Travel: The Tulips at Ananda

It used to be that one would call the phone number or look at Ananda Village‘s website to find out when the gardens were opening to the public every spring. Now we just wait for the Facebook posts to appear, and then we know it’s time.

The gardeners at this retreat center/religious community plant 900 tulips every autumn, and then pull many out the next year and plant anew. I’ve heard that if you volunteer for the clean-up crew you can take some of the old bulbs home, but since this is hearsay, you’d better find out for yourself. Over time, the place has built up a vast sea of loveliness: the gardeners we spoke to reported 17,000 tulips were blooming this year.

If there’s one thing I like, it’s color. If there’s another, it’s flowers. And if I’m allowed to like three, give me abundance, plenty, an excess, a whole heckuva lot! So the gardens at the Crystal Hermitage are my cup of tea.

S. beneath the new wisteria arbor (this winter the old one was dragged down by all the vines, which had to be radically cut back, so few blossoms yet).

Three friends and I went there this morning and spent an hour walking the terraces, sitting on benches, taking photos of flowers and each other, and soaking in beauty. It’s April. It was already 75 degrees. We’re tired of winter and politics and the human condition in general. This was a lovely reprieve.

We had a new grandmother among us, categorically exhausted, me in the middle of National Poetry Month, ditto, and two friends who’ve been cooking on the regular for our local homeless shelter and needed to forget about multiplying recipes by ten.

I’ve written poems in this gazebo in other springs, and also once, sitting at the little glass table inside, tried to convince a friend that it was time for him to call on hospice. He listened patiently and then did not do so. I think of the conversation very fondly, though. The quality of his attention was incredibly sweet. And yes, he did die, the following August. The wisteria here is fairly new, and still growing like a standard. I wonder where they will train it?

Wisteria through gingerbread is my kind of view. And a little shade on a warm day.

There’s something great, too, about looking at plants in relation to hardscaping: walls or fretted woodwork or stone balustrades. The soft and the rough, the old and the fleeting. Plain, natural substances with actual and metaphoric gravity, and airy, winsome, brightly-colored, transient flowers. And of course water.

A cool fountain here, a pond filled by waterfalls there…

Some years this pond is completely covered with cherry blossom petals, but we missed that moment today. I don’t mind looking at naked water, however.

These gardens are on the south side of the Yuba River’s middle fork’s canyon — if you stand still and the tourists aren’t too chatty, you can hear the water crashing below.

It’s not a bad place to gather your wits, extend your view, and find your balance again. With friends or on your own, there’s a strong feeling of connectedness there, an abiding serenity.

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