Moments of life in a dead city

A photo collection and essay by Carol Morgan

Garden entrance

Carol Morgan is a Washington, D.C. multi-media artist working in pen and ink drawings, sculpture, watercolor, and collage. Her work appears in galleries in the D.C. region including Art League Gallery in Alexandria, Friendship Heights Community Center, and Glen Echo Park. In addition, her drawings of subway and bus riders appeared in a 2020 Washington Post op-ed, and in her book Metro Anthology, with poems by Gerry Hendershot. She has studied at the Art League School, Washington Studio School, the Corcoran, the Smithsonian, and with such master artists as watercolorist John Salminen.

Carol is also a photographer. In 2021, she took a Smithsonian class on photo essays, with images from her class project displayed in this collection. In Oct. 2023, Carol wrote the essay presented here, with an excerpt appearing in the Washington Post. She is a National Press Club member and long-time exhibitor in the Club's annual members photo exhibits.

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"One day I discovered a passageway"

Two years ago, weary of the deprivation brought on by the pandemic, I began walking in my Columbia Heights neighborhood. Often, I walked up 11th Street from Harvard Street, toward Park Road. The streets were usually deserted; the row houses joyless. I photographed them to submit to my teacher in my online class.

Hoping to find beauty, I later painted the scenes. But the paintings reflected my mood: the houses suggested frightened people crouching down, with windows for horrified eyes and doors for screaming mouths.

One day I discovered a passageway between houses on 11th Street, between Lamont and Park Road. It led to a wire fence with a sign on top that read, "Bienvenidos." I walked up to the fence, and met two young people at the garden entrance. I introduced myself and the lady, "Pri," asked me what business I had with the garden. Once I explained I was in a photography class and looking for scenes to photograph, she allowed me to enter.

On the way to the garden

Approaching the garden

At the garden entrance

Garden entrance

Just outside the garden fence

Garden fence

Just outside the garden

Outside the garden

"Here was Eden!"

Swinging inside the wide door, I walked down a grassy path between bushes overflowing with tall orange calendulas, zinnias of all colors, and other flowers. Ahead, in a clearing, there were picnic tables and an Adirondack chair. On the left I saw trees with leaves that reminded me of hands. I later learned they were fig trees. I saw many other trees and plants I did not recognize. Straight ahead was a large curved structure in the shape of a greenhouse without the glass. I later learned that it was the “hoop,” housing bushy collard greens and other plants. Flowers of all colors and purple amaranth fronds adorned its entrance.

Looking around the area, which was about an acre, I saw many plots of plants here and there, some waist high and some with trellises. I heard the sharp greeting of a blue jay, and saw monarch butterflies alight on blossoms. What was a garden doing in the heart of Columbia Heights? What a change from 11th Street, with its stony blocks of identical row houses. Here was Eden! I was reminded of the Biblical verse: “And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden.” It seemed to be about an acre, rimmed by trees and a fence. Beyond that, rose two- and three-story buildings, their back porches and windows turned sleepily into the garden.

Just inside the garden

Outside the garden

Flowers blooming inside the garden

Flowers in the garden

Hoop house

Wire hoop with vines