stettler, we don’t usually get as many chinooks as Lethbridge. A day like today would have seen me in Nicholas Sheran Park if I was still there.
By now, Lethbridge probably has the snowdrift fencing up, so the one side of the park where you can enter anywhere with almost no paths would have had only a small entryway where there was a gap in the fence. Likely no one would have been using the disc golf towers set up throughout the park. The ‘lake’ may not be even fully frozen over, or pockets of thaw would have been pooling on top. The paths would have likely been clear, perhaps a bit damp, the rough pavement leaving no slick of water along the surface, just a glittering darkness.
When I say ‘lake’ I mean a set of squiggly shallow puddles, entirely man made. There are islands in the water, and rounded wooden bridges between areas of the park. I remember a spring picnic with a friend on one of the islands. We set the blanket out just behind the line of wooden posts set along the island as a retaining wall. Most are splitting and old, crumbling from their years of freezing and thawing. Yet the wooden bridges and red gravel paths, the paved walkways, all feel at home in the park, feel like they belong, evidence of the sheer scale of human involvement in the park’s creation. Only when sitting under the picnic shelter, set on a foundation of concrete, looking across the playground with a shredded tire base… only then does one feel the overt humanness that permeates the design. Perhaps we choose to simply ignore it, and take the park for that natural element we so crave when surrounded by city.
There is a boundary between the park and a school, delineated by a small creek along one side. In a far corner of this creek, a little ways into the park, there are some fallen trees angled towards the creek. Climbing and balancing on these trees brought back my childhood of climbing trees, of deep forests on Vancouver Island, of hiking without trails. To be able to feel the bark, to have part of the natural cycle of nature at my fingertips, facilitated engagement more than the static trees placed at specific intervals throughout the park.
Living less than five minutes away, this park held my heart and the soles of my runners have probably left fragments along the concrete paths. Many of the aimless worn paths in the grass helped ground my wandering thoughts. The park drew me in, making Lethbridge feel like home despite the temporary nature and uncertainty of student life.