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Fort Worth Water Gardens

The Water Gardens at Fort Worth were exactly what we expected. I mentioned before that we try not to set expectations of places we plan to visit because we don’t want to be let down. If you look through our blog, you’ll notice I never wrote a blog on the Great Smoky Mountains, or Orlando. They are both places I had expected to be one way and we experienced something entirely different. We’re so grateful for the fact we get to live this life that I often choose not to tell you about things that I’ve set expectations for that I am then disappointed by. It sounds a little ungrateful when it’s really mere disappointment.

We each have so many options during a day to set expectations – from what we expect out of a movie, to a meal, or a visit with a friend.

Last week, I had planned on having delicious homemade egg rolls with dinner one night. I cooked the pork loin, shredded all the veggies, and went to the fridge to grab the egg roll wrappers. That’s when I realized I had grabbed the wrong size at the grocery store. They were tiny. The egg rolls? Miniscule. Impossible to wrap. So we threw all the ingredients in with some day-old rice and had fried rice with fried wontons. It wasn’t bad. But I was bummed – I had set expectations and was let down. (Jeremiah would inform you that I wasn’t only bummed, I was furious at myself…but I’m telling the story here!)

Letting expectations go – easier said than done                                                      

So, it’s easy to see if I’m let down with a dinner how disappointed I can be with places we visit that aren’t exactly up to expectations. It’s hard to let expectations go, but sometimes we gotta try. I’d rather not tell you about the disappointing places because there is so much good that we do get to see.

On Wednesday I asked Jeremiah if he wanted to go to lunch and go find something unique about the area we’re staying at. “Sure,” he said, and I found a cheap thai place and without doing much research, stumbled upon the Fort Worth Water Gardens.

Was it free? Yep.

Was there easy street parking? Yep.

I glanced at the pictures that some people had posted and I crossed my fingers that they weren’t selective Instagram photos, and we headed out.

Fort Worth Water Gardens

When we got there, all we could see was a concrete structure blocking any water gardens view and the streets were empty. Not a great sign. The parking meter then ate our quarter. Also not the best sign. When we trotted across the street, I began to hear the splash of water. An improvement. In flip flop sandals, and jeans that are always too tight and legs that are pretty short, I hiked myself up to the 20 inch steps that surrounded the water feature closest to the road: the active pool.

The active pool

One of the things that stood out to me was that the architects, Philip Johnson and John Burgee, had intentionally created these steps to be 20 inches high surrounding the pool so that people would feel like they were perching – not relaxing, not sitting, but rather experiencing this installation. In 1974, there was no social media but I can’t help think that the architect knew he was protecting his creation in this way.

When I’m really excited, I laugh. Kids do this a lot. See a bug? Laugh. A pool of water? Laugh. I think it’s okay to experience joy and not pretend I’m too cool for that. I have never been cool. So I stood there, watching water cascade down these huge concrete stairs, laughing. This active pool was an architectural masterpiece, and any expectations I had set were far exceeded.

We clammered up and down the huge stairs, and then trodding carefully, stepped down onto the constructed pathway envisioned by Johnson and Burgee.  The sheer power of the water when we were in the center had me realizing what a beautiful structure this was, and had Jeremiah pondering, as he does, the sheer work involved with creating this. Innovation is rarely simple – and architectural innovation also requires a lot of engineering innovation as well.

A handful of people were doing the same as us, gazing at the velocity of water – everyone seemed genuinely happy to be there. Their expectations of the water gardens in line with reality.

The quiet pool

After we walked back up the stone steps, our feet being splashed as we walked, we made our way to the two other pools – one of which was clearly having an off day (the aerating pool,) so we skipped over that one to the most peaceful of the three. The quiet pool reminded me of the same serenity that the Japanese gardens in Portland, Oregon have always provided to me. We stood at the edge of the pool while water quietly cascaded over the huge walls, with a bright cyan pool in the center, surrounded by gangly trees. 

Because each pool is below ground level, you simply don’t realize they are there until you stumble upon them. A reprieve in the center of the city, surrounded by tall buildings and asphalt streets.

The Fort Worth Water Gardens are hidden from street view. You have to seek them out!

Sometimes, expectations are better than reality. We left both in awe of the feat of the construction, the amount of maintenance it would take to keep up with these pools, and a sense of peace. I guess sometimes? Sometimes it’s okay to have expectations.

If you’d like blogs on some of the places where we had to re-evaluate our expectations, let me know. I’m still working on how to be pleasantly surprised wherever we go.

Notes: Sadly, in 2004, four people lost their lives when one slipped in, and three others dove in to help. The center of the active pool was a deep 9-feet after heavy rain fall, with a strong pump that circulates 19,000 gallons of water per minute. It was closed for 3 years, and re-opened in 2007 with signs for no swimming or wading and additional terracing.

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