I have seen photographs of Sydney's famous opera house for as long as I can remember. In those pictures it always seems white, glowing and distant against the blue of the sea. So it was a treat to approach it, watch it grow into a footprint and see all its angles; the complexity of the curved roof's latticework, the dirty windows opening into offices, the runners pounding by in their sneakers. A physical place, planted with a purpose and lived around, not an abstract example of stunning architecture or a screensaver.
We ambled next through the Botanical Gardens, green and rolling and extensive. The strange huge fig trees with their devouring trunks and airborne roots dangling as though waiting to grab any unsuspecting piece of earth that might happen by (could be any year now...). The sun disappearing and reappearing. The ground astonishingly spongy and strange, squelching with every step from the morning's rain. And scads of birds splashing along in it, too, ibises dunking the ends of their long black beaks into the saturated grass...
The final photo here is of my favorite of the public sculptures we saw (and neither the first nor last photograph I'll have borrowed from Blake Gibson by the end of these accounts):
By now all the walking around the city had started to run together a bit. Darling Harbor was touristy and clean, and pleasant to walk mindlessly through. There was so much to see and I'd started to get a bit saturated--with the bridges, and boats, and museums, and all--so it was a relief to stop and examine a piece of public sculpture set into the walkway. It was a strangely calm and beautiful thing--a series of stepped-down spirals, water flowing over them, leading down to a smooth concrete dome at the bottom. Most of the arms of the spiral are corrugated and covered in a few inches of flowing water, but there's one that's a smooth walkway, watered only by the overflow of the arms above it. I tested the water with my fingers; not too cold. Took off shoes and socks and rolled up pant legs, then padded down to the little island and sat on the dome. The water all around, though flowing smoothly, produced enough sound in that little concavity to block out the noises of the surrounding city; and underground, surrounded by a gentle cyclone, I let myself relax.
A gaggle of kids in tartan uniforms filed by, and they begged their chaperon to let them go down into it, too. No, she said. Of course. Too much trouble to stop and let every child do anything they wanted--I understood--but it made me sad for that age, which I remembered all too clearly. Reminded me how lucky I was to get to cast off my shoes and establish that bit of free time for myself, to be accompanied by people who were not in a hurry and understood the inevitability and importance of personal fascinations. To be a grownup.