The Miami Beach Botanical Garden
The Miami Beach Botanical Garden was a bit of a disappointment.
Having grown up in Florida, I can tell you that all manner of strange things grow in that state, and that the climate lends itself to being tropical and creepy. I remember once while my mother was gardening, she came across a tiny live turtle which I later gave to my biology teacher (the last time I saw it, many years later in his classroom, it had grown to nearly three times its original size, and had made several turtle friends). Any amount of playing outside would unearth some strange plant, or an even stranger bug, and we’d occasionally have those terrifying conversations with parents where we’d struggle to describe – exactly – the snake we’d seen.
Was it black with red stripes or red with black stripes? We could never say, really, and were often told things like, “Well, maybe you should play inside for the rest of the afternoon.”
It was always interesting, always vaguely dangerous-feeling.
We had purslane in our backyard, which my mother would feed me in salads (though, in retrospect, I realize she had no way of verifying that it was in fact purslane at the time. I mean, clearly it was, because after eating it, I wasn’t violently ill and the walls didn’t melt, but … shouldn’t she have double-checked on that? I’m just saying).
I suppose it’s miraculous that I survived my Floridian adolescence. It seemed that everything we picked up would turn into something else right before our eyes – an experience so wonderful and frightening that to this day, whenever I see something in the woods or at the beach, I dive in and grab it, bare-handed.
Rand will rightfully scold me for this behavior, but by then I’ve usually rubbed whatever I’ve found all over my eyes and mucus membranes. Or I’ve eaten it.
Having grown up on a veritable Island of Dr. Moreau, you can imagine that my expectations for a botanical garden at the southern tip of the state would be rather high. The gardens did not come through for me. There were no half-man half-pumas, no misplaced turtles, and I left without eating a single plant.
The entrance did look promising – an enormous gate flanked by giant palms.
And while the rest of it was lovely and well-kept, it was rather small.
This is the Japanese Garden, pretty much in its entirety:
In fifteen minutes I’d seen all of it, but managed to while away a few more minutes scrutinizing the sculptures that are placed throughout the gardens.
While the garden was less impressive as a tourist attraction, I suspect it could be a big draw for locals. Imagine having this just a few blocks from your home or office. You could take lunch, gather your thoughts, and sit around.
But as a visitor to the city, I was nonplussed. After 20 minutes or so of walking in a large circle, I decided that I’d seen enough. As I started to leave, I reasoned that I’d be able to tell people that I walked entirely around the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens. Which sounds like a massive accomplishment, even if it wasn’t.
And just as I started heading towards the exit, I saw it.
Could it be? Yes. YES.
IT WAS A TEENY TINY LITTLE LIZARD.
Just like that I was jettisoned back to my childhood in that wild, tropical state. Of catching small creatures and eating things we probably shouldn’t have.
As for the lizard, I’m pleased to say he made it through our encounter unscathed. But had it been 20 years ago? Well, I’m sure I would have found him – and the rest of the botanical garden – to be quite delicious.
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