Afternoon retreat


Much of North America has been in a deep winter freeze this week. Here in Providence, temperatures never rose out of the teens most days and at night they dropped down close to zero degrees (fahrenheit). January tends to be the coldest time of year here. It’s also a time when the winter blues start to catch up with me. Luckily I’ve discovered a remedy—a little-known East Side gem that works wonders on my state of mind and my dry nasal passages. Brown University’s greenhouse, located on Waterman Street between Prospect and Thayer Street is open to the public daily from 7:30am to 3:30pm. I’m on campus every weekday for work and I like to stop in to warm up, breathe in the humid fragrant air, and gawk at whatever happens to be in bloom.


The conservatory is a resource for the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. As stated on the department website, “Artists, gardeners, tinkerers, dreamers, readers, thinkers, general plant lovers, and green and brown thumbs are encouraged to visit.” The greenhouse is small but densely packed with a wide range of plant species representing many different climate zones.


Cacti stretch up from a sandy bed toward the roof of the greenhouse, palm trees grow out of the floor, potted orchids adorn a stepped shelf, and alocasia plants spill into one of the pathways. There’s even a tiny goldfish pond.


During most of my visits, I’m the only person there. Each time I enter, an involuntary smile stretches across my face and as I remove my many winter layers and accessories, I feel myself relax and the muscles in my neck and shoulders loosen. I stroll up and down the three aisles observing the specimen. Some days, when I have some time, I sit and read awhile or scribble in my sketchbook. Every visit is restorative, and I leave both mellowed and energized. Each year I grow older, I feel myself grow more intolerant of the cold and weary of the grey winter weather and short spurts of daylight. But I’ve learned to combat the gloom with regular exercise, fresh colorful foods, and heart lifting activities like my afternoon greenhouse sessions.

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One Response to Afternoon retreat

  1. Jane Allard February 5, 2013 at 1:00 am #

    This writing is exquisite! Your senses ARE your words and vice-versa. I have traveled, thanks to you, to this Afternoon retreat and am grateful for the invitation. Next I shall actually go in search of the color and warmth of green living hopeful things!!
    Color in winter reminds me of “Flora in Winter” at the Worcester (MA) Art Museum. I checked and it has just passed by, but mark your calendar for this event. Floral artists are welcomed, invited to create a work in their medium that gives the impression of a Museum piece or work. It becomes a stunning setting full full full of color, fragrance and life, for one long weekend a year. If you research it on line you will get a taste of the beauty there. (Next year!) Be well and thank you for teaching us to ‘step lightly.’ Jane

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