Wednesday, April 4, 2007
The Secret Garden
Nestled on the eastern slope of Lone Mountain, and overlooking the Presidio and San Francisco's famed Golden Gate Bridge, is a little known part of USF's campus, the Loyola House. Few students have ever been inside the building, and fewer still have walked around the gated garden housed therein. Father Tom Lucas, one of the Jesuits who lives in Loyola and a caretaker of its garden, drove home the obscurity of the garden when he admonished students, "Pull the gate closed, because we have to keep the secret garden secret."
Built between 1998 and 1999, Loyola houses 25 Jesuit priests, including Father Lucas and Father President Stephen Privett. The Jesuits used to live in Xavier Hall, now Fromm Hall, but Lucas said the building was too large for their needs. Several locations were scouted for a new home, and Lone Mountain was chosen both for the size of the available space and the spectacular view.
The garden attracts animal life from around the Bay, including 28 different kinds of birds, from hummingbirds to Red-tailed hawks, and often draws in raccoons at night. The raccoons, who have no salivary glands, are attracted to the garden's fountain because they need water to digest their food. Lucas seemed happy to host the raccoons, in spite of their tendency to knock over the papyrus plants growing in the fountain, and their penchant for eating the goldfish he occasionally places inside.
The garden attracts more than just animal life. When it first opened, the stairs going up the north side of Lone Mountain had not yet been completed, and students would sometimes stumble upon the garden when trying to scale the mountain. Lucas also related the story of a man who walked his terrier along the garden wall, and complained when Lucas asked him to stop.
When explaining the fact that the garden is closed to the public, Lucas asked students to remember that Loyola House is the priests' private home. "Think of this place like your backyard," Lucas said. "This is our backyard. Your neighbors don't just stroll into your backyard, do they?"