I am coming back into myself as I recover from my long hospitalization in Amsterdam. I am nearly independent on my feet, walking up to 2 miles a day now. My upper body has filled in enough to make my Amsterdam PJ’s look small on me, and I’m more fully occupying my old bras. [TMI? Anyone share this weird repeat of adolescence?]
When we return to Shands Hospital at the beginning of November for a repeat CT scan of my abdomen, my days of being a patient will be just outnumbered by my days of being a new-born civilian. I expect Shands to find me significantly improved and increasingly boring from a medical point of view, with no need for any further probing for six months. That’s how I’m approaching things.
Physical independence has expanded my world: from a single bed, to a hospital hallway, to Oosterpark, to Florida my home and neighborhood. Yesterday, my husband and I ventured further than we’ve been since our return, and, as always, we are the better for this little taste of travel.
Our destination was the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens about a half-hour from us along the Intracoastal Waterway of West Palm Beach. This monumental brick sculpture, untitled but inspired by the Himalayas, announces your arrival at a splendidly unique realm.
It was envisioned, designed and built by Ann Weaver Norton, a small woman with a monumental vision who made her way from Alabama to New York City at age 23 to pursue her art. She studied sculpture at Cooper Union and other schools, and she secured traveling fellowships to visit sculpture gardens in England and Italy, places she must surely have reflected back on in later years. During her 15 years in New York, she achieved significant success, showing her work at the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
In 1943, needing income to support her art, Ann Weaver accepted a teaching position at the art school affiliated with the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach. She was an independent woman of 43 when she married the museum founder, wealthy steel magnate and recent widower Ralph Norton, 30 years her senior. He built her a studio behind their home before he died just 5 years later. Ann Weaver Norton lived and worked in this splendid property until her death in 1982. The home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the two-acre garden contains 250 species of palms and cycads and nine of the mammoth sculptures she began building in West Palm Beach.
The work of several other artists appears to sprout organically from the tropical landscape.
Two surprise connections to my old Foreign Service life made our visit particularly meaningful. The end of the Cold War is celebrated in one garden piece …
… and Ann Norton’s sculptures were selected to be shown at the Residence of the American Ambassador to Hungary in Budapest in 2002 as part of the State Department’s Art in Embassies project. To this Foreign Service kid, knowing that Ann Weaver Norton helped tell America’s story overseas made our visit particularly meaningful.