I got very tired posting about hatred during the Christmas Season, so here is my REAL Christmas sentiment.
The Gift That Makes A Difference in People's Lives.
Sometimes a gift can be for everyone and yourself at the same time. The garden I've planted/created for the people in our building (and now the whole complex of 3500 units) is like that. It helps give people joy, peace, serenity and cultivates a sense of wonder.
Yes, it's spiritual: to the gardener as well as to the residents. It eschews secular meaning - humanist, yes, but not secular humanist. Not just a garden of pretty flowers and plants, but a space that draws the soul away from the rest of the world, closer to the Creator, into another, less troubled place.
Loving Where You Live
ParkMerced is a unique space in San Francisco with unique attributes - as well as unique problems. It is not considered "San Francisco": it has no "painted ladies", no hills, no homeless, no landmarks, no bars, no touristy attractions. Built in a 1948, it is a combination of small mock-Regency (read 50s) town homes set among minimalist concrete towers over 108 acres. It's "shopping center" is a strip mall consisting of one grocery*, a sports bar, a taqueria and a laundry.
Oh, and a papa johns pizza.
It is bordered by Lake Merced, SF State University and the freeway and because if its position, it is unfortunately tethered to MUNI's M metro line (M for "miserable"). Perched high enough for upper tower apartments to have a magnificent view of the ocean, the largest housing project west of the Mississippi touts its singularity.
It's residents are a curious combination of students, elderly, a variety of ethnic groups with the emphasis on Chinese and Russian. At any given time, over 10,000 people live here, but the vast layout negates any form of city claustrophobia.
Vegetation consists primarily of pine trees and "Pride of Madiera" echium. Visible fauna consists of residents' dogs (it is a rare dog heaven in San Francisco), coyotes, an occasional cat (so many indoors), a variety of birds including hawks, doves, seagulls, crows and a myriad number of sparrows. Invisible fauna consists primarily of underground gophers.
Pride of Madeira Echium
And individual plantings.
"It's not just a garden, it's a sanctuary, " said one neighbor. People meditate there. Kids come to see the echium-bush birdhouse and the "faerie portal". Some people start their mornings by gazing down on the hundreds of red acrylic rocks forming a glittering heart.
The bejeweled Faerie Portal
Spurts of violence are rare, and it is a peaceful place where the exigencies of a conglomerate management and obscene cost of living are tolerated (those who have rent control are constantly suspicious of management that can get three times in rent from a new lessee).**
The management's talk of "quality of life" have been met with skepticism, but my own experience tending a (formerly unwarranted ) garden has been "we'd like to see more of that" and has bolstered my opinion.
Living Where You Love - The Christmas Spirit All Year Round
It's not always easy to love where you live, you have to truly experience living your space and neighborhood with someone you love. The feeling at ParkMerced is more than live and let live. Even some of the students are (gasp!) courteous and acceptance of all lifestyles is the key. Gay couples are spread out among the ten towers. Same-sex couples are accepted, even welcomed.
The motto of Good Will Toward Men is adhered to throughout the year.
Christmas in the garden is still a private affair known only to tower residents and, of course, the residents of the garden: the birds and spirits (in the form of "Faeries"). The gophers don't count; they are interlopers, opportunists that care only for lies beneath the ground.
They have no aesthetics.
Peace and good will. One sadly aging Russian grandmother sits there for hours on end, the garden obviously giving her tranquil thoughts. Sometimes she talks to a friend - quietly, as if a raised voice would disturb the peace.
There is never an angry word heard near the garden. Children seem more respectful: this sanctuary has the power to quiet little ones.
The video below says much more about the Christmas spirit than mere words. The "Faeries" and their Portal will (hopefully) give you a "Merry Christmas" from the heart, and hope for a wondrous New Year.
* The grocery has instituted special meals for students and home-delivery for elderly customers.
**One may remember the immense problems I had in keeping my apartment here.