Twenty-one years ago my neighbors, Bill and Donna Dufresne, were preparing to retire.
They had lived here for years but noticed things changing, macmansions were replacing the Grove's beloved old houses. Increasing rents were forcing artists to leave and traffic was worsening.
The Dufresnes love art, nature, and a quiet life. When they visited Donna's sister in Taos, New Mexico, they were smitten.
It was time to move.
After we helped them pack their truck, Bill and Donna drove off and never looked back. When I visited them in New Mexico last week it was obvious they had made the right choice.
The talented twosome built this lovely adobe home on a mesa overlooking the town.
After the sun slips behind the Sangre de Cristo mountains, its lights twinkle below.
Because of their hard work, their house has desert colors emanating from every part of it.
Bill has his wood shop and Donna, a painting studio. Over the years they're created a designer home, a guest "casita" and decorated their slow-moving motor home, "Pokey".
Taos is smaller than the Grove but is much more abundant in art, culture and and outdoor activity. What do we have, two art galleries?
Taos has almost thirty.
We visited photographer, Lenny Foster, in his downtown gallery. He is an incredible talent (you'll know when you visit his website, lennyfoster.com).
In January his work will be shown at St. Augustine's Amiro Gallery and at the Saint Augustine Art Association Gallery.
There's always something going on in Taos- concerts, opera, art shows... It not only attracts artists but the people who want to see and purchase their creations.
Historic preservation doesn't mean much in Coconut Grove. These days a dozen old buildings are knocked down every month.
In Taos, the old mud buildings are revered. They enhance both the cultural and the business communities.
Thousands of native Americans live in the Taos Pueblo, a cluster of adobe structures a mile north of town. Say what you will about "mud huts", they've been living in theirs for over 600 years, long before the conquistadors arrived in 1540.
Bill and Donna's magical town prospers in splendid isolation. I suppose it helps it from being overrun by developers. You really have to drive to get to the there, you must barrel over and around strings of mountains. To get to "the big city" (Santa Fe) you follow the Rio Grande for an hour as it flows south. This distance slows growth and so does the will of the people who live there. Artists (and other low income people) can still afford to live in Taos.
The Grove's problems that drove the Dufresnes to New Mexico have only worsened. Now that the Sarnoff era is over there's a glimmer of hope that we may begin to preserve our past. The Grove's answer to low-income housing is still, "move to Little Havana". And the traffic? People tell me public transportation will save us. When was the last time you boarded a bus?
Our village is still wonderful in many ways.
Our weather is warm and we enjoy mountains of clouds. If we can hold tight to the spirit that says, "Don't take away the things we love", if we can make our politicians listen to us, and if we find alternatives to the "constant growth" mentality, maybe we can become more like Taos. Maybe we can become the Coconut Grove that no one wants to leave.
New Mexico loves its peppers. I bought bunches of them to give to friends along the way home. Texas comes up next.
The plaza information booth gets a new coat.
The Taos Plaza is the town's center. There's a concert every week. Peacock Park could be like that.
Taos, like most towns we visited, has a city-sponsored farmers market. The Grove's version, in a dusty lot with lousy parking, is a
half of what it could be.
We should put
one next to Regatta Park.
The Grove, like any community, can be improved. All it takes
is people like us working to make it so.