Pianos among the flowers

Wouldn’t it be great if one day when you were wandering through a public garden you Piano player_edited-1came across a secluded piano where you could sit down and make beautiful music? Well, this week I had a chance to visit several pianos set in different locations around San Francisco’s Botanical Gardens.  I saw a quite a few people—from children to professional pianists- making music there.

Even though this is the first time I’ve seen any of the Pianos in Public Places, it is not a new ideas. According to a Wikipedia article, the idea of Pianos in Public Places originated by accident in Sheffield, England. The first piano was originally left on the sidewalk temporarily because the owner could not get it up the steps into his new house. As an experiment the owner and a friend then attached a sign inviting passersby to play the piano for free. So many people took advantage of the offer, that the piano became a community attraction. Piano_edited-1

In the last ten years, several cities around the world have placed pianos in public places and invited people to play or to listen. There are public pianos in Paris, London, New York, Toronto, and many other cities.

The pianos in the Botanical Gardens took various forms–some of them very strange and new, but all of them fun. Piano_jumble_edited-1

During a week when so much of the news is bad—I suggest that you try the music cure. If you live anywhere near a city with public pianos, visit them and join the fun! We all need beauty in our lives and music and flowers are among the best ways to find beauty.


Celebrating Art and Gardens

San Francisco has not had a lot to celebrate this month: our police chief resigned in response to several shocking cases of citizens being killed by police officers, our beaches continue to be threatened by climate change, and our long drought was not ended by El Nino rains as many of us had hoped. But there is one event that locals and tourists alike Living_wall01are celebrating and that is the reopening of the newly renovated San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). It is a joy to visit the large, airy galleries and to see the paintings, sculptures, and photographs on exhibit. People are flocking there by the busload from California and beyond.

One of the most striking areas on view is the “living wall” of green plants that extends along an open balcony on the third floor. An amazing variety of green plants stretches up along the wall, the color scheme broken by small Living_wall03outbursts of colorful flowers that can be spotted by sharp-eyed visitors. Yesterday when I visited the museum, there were so many pictures being taken of people standing in front of the wall that I could almost see the flight of photos escaping from smart phones and winging their way across the country. (Fortunately no selfie sticks are allowed.)

The juxtaposition of stark modern sculptures against the intricate green foliage of the plants is irresistible. Here is an amazing video of how the wall was designed and constructed.  Like so many beautiful things in this Living_wall02world, the apparent naturalness of the plants was carefully planned. Each plant is nurtured by a complex watering system designed by skilled engineers to keep the plants flourishing and conserve the precious water.

I have always associated gardens with quiet, pastel landscapes but the brilliant colors of  modern sculpture and the glimpses of skyscrapers in the streets beyond add to the refreshing natural landscape of the wall. It is as though the museum is paying tribute to the generations of gardeners who have kept the love of plants alive in even the most urban setting as well as to the innovators who have built startling new forms for viewers to contemplate.

The patron saint of gardens and flowers is St. Dorothy, an early Christian martyr who lived during the 4th century. Although she has been dropped from the canon of saints because

St. Dorothy, fresco by della Robbia

of the scarcity of evidence about her life, she is still remembered in some places where trees are blessed on her feast day, February 6. It is nice to think that a tradition as old as gardening, which has existed in almost every society for thousands of years, is still being honored in this most modern of buildings and that it can co-exist so happily with art that is being created in the 21st century.