Thursday, May 6, 2010

Secret Garden

At&T has been giving me fits this week with Internet broadband connections failing all the time. Apparently there has been a multi state failure, perhaps a foretaste of what is to come as our Post Peak Oil civilization collapses...or just another corporate screw up. In any event my connection to the outside world is tenuous from my home so I am re-posting this essay. In an attempt to make it seem more current I should note the Citizen is reporting the city may be buying Nancy's Secret Garden as the founder is finding it harder and harder to keep it operating. That's the good news, my inability to get online is driving me crazy but hey, it's just part of the pattern of my life at the moment. At least my wife and my dog still love me. And my camera works so pictures will follow when AT&T lets me back online...

I first published this essay in March, by request, and I have decided to post it again in light of widespread notice that the Secret Garden my be forced to close soon. Apparently the owner, who has kept it going largely with her own money and all her time, wants to hand over responsibility to a not-for-profit, (The Mana Project) to keep the place open, as she goes into well deserved retirement, but there is a little matter of a $160,000 shortfall and the appeal has gone out for donations. Google "Nancy Forrester's Secret Garden" and for more information, though I have to confess it's not laid out very clearly on their website, in my opinion. They need to raise the money before October or the garden may close. Alternatively just enjoy these pictures a second time around!Key West is not a town one can keep a secret in very easily, and by now I would venture a guess that just about everyone and her brother knows there's a profusion of greenery open to public inspection in the very heart of the city.Free School Lane is not such a weird a name for an alley in a city that boasts innumerable little paths and tracks all over town, Nassau, Love, Gruntbone, Poorhouse, to name but a few. I've thought about photographing them for an essay but it's overwhelming thinking about how many little lanes there are all over the city. A reader of this blog wanted to know what is happening with Nancy Forrester's Secret Garden, and after my brief inspection yesterday I can report, not a lot.Things are growing, the collection of parrots is extremely loud in their cages, the sunlight is still quite dappled on the huge tree trunks and the enormous dinner plates of green leaves. Free School Lane lies off Simonton Street, the artery that parallels infamous Duval Street. There are fewer shops on Simonton, and there is more shade. Fewer traffic lights than Duval and much less traffic making it easier to get from Simonton beach to the north to United street to the south if one needs to get across old town in a hurry. Free School Lane is marked on the cement street light post, halfway between Southard and Fleming Streets, which are in turn the major old town arteries leading onto and off Duval Street. And there is ample parking...designated for motorcycles and scooters, inclusing Bonnevilles. The Secret Garden is a desireable commodity just at the moment, a refreshment tucked away and available for those that want to stay within walking distance of the bars of Duval, Key West's other refreshment.What strikes me about places like this is, aside from the care lavished on the plants that I, a failed botanist with a memory like a sieve, could not hope to name, is how much I value these small corners of extravagant exuberance. Living in the Keys I take no space for granted, I cannot allow myself to overlook any object of interest.Not only is there too little land to do that, everything in a market as overpriced as this, is by its very nature transient. A guesthouse next door to the garden, a modest white wood home was for sale in the paper for one point three million dollars on my visit to the garden in March of this year, when I originally published this essay.Nancy Forrester is growing older like the rest of us; how long will it last, this privilege of walking these downtown paths surrounded by greenery and nothing else? Each visit is, in addition to refreshment, a small statement of defiance against the forces of change, of "improvement," of destruction in the name of maximum return on investment.
$10, charged on the rather old fashioned "honor system" seems a small price to pay to wander in peace for a while. Two loud beers not three blocks away. Your choice, for now.