When I learned I was reviewing the hardcover photography book Wascana Lake Through 4 Seasons, I thought: Cool, after I’m done, it will make an excellent gift for someone. I’m a born-and-raised Saskatchewanian who now lives on Vancouver Island, and let me tell you, folks, Sheena Simonson’s wonderful publication is so evocative of my home province, this book’s not leaving home.
Simonson’s compendium tells the story of a province – historically, socially, seasonally, recreationally, and flora and fauna-wise – not just the story of how Wascana Lake came to be, and how that urban body of water delights visitors year-round.
In her afterword to this beautifully-designed and easy-to-read book, the author-photographer explains that some “328 kilometres of trail were covered in order to come up with the final 325 images”. The vibrant photos – some full page spreads, others collages – document Simonson’s “oasis,” and were shot in Wascana Centre between the Albert Memorial Bridge and the Broad Street Bridge.
There are myriad photos of the behemoth Legislative Building – particularly impressive in the hoarfrosted winter scenes and when foregrounded by the lake at sunset – and its surrounding gardens. There are birds and blossoms, insects and art work, bridges and the bubbles that one usually doesn’t stop to look closely enough at to realize their individual beauty in the foam. Good photographs make us slow down.
What amazes is the diversity of plant and bird life in Wascana Park. What amazes is the amount of research that went into this book, and how useful a resource it will be for everything from tree and duck identification to learning fun facts, ie: black ash wood has acoustic properties and is used to make guitars, and American elm trees are used for making hockey sticks. What amazes is the effectiveness of single green branches against the backdrop blue of sky.
This book educates readers about clouds and the difference between fog and mist. We learn about photosynthesis, thunderstorms, and “leaf litter.” There’s much about how Wascana Lake was created out of necessity for water after the railroad was established in 1882, and the Queen City grew. A dam forged a reservoir, and the water was used for steam engines. It was also “hauled by wagon to water stock”.
James. F. Bryant, a former SK Minister of Public Works, had the foresight to “deepen the lake and widen the Albert Street Bridge”. In 1931 “2107 people excavated 91,200 cubic metres of dirt with shovels, picks, wheelbarrows, and horse-drawn wagons. Large equipment was not used …”. The result: a deeper lake, the creation of Willow and Spruce Islands, and jobs for the unemployed during hard times. In 2003-2004 “The Big Dig” – an $18-million project that further deepened and revitalized Wascana Lake – resulted in more islands and the Albert Street Promenade.
Simonson begins her book with a Henry David Thoreau quote: “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” Sheena Simonson, I like what you see, and am grateful you’ve shared it.
THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM WWW.SKBOOKS.COM