In the Garden: Memories of manta rays

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Free leftover tins from Bora Bora become planters. A nice memory, long after the cookies and the tan have been gone!

In September 2010, I was lucky enough to visit French Polynesia. I stayed on the islands of Tahiti and Bora Bora. The fanciful cuisine of the former — particularly the long-standing food truck tradition — was certainly a favorite memory. But it was only off the shores of Bora Bora that I got to scuba dive. And I do love nothing more than being underwater. Whilst immersed in the almost too perfect turquoise seas, I swam with pregnant manta rays and big fat lemon sharks. Gifts from the gods, to be sure.

I hadn’t completely forgotten about the dives, but almost two years later, they were far from my mind. And then, about a month ago, I got a message from an old dive buddy — a Frenchman who lives near Avignon.

“I was watching a documentary about mantas in French Polynesia and I saw you,” he wrote. “Did you see this documentary? I can try to capture few pictures for you if you want.”

And then it all came back.

A screen shot of me after the dive, from "Les reines du lagon."

It so happens that a French film crew was on my dive boat that September, and they were making a documentary about the manta rays in the motu. They filmed the briefing, the dive and then interviewed me afterward. Miracle of miracles, I made the final cut.

The film, “Les reines du lagon” (The queens of the lagoon”) is by Dominique Martial. Mon ami francais sent me a screen shot and some video clips. Apparently, I sound way more sophisticated in French!Β The parts I saw were magical. Hope I get to see the whole documentary one day.

I had saved some cookie tins from the resort in Bora Bora where we stayed while diving. They were the tastiest tropical butter cookies I’ve ever had! I poked drainage holes in the bottom of the tins, filled them with soil and then planted a trio of succulents in each.

Now, whenever i water them, I will be thinking of Bora Bora and my magical moment with mantas, en francais!

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In the garden of Gnome

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OK, I guess one would be hard-pressed to call my back staircase a garden. But we must make do with what we have. And though the view is only of my neighbor’s adjacent building, this is San Francisco after all, having a bench seat for one and a pocket of sunshine just off my kitchen is truly a joy.

When it’s not raining and storming like today, I sit and have my morning coffee with Gnome. We stare blissfully at our pots of succulents and herbs, as if they were the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

We have great plans for our little space, which we plan to fill until we all but crowd ourselves out. We’ll have hanging plants and boxed plants and plants mounted on the walls in burlap sacks …

But for now, nous somme content. And that is the whole point of this little “garden” after all.

Reach out and touch some sun.