A lovely pond just inside the Friend Gate in the Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park is frequented by ducks and seagulls, stocked with large carp and home to turtles that particularly delight small children who were running around the verges and keeping their parents in a state of high alert there last weekend. This water body anchors a large, shallow earthen bowl and is edged by lush planting, sweeps of lawn and picturesquely scattered rocks. The backdrop of sculptural cypresses and pines silhouetted against the sky makes this spot, for me, one of the most iconic places in the park.
On a map of the botanical garden, I find that it’s called Waterfowl Pond. Somehow that name, although arguably descriptive, disappoints me. It seems inadequate to evoke the romantic charm of the place. And maybe also because “fowl” is too close to “foul?” It’s true, the water is murky (the fish loom from shadowy depths when they briefly surface), but in such a rich, earthy, musty way.
Actually, come to think of it, romance doesn’t seem to have been much considered in the naming of water bodies in Golden Gate Park. Many are named after benefactors (Stow, Alvord, Lloyd, Metson, Spreckels?). The Lily Pond has an appealing name, although currently misleading (that may be remedied when it reopens after extensive renovation). Mallard Lake beats out the more generic Waterfowl, I think. North Lake, Middle Lake and South Lake occupy links in the Chain of Lakes, suggesting an excursion that includes all three, like a hike in the wilderness. Elk Glen Lake is my favorite; the glen remains, if not the elk.
But, “what’s in a name,” as Juliette asks in Shakespeare’s classic romance? The charm of water is magnetic regardless and every one of these lakes is singularly romantic in reality.