From the kitchen window of this little "mouse house" I'm renting for the winter, I can see them, huge golden lemons; they hang heavy from the limbs of not one but two potted trees sitting in the courtyard of a grand home behind my little cottage. A stout iron gate protects this citrus from my impulsive need to harvest unappreciated fruit.
In this case the idea of forbidden fruit is twofold. The entire idea of the courtyard here in Savannah is to cordon off a little privacy from the bustling street scene. Life here is a mix of the gritty and the genteel.
At this moment, lamplight burnishes the red-papered parlor of the posh inn across the square, while at the other end of the street, revelers at Pinkie Master's bar loiter outside on smoke breaks shouting and cursing, the sound reverberating through the high walls on this short street off Lafayette Square. In between and in perfect counterpoint sits a soaring cathedral whose punctual bells contribute to the cacophony.
I can understand the need for an oasis, a safe island within the fray. And yet I find all these courtyards so frustrating. I want to see inside them. I want to sit inside them. I want to pick those darn lemons!
There are a few courtyards with solid, shuttered doors, with no possibility of entry or even a peek. Those people will pay for that privacy with a lack of air circulation on hot, humid days. But most of the courtyards are screened with see-thru hedges and iron filgree fences, allowing for a quick glom here and there. Gates otherwise are the best chance for a lingering glimpse.
Given this idea of a patio peep show, it's hard not to write about the concept of the courtyard in such terms as flirtatious, titllating and seductive. A courtyard is nothing more than a coquette that leaves the outsider wanting more.
The idea of sitting in the cool shadows beneath umbrella-like banana leaves, while glinty water trickles from a fountain shaped like a fantail fish or some Roman goddess. It all seems very otherworldly and exotic and wonderful.
For now I'll just walk the streets and try to be discreet while I gawk at these little almost secret gardens. As I tell my kids, it's good to have something to wish for.