Wednesday, April 4, 2007
A Gardens Hidden Memoir
Retching and reeling, San Francisco revels in its caucophony. An insomniac, the city never sleeps and its residents are perpetually caught in its restless grip. Needless to say, quiet space and an area for reflection are a rare find. It was only after I had allowed my weary limbs to sink into the garden bench in the Jesuits secret garden that I truly became aware of the treasure USF had tucked away.
After lightly scoffing at Father Tom Lucas’s claim that gardens recall childhood memories, I found myself zoning out, recollecting an era that seemed an eternity ago. A time where I sat under a Peony bush and played with earthworms, allowing their grotesquely squishy bodies to slime around my dirt encrusted fingers.
Part of the gardens understated beauty lays in its simplicity and basic design. Nothing about the secretive spot screams Martha Stewart, there are no exceedingly rare plants, the space is reserved in its layout and the fountain is anything but gaudy. “That garden just has good bones, it was thoughtfully put together”, said USF’s head gardener Robert McNeil. However, rooted primarily in remembrance this obscure garden treasures a piece of artwork that for varied reasons highlights its Jesuit values.
A terracotta piece of Our Lady Guadalupe was almost overlooked before Father Lucas drew our attention to it. Framed by carefully maintained ivy, the story behind Guadalupes calm demeanor only added to the gardens overriding theme of reflection.
Gloria Osuna Perez, mother and artist, was the creator of the beautiful terracotta piece residing in the Jesuits garden. Father Lucas had gone to one of her (many) exhibits and fell in love with her art, “I approached her at her last exhibit, she went home, did the Lady Guadalupe and it became the last piece she ever did.”
A victim of ovarian cancer, Perez died in 1999 her artwork outliving her fond memory. Two of her works can be found on campus but only the Terracotta is real. And so, instead of placed on a wall in a gallery or put behind glass, Perez’s last piece is exactly where it should be. Placed directly atop the former center of the City of Dead, and in the current heart of USF’s secret garden of musings.