Saturday, July 08, 2006

the Park

My daughter took her dog to her boyfriend's apartment yesterday and so I woke up this morning for the first time without a dog in my house. Very strange, although the cat did her best to pretend she was a dog. She even rolled around and showed me her belly (but wouldn't let me pet it). Normally I am feeling the pressure of dog desires (and needs) to get outdoors and my day always starts with a walk around the block. Now I have no excuse to even go outdoors (where it is blazing hot).

In the French Republican Calendar, Messidor 20, like all days that end in 0, is associated with a tool, in this case: the park (parc). It seems like a strange concept for the French Revolutionaries to celebrate as the earliest parks were open spaces set aside by nobles for hunting. Later they came to mean spaces set aside by the public for recreation but this concept of the park was probably just beginning at the time of the development of the French Republican Calendar in late 1793.

The Parc Monceau, shown in this painting by Monet, is a case in point. It was established in 1768 by Philippe d’Orleans, Duke of Chartres, a cousin of the King, who wanted to create an English style garden in the middle of Paris. In 1793, the Duke was executed on the guillotine and the park was taken into public ownership.

Curious about my local park, Volunteer Park, I did some research online (Wikipedia was a better source than the Seattle parks department). I found out that it was named Volunteer Park for the Volunteers who fought in the Spanish-American war. I also learned something about the design philosophy of the Olmstead Brothers who designed the park in 1904-1909 (they also designed the University of Washington campus, Central Park, the White House and Capitol grounds and Yosemite, among others). Here's a photograph I took of Volunteer Park at Summer Solstice in 1998 when I was taking photographs on each of the seasonal holiday for my annual creative pledge.

I've spent a lot of time at this park with with Chester the Dog. When my daughter and I first adopted him, we promptly took him to the park for an outing and let him off his leash (this was his second leash—he had chewed through the first while we were waiting for the bus outside the animal shelter where we adopted him). Chester promptly ran over and bit a beige-colored terrier-dog walking byh with her owner. We were mortified but luckily no damage was done.

Chester was much better behaved, years later, when we started attending the Doggie Club, an informal meeting of dog owners which happened outside the Art Museum. The dogs loved to run and play with each other while their owners sat and talked. Here's a picture of the Doggie Club--I'm guessing this is around 1993. Shaw is over on the far left in a pink sweatshirt holding Chester on her lap--I'm standing behind her in a black jacket. Yes, there is a pot-bellied pig in the picture (to the left of the black dog in front).

Then an obnoxious woman who was afraid of dogs started complaining and the police started handing out $100 tickets to owners of dogs they found off-leash. A local group called COLA (Citizens for Off Leash Areas) formed and successfully lobbied to create special fenced dog areas in local parks. (

Unfortunately, once the dogs were confined in a small area, it became a muddy, unsightly mess and eventually was removed from Volunteer Park (although creative spaces were found in other parks). Unfortunately, Chester hated being confined so much that he spent all his time trying to find a way to get out of the fence instead of playing, so we had to stop taking him to the Park.

I'm going to the park this weekend to honor Messidor 20 but it will be sad to be there without Chester.


kerrdelune said...

Waverly, I loved the park and the sharing about Chester - I still go to a local park to honour the spirit of my golden retriever, Kim, who has been gone for many years now, but is often in my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

I used to live one block from Volunteer Park. Now I live within walking distance of another Olmstead design - Mountainview Cemetary in Oakland. Also designed as a public park space. It's absolutely gorgeous.


Nariane said...

this is wonderful...