My good friend Liz is visiting for the weekend. The thing I miss most about New England is friends and family. The thing I like most about Florida is the weather. Luckily, the weather sucks in New England and friends and family have been visiting this winter.
We partied hard on Friday night, slept until ten Saturday morning, had a lazy caffeinated morning then walked the beach. We haven’t stop talking since Liz arrived.
It was a hot, muggy morning. Cloudy with impending thunderstorms. By afternoon, we drove north to the Ann Norton Sculpture Garden in West Palm Beach.
In a wealthy residential neighborhood along the Intracoastal is the historic home of Ann Weaver Norton, second wife of Ralph Hubbard Norton, founder of the Norton Museum of Art not far from here. He was the president of Acme Steel and an art collector.
There were six of us there, Liz and I and two couples. The curator told us the story of Ann Norton, her work and her life. Her favorite medium was brick. She made the bricks herself, in a kiln then sculpted massive pieces of art from them. Her husband commissioned a studio for her, a lovely building I would be happy to live in.
Ann Norton met a stewardess, a single mother who lived in West Palm Beach. This woman traveled the world, collecting seeds of palm trees from whereever she flew. Ann cultivated the seeds and planted them in her garden where now there is one of the largest collections of palm trees in the world.
Liz found a fallen tree limb. We both thought it was beautiful. We decided we were taking it home to put on my deck.
One of the couples touring the garden that day was elderly, possibly in their late seventies. The woman loved our found treasure and told us we had to come and see and feel the fallen palm. It was on the walkway leading to the studio and felt like soft leather. We told them about a tree we saw that had coppery colored limbs that mirrored the color of the bricks in one of Ann’s sculptures.
We all walked back to where we had found it. Her husband knew the name of the tree, I have forgotten it. I keep reminding myself to use the Notes on my IPhone for just this sort of thing but we were so lost in the moment, so absorbed in the experience, I forgot to note it.
We found a tree with a long thin trunk and large floppy leaves that looked like droopy parasols. They told us to feel that, too. They were very tactile. I’m a visual person. It was interesting to spend this moment in time experiencing the garden through our sense of touch.
The woman was so happy to meet us. “I love when we find people who share their experience of a place. We see so much more than we would on our own,” she told us. I agreed. We also feel more.
Liz is very mechanical. She likes to fix things. In the studio she was playing around with the vise.
We both loved the wooden blinds in the house. I vaguely wondered out loud how they worked. Liz tried to figure them out while I worried about her breaking them.
The night before, in Pineapple Grove, we found another fallen tree limb and stashed it in the trunk. We wondered if the curator would let us take the fallen branch from the garden. When we returned to the house, she said, “Oh, you found treasure.”
“Can we take it?” Liz asked.
We said our goodbyes and thanked her for a lovely afternoon. Liz saw something else she wanted as we left through the front door.
Liz really wanted that thing that looks like a pinecone but the curator told us it was a seed pod, holding the seeds for dozens more trees so we left nature alone. The museum is continuing Ann Norton’s tradition of cultivating seeds and planting trees for future generations to enjoy.
We stopped at an antique shop on Clematis Street that had a wonderful collection of deco vases, large ash trays for four or more smokers, coffee tables, and artwork. But again, like in Sanibel, I resisted spending money. I had found fallen treasures for free. Branches and limbs that storms and time had left for me.
This morning Liz and I decorated my deck with the fallen treasures, my husband grumpy in the living room, complaining, thinking we were nuts but it was he who had found the large tree limb in Pineapple Grove. With bloody Marys in hand, we took to the deck and admired our handiwork.
Branch found in Pineapple Grove
Coral from South Beach, Miami. Found over Thanksgiving weekend