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Travelogue F51

November 16, 2015

Now at bridge’s end, I turned my steps towards the heart of Parc Jean-Drapeau, though not before stopping to eat lunch within sight of a pond overflowing, whether of neglect, poor design or the previous day’s rain. On the muddy waters, a mother duck and ducklings paddled rings. Between passages of Le Tramway, with its talk of pastel ticket stubs, I spied on the furtive approaches of ducklings following the water creeping to the benches.

Back on my feet, I passed through a wooded stretch of the park and made steady progress towards my end, the Biosphère, a one-time American exposition space for a late 20th century World Fair and since become home to Montréal’s Musée de l’Environnement. Therein, I found the expansion but logical extension of the earlier secret garden, glimpsed beneath the bridge: a dome of aluminum triangles, open to air and elements, and, to one side of the space so enclosed, a building housing the museum proper.

The building was quite high and sported a collection of pavilions about its upper reaches. A ring of shallow water ran about the dome and recalled at the level of scale that mental image which I had made of London’s Crystal Palace. Yet the difference in materials proved too much even for my imagination, stretched as it was. Indeed, Montréal’s aluminum dome seemed less imposing, less full of itself, than my imaginings.

The exhibits lining the foyer attested to the emergence of numerous and often interrelated environmental problems. Among these I counted the mid-Pacific gyre, the assortment of waste produced by consumer society, as well as the tripling of the space for the average household, despite families being half the size. Having passed through one side and out the other, I found myself on a walkway flanked by a photo exhibition from Alaska, Greenland and Nunavut.

The photos depicted everyday scenes from those colder climes: a man trapped in a seaside cabin for three days at the peak of a walrus migration, fleshy tones piled up to the cabin’s very threshold; the World Eskimo Olympics where both Western and traditional sports were practiced, including “one hand reach” and “two foot high kick”, the photo illustrating how, for the former, the athlete had to support his entire weight using one hand alone, while grasping upward for a ball or weight posed at increasingly high intervals and, for the latter, the moment at which, in a vertical leap, the athlete brought her feet forward to touch a ball or weight similarly posed, the modern form derived from a practice by which hunters once informed the village of a whale kill.

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