The sanctuary of a tree

“For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfil themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farm boy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.”

Hermann Hesse, German-born Swiss poet, novelist, and painter
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Summer Harvest in The Grove

mangoes

Mango Tree

In my town of Coconut Grove – an eclectic South Florida village and bohemian haven to local writers, artists, architects and musicians – summer harvest is in full swing. Virtually every house in The Grove is surrounded by lush tropical flora and fruit trees. Starfruit, sea grapes, lemons, oranges, avocados, mangoes, lychee, guava, coconuts, figs, and olives. As they  ripen, the pungent smells fill the air.  What abundance! And, how grateful we are that the daily spurts of tropical rain, followed by sunshine and steamy, hot air provide the perfect climate for growth. 

Starfruit

Starfruit (“Carambola”) Tree

In this sustainable environment, not only does nature produce a rich bounty for individual households and all the outdoor creatures that inhabit the yards (birds, cats, possum, squirrels, frogs, lizards and geckos), it also encourages neighborliness. Just the other day, one of my neighbors dropped by with a bag full of mangoes from her tree.  Everyone shares their harvest. It is not uncommon to see baskets of fruit  set outside a front gate, with a sign saying “Please help yourself. Enjoy!”

My sea grape trees cascade over the front yard, providing shade for the sidewalk and part of the street.  Hanging from the branches, the ripe grapes are a welcome treat to anyone strolling by.  Blending (chameleon-like) with the large, green sea grape leaves, the mischievous parrots teeter precariously as they hop from branch to branch – tipsy from indulging in  their very own bacchanalian feast. Their loud and gleeful squawking can be heard from one end of the street to the other. Their joy is infectious.  

Just this morning, I stood smiling as I looked up at the parrots.  My smile turned into a belly laugh when several grape pits pinged my forehead. I’m sure those naughty feathered creatures did it on purpose, but I didn’t mind.  Not at all.  I’m just deeply thankful that my trees are bearing fruit and that they are being savoured by animals and humans alike.

“The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest.”
William Blake

seagrape

Sea Grape Tree and Parrot (posing for the camera)

Grooving in Coconut Grove

Parrot

One of many tropical parrots preparing to get tipsy and silly on a feast of sea grapes.

(Photo credit: heatherfromthegrove)

There are many unique cities and towns across the globe, but I have a particular fondness for the place that I call Home:  Coconut Grove.

This artsy, bohemian village is a friendly haven for writers, artists, architects, musicians and academics. Its mellow, unpretentious residents (Grovites) hail from a cross-section of cultures and spiritual leanings, and they possess a strong sense of community.  The Grove is a place where people actually walk everywhere and say “hello” to each other (in many cases, by name!).  Coconut Grove businesses readily support each other — in the spirit of camaraderie, mutual respect and collaboration.  Almost every household has a dog and/or cat.  Colorful parrots fly freely, squawking loudly as they perch atop the branches of lush, tropical trees. Even the stray cats and possums are happy and well-fed  (well, at least the ones that frequent my yard!).

For those of you who have never visited The Grove, you really must add it to your list of “must see’s.”

I’ve created a special page on this blog site (see menu tabs on top, labeled The Grove) — for anyone interested in reading more about this idyllic community.  The page is a work in progress and I will be adding more to it, as the days/months progress.

As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Cheers,

heatherfromthegrove

The stories houses tell

Every house tells a story.  Who lived here before you?  What did they do?  How did they live?  Was there more happiness and laughter than sorrow and pain?  Were children born here?  Did anyone die here?  Why did they leave?  Where did they go?  These are just some of the questions that fill my mind when I look at a house, especially an old house.

I love history. That, combined with a natural (almost feline-like) curiosity, is what motivates me to research everything that catches my fancy — family origins, different countries, cultures, religions and, yes,  houses.

So, when we bought our historic home in the bohemian  (as in “free spirit, eclectic, artistic”) village of Coconut Grove (in South Florida), I was thrilled.  What struck me was that the house had really, really good energy.  Now, this is not my imagination.  Every friend or family member who has either visited or stayed overnight in this home has said exactly the same thing:  It’s got good vibes.  And, I’m happy to say, it’s also got good bones.

But,  like most  old houses,  it is not without some “challenges.” Built in 1928,  this small house – with loads of windows and creaky floors – has been a haven for many families. Laughter and tears, births and deaths, triumph and defeat – it’s seen it all. Now it’s our turn to play a role in its long history.

Coconut Grove was first inhabited in 1825 by an influx of Americans from the Northeastern United States, as well as British and Bahamian immigrants. Formerly an independent city, Coconut Grove became annexed to the city of Miami in 1925.  It is Miami’s oldest village and the beautiful architecture, rich tropical flora, artistic community, delightful restaurants, cafés and shops make it a highly desirable place to live … or, at the very least, visit.

Native flora in Coconut Grove

Our cottage-like house was built by the Bahamians (as in “from the Bahamas”) who first lived in it.  As was customary at the time, builders made use of all the available natural materials indigenous to the area, such as coral and Miami-Dade pine.  Homes were simple, yet full of character.  Back in the day, there was no air conditioning and, as such, air flow via windows (windows, windows, everywhere!) was  how the steamy South Florida weather was made bearable.

Thankfully, the previous homeowners have managed to preserve much of the original character of our home.  We have thick Miami-Dade pine frames around all doorways and windows. We have a beautiful coral fireplace.  And, we even have a barn — complete with the original doors!  Of course, we currently use it as a garage but we intend to convert it into a two-story architect’s studio with a roof-top deck. However, we will keep the first floor (with original doors) completely intact.

Our “barn” (with Bacchus standing guard!)

We’ve had to streamline our life. Over three decades, we’ve collected so much “stuff.”  Too much stuff.  At some point, it becomes almost obscene, this collection of material things. When this house beckoned to us (it really did!), we knew that it was time to downsize and simplify. So, we’ve been taking stalk of what is really important to us and, amazingly, the downsizing process has become quite simple.  There are many others who need these things far more than us. And it’s to these families that we will pass them on.

And, so, the house is a work in progress and its story continues to the next chapter…

… “and peace to His people on Earth” … Merry Christmas from heatherfromthegrove in South Florida!

Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home!  ~Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers, 1836

May you enjoy and savour the joy of the holiday season, delight in feasting with your family and friends, and may you bow your head in fervent, heartfelt appreciation for all the blessings you received and those that are yet to come.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Cheers,

heatherfromthegrove

 

 

 

 

Image (top) via Skyscrapercity.com