Thursday, 4 October 2012

Wandering through architecture


It is a road I have walked hundreds of times, a lovely lost tunnel through the trees, busy this morning with birds and little shy rustling things, my favorite road anywhere.
-Wallace Stegner, Crossing to Safety

The fruits, or, rather vegetables, of our CSA share are available for pick up on Tuesday afternoons. Our farmer and his team drop off the goods for we, the shareholders of Edmonton's northside, in the backyard of a friend's house in the historic district of Westmount. This means that once a week I have a built-in excuse to stroll through one of Edmonton's best neighbourhoods on my way to pick up locally grown organic produce. Rather posh.

I must admit this pick-up perk played a little to prominently in my vote for this culinary investment. Westmount is known for its pre-war architecture, with the majority of its dwellings hearkening back to a time before the war effort caused folks to tighten their belts when building new homes, doing away with such frivolities as front verandas, dormer windows, and deep-seated eaves. It's my favorite era for urban meanders for personal, even more than historic, reasons; my familial home was built around 1912 in a neighbourhood of a similar vintage. Walking by the windows of my parents' veranda causes the scene seen through to waver: a street canopied by weathered elms with trolley tracks hidden beneath its pavement. Such buildings were the constant in my early rambles, they dotted my chosen bike paths, drew comment from my parents during family strolls, dominated my first, and only, paper route. It's a type of double nostalgia, reminding me both of the time Canadian prairie cities first became boom-towns, and when childhood surroundings began to be my own.

As Westmount is an entirely gridded community, I had originally intended to vary my route every week, taking advantage of as many permutations as the harvest season would allow. It was not many Tuesdays later, however, that my path was changing very little. It was as if my introverted nature prevailed upon my quest for novelty, almost subconsciously leading me to deepen my knowledge of a few choice houses rather than maintaining the passing acquaintance of many. Bowing to this grain of wisdom in my secret heart, I drank deep, memorizing details of craftsman stickwork and clinker brick, giving bygone drainage experts the nod for acutely peaked roof lines and over-hanging eaves. I grinned irrepressibly at each exchange with the weather-vein topped cottage, whose scarlet-curtained porch is just begging for a glamorous witch, and the modern residence kept strictly to the prevailing style, except for its walls of cerulean blue.

The produce I've carried home in my double jogging stroller has changed throughout the season, from field greens and garlic scapes to pumkins and potatoes. Next week marks our final pick-up and the end of term for my little architectural study. I'm far from a hundred treks along this summer's favoured path, but I look forward to renewing our relations come the spring. In the meantime, I may have found a reason to visit through the winter: the Duchess Bake Shop is but a stone's throw away. If the website's pictures do it any justice, the decor alone with be worth the journey. Why have I not been here before?

Happy ramblings, my friends.

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