November 24, 2008

Well, isn’t this somethin’. I just do that story about the farmers in South Central Los Angeles trying to save the largest community garden in the county when lo, and behold, I fall upon Granmaw Gordon.

I’m in a section of Atlanta called Lake Claire, delivering donated books to a little tea shop called Dr. Bombay’s Underwater Tea Party (the books are sold for 50 cents each and every penny goes to Noah’s Ark, a rehabilitation center that includes exotic animals, including a zebra that fell off a truck on one of Atlanta’s highways, plus a home for abandoned and abused children–the animals and the children work together to heal–nice story) when I pass this sign in front of a shop.

So I trot in and get to talking with Teri Stewart, the shop owner and one of the major organizers of the years-long effort to save the last publicly-accessible greenspace in the five miles between Decatur and downtown Atlanta, where an over-100-year-old pecan tree named Granmaw Gordon stands.

Turns out the group has been to court several times and is now on its way to Superior Court with its argument. Granmaw Gordon, apparently, is a specimen tree that is resistent to pecan scab and could provide critical research information to help the pecan industry (Georgia is the largest grower of pecans in the world). Plus, this half-acre has been a greenspace for more than 30 years and is critically important at a time of increased high-density building all around it. The organizers want to preserve the space as a green waystation (it is halfway between two rail transit stations) with a pavilion, bike racks and more to encourage alternative commute options and reduce auto traffic on the busy boulevard where it sits. Also Granmaw Gordon apparently was an original tree on the estate of Major General John B. Gordon and his wife Fanny. A statue of John. B. Gordon sits outside the State Capitol five miles away, and Fanny was apparently known as a a courageous, outspoken woman who was called “a child of conviction, a woman of strength.”

So after a long conversation with Teri and a walk with the owner of Dr. Bombay’s Underwater Tea Party to a land trust the community has, I go over to see this Granmaw Gordon for myself. And there she is, in the middle of a grassy field, with a stand of hardwoods behind her, a red X painted on all of them and the words “Don’t Kill Me” painted in red over the X on Granmaw Gordon. She’s leaf-less and wintry, but grand, her bare arms stretching to form a wide canopy. (A painting of her in all her summer glory is just down the road a little bit as the central part of an enormous city-block-long mural painted by the community.)

And I think of that near-the-end scene from Scott Hamilton Kennedy’s documentary, The Garden, and I cringe to think of that happening here. I watch the striations of the soon-to-be-setting sun stretch across this half acre, and I feel suddenly involved. I look at Granmaw Gordon, a woman of strength, and I wonder if I am one, too.

Nurturing sustainability close to home and around the world. (And other food for thought!)

By Pattie B.
Be Well @ Stanford

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