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My love sonnet to San Francisco winter (and the not-so-secret garden)

In homage to San Francisco winter 2014, I needed to sonnet-ize:

It’s all too true: into my brain did float
Small-minded thoughts, as winter’s snowy ice
Did frost the East, I couldn’t help but gloat,
Since liveth I now in a West Coast paradise.
East Coasters swear they love the snow so much,
It’s pristine whiteness and its cozy calm,
But I prefer a warmer weather’s touch
Fringed ’round with palm trees for my winter balm.
No more for me the wretched pinching cold,
Yellowing snow, ice patches on the ground.
It well may be it’s ’cause I groweth old,
But let me live where mildness doth abound.
Cars smothered in mounds of snow I do not see!
Oh San Francisco winter: hail to thee!

And then, just as I was finishing the above lines, as if to strengthen my resolve to never revisit my old Big Apple hometown during the year’s coldest months, I walked past one of the San Francisco spots that convinced me to move here: The Fort Mason Community Garden, in winter mode, its dozens of well–kept plots bursting with life and energy, even as they lay dormant.

I’d come west to explore moving here, and stayed with my ex-husband Phillip and his partner Dr. Sheldon Cale on Pierce Street. They wooed me with a grand tour of this grand city, including the Marin headlands, the Presidio and all its ocean views, everything that could possibly communicate that San Francisco truly is the most beautiful city in this country. It was the perfect package, one that could be called the “Let’s Convince You To Move To San Francisco” tour. The guys could make a living doing the tour they gave me, and now I give the same tour to anyone who visits.

But the bow on that package tour was a neighborhood place where we had a picnic lunch, one sunny, cool day, midst blossoming sunflowers, burgeoning roses, orange and lemon trees sized for workable plots, and any number of familiar and unfamiliar botanical delights: the Fort Mason Community Garden. A neighborhood garden the depth and breadth of which I’d never seen the like. A community garden with small hills on which to lounge and from which to view the rest of the bountiful spread! A garden with room!

We bought our sandwiches at Safeway, opened our icy diet sodas, and sat in the strong sunshine at the wooden picnic table usually reserved for garden members. That day we were the only visitors, and after lunch, we walked the garden paths. It was cold back east, and here I was, sunning with the hydrangeas while munching a good sandwich. My idea of heaven. And I thought: When we move here (already deciding when not if), I’m putting myself on this garden’s waiting list!

I envisioned myself in a charming garden hat, and began to plan how I could make my space look as fabulous as all those other spaces looked, plots of garden space so obviously cultivated with care and ingenuity, it made me want to start digging. I never have fulfilled that particular San Francisco dream (at least not yet), but my love for that community garden remains strong, and I visit it every chance I get. It’s arguably the most creative and peaceful place in the city.

Opened in 1975, thanks to the combined efforts of government programs and peoples’ parks movements, the Fort Mason Community Garden was originally a place where the members shared their produce and collaborated on ways to prepare it. Soon, a waiting list developed for the limited number of garden plots, and now, it may take as long as eight years to get a plot. Over the years, as the garden moved locations, the number of workable garden plots expanded from several dozen to over 100. The community garden members manage those many self-supporting small gardens.

The Fort Mason Community Garden history is rich (visit to learn more on how to join for a garden of your own), but for me, it’s more evidence that I live in a paradise, no matter what’s going on weather wise in the rest of the country.

Treat yourself: visit The Fort Mason Community Garden, located inside the gates of Fort Mason at Bay and Franklin Streets. Take a left, around the little chapel, and immediately on your left are the gardens. Enjoy the richness, the cultivated artistry, the not having snow on the ground, when everyone else around the country does.

Go, enjoy … and gloat!

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