Assiniboine Park Conservatory Closing Permanently in April
For immediate release:
Winnipeg, January 12, 2018

“Today, the Assiniboine Park Conservancy (APC) announced that the Conservatory located in Assiniboine Park will permanently close in April 2018. The last day the building will be open to the public is Monday April 2, 2018….”
Sunday, April 24, 2018:

Today I revisited the Conservatory. Despite the empty car lot, I parked in its driveway. I did not leave the car. A bleak place. The interior dark. Trapped tall trees peered out the top windows at the sunny exterior on this bright Easter day.

Twenty-two days ago vehicles over crowded the car lot; streams of people flooded the place; old people and babies, and every age between, filed through the structure to say good bye, as if to impress on their minds for a final time this oasis that since 1914 provided hope for summer especially when winter bullied its way from October through April!

The Conservatory, a haven, sometimes a refuge, offering free of charge an inclusive invitation, a place for all, a site for visitors, weddings, family celebrations.

I joined that April 2nd throng wending my way through its unique garden forest: plants from diverse places in the world, India, Japan, Peru, Jamaica usw., rare species, like dypsis decaryi of Madagascar, all sharing the same soil and space with typical common seasonal flowers– today daffodils, lilies, and hyacinth counter balancing various species of exotic orchids.

A garden template for a model world. Here an old hand touches a gnarled branch of the Florida Strangler Fig; some children stare at the giant gold fish in the fish pond, others play in the fountain; an elderly couple perch on a named bench; two babies lie in a window enclosure tended by their mothers; everyone takes pictures while the corroded girders tenderly enclose the plethora of precious vegetation reaching for light and the murmuring human species confined to the narrow pathways below.

As I continue to my next stop, the Zoo, to see the Asian Reindeer mother nursing her wobbly legged progeny, I think how it is impossible to stop, impossible to prevent what is happening. Tyrannical time brings life but it also destroys, sometimes leaving in its wake, regret.

For me that early April day was a wake, an R.I.P. day. I said good bye to the Conservatory but sealed in my heart memories. Perhaps it was a proper Easter experience.

After celebrating the death of Life on the Cross on Good Friday, at the Easter Vigil I blessed the new fire and lit the Christ Candle. I remember how that stirred in my heart new hope for the new creation begun with the resurrection of Jesus, the first born of that reality.

I choose to remember the Conservatory, its inclusiveness, welcome, harmony, beauty, as a prophetic image of the new creation that is to come.


Source for all photographs: Frank Obrigewitsch, SJ


Frank Obrigewitsch, SJ, is pastor of St. Ignatius parish in Winnipeg.

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