Yesterday was a gorgeous day. The sky was a brilliant blue, with a few fluffy white clouds; the sun shone bright but not hot, making everything look bolder and crisper; the air was neither humid nor cold. I was thrilled to sit and soak it all in on a quick lunch break, in the park next to our national art gallery.
I’ve been eating packed lunches my entire life, thanks to a habit ingrained by my parents. They taught me the formula too: lunch = entree + fruit + snack + water. The way I approach it, the fruit and the entree are for the main meal, and the snack is for later in the day. My favourite entrees are big salads, with quinoa or brown rice or roasted starchy veggies. Yesterday though I packed a simple sandwich on homemade (by yours truly 😉 ) wheat bread, an apple and peanuts and raisins.
The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas is basically my favourite place on the island; I go there every chance I get. They create thoughtful exhibits featuring our incredible visual artists and host great free programming. Their inviting grounds are also the perfect place to have lunch. I used to make my picnic on the grass or the benches they’ve placed around their site in the historic Villa Doyle. Recently though, the powers-that-be have transformed the vacant lot next door into a tranquil little park and amphitheatre. You can imagine my anticipation as I watched the park develop, waiting excitedly for it to be open to the public.
I ate there for the first time yesterday and it was the highlight of my day. In addition to the beautiful weather, the space itself is comfortable and inviting. It’s clear that a lot of thought went into planning meandering mulch paths, colourful art installations, and more handmade wooden benches. I appreciate too that they’ve left in our native plants, unlike so many developments which completely clear out plots of land and import new species. My already happy heart sang when I spied 6 long planters at the back of the park. So far it looks like there are just carrots and collards flourishing there, but I imagine they’ll soon be filled with more goodies.
The NAGB is on a hill, and the park is on the southern side. Climbing up the mulchy path to the top, you’re greeted with a view of Nassau harbour. It’s like the ocean says, Surprise! I certainly did grin. There weren’t any benches up there, so I settled myself on the ground, watching a photographer take promotional photos of the amphitheatre. He came around to take pictures of the park too, which made me a little nervous with my own camera, but he was friendly all the same.
You can bet I’m going to spend every lunch that I can in this park, and you should too! Even if you don’t have a picnic to carry, sitting in that space is a wonderful way to press pause on your day. Thanks so much to the NAGB directors and staff for making this happen!
Dear Gabrielle, thank you so much for this lovely piece. Sometime I wonder whether anyone notices the work we are doing —we are all so busy rushing around—and this made my heart sing. Thank you for sharing the love of this amazing property and historic site that belongs to the nation and the people, and for encouraging more to use it. We will be installing more benches and trash bins as time goes by, but working on a shoestring we do it piece-piece with volunteers and partners… but we are getting there and this piece of writing just inspires us to do more and to keep working for you and for all of us! We have, in fact, been slowly removing non native species and—with the support of the BNT—have been replanting with the species that bring back our birds, butterflies and hummingbirds. The raised planters are for the people on Hospital Lane that used to “bush farm” the property… we did not want the community excluded, so worked out a way they could continue to benefit from the land while still making a park. The site is connected to the first African Hospital (hence the name of the lane cut through the limestone) and as a site of healing the idea was to connect art, culture and healing… Thank you so much and come again soon!
You’re welcome! Uncle Harry has told me about the African Hospital and I love that you’ve incorporated healing into the vision for the park. I certainly felt restored after my visit. 🙂 It’s exciting to hear about collaboration with the BNT and the local community too. My Grandad grew up around the corner, on Meeting St and Hospital Lane. Thanks for sharing all this, I’ll be back to look out for some birds and butterflies!
Betsy Dingman says
So thrilled you enjoyed yourself in the garden…makes my heart sing…we worked so hard on it.
Thank you! Your work definitely shows.