Garden History

A letter from Devi Novak, one of Ananda’s spiritual directors

Our home at Ananda Village lies next to the beautiful gardens of Crystal Hermitage. Lovely all year round, the gardens reach their full glory during April when thousands of tulips burst forth in bloom. The story behind the gardens is worth telling.

Nearly thirty years ago, when the grounds around the Hermitage were hardly more than dry clay and weeds, Swami Kriyananda said to our head gardeners, Jivada and Netri Mair, “Someday there will be world-class gardens here.” He also predicted, “Someday busloads of people will be coming.” We could only scratch our heads in bewilderment at his words, but over time they’ve proved true.

Working with dedication over the years, Jivada, Netri, and many community volunteers reshaped the clay slopes into terraced flowerbeds. Irrigation systems were installed, truckloads of topsoil brought in, flowering trees and vines planted, and a variety of flowers were changed seasonally. Gardens, like our spiritual lives, take time and effort before they can express their full beauty.

Seven years ago we decided to open the gardens to the public for one weekend in April. About three hundred and fifty visitors came to see the seven thousand beautiful blooms. As word got out about the gardens, more people started to come, and more tulips were planted. Guests began visiting from all over Northern California, with one man even driving up from Los Angeles every year.

This April during “Springtime at Ananda” nearly six thousand people came to see the thirteen thousand tulips blooming during the three weeks that the gardens were open. Almost all Ananda Village residents volunteered with guiding tours, serving refreshments, and directing parking.

A few years ago at the end of April, we called Swamiji in Italy to tell him of the great success of that year’s tulip festival. “It’s amazing,” we told him. “Even after thousands of people have passed through the gardens, the grounds are as beautiful and fresh as ever.”

His reply was wonderful: “It’s not surprising at all. Of course the gardens would look beautiful—they’ve been appreciated by all the people who came to see them.”

Swamiji’s words reminded me of a statement by the great botanist, George Washington Carver: “Everything in nature will speak to you if you love it enough.”

And what do the flowers of Crystal Hermitage say to their admirers? They speak of a beauty and love that is beyond this world, of a peace and harmony that is an intrinsic part of our soul.

Visitors say things like, “This is the spiritual highlight of my year,” “It’s like seeing heaven on earth,” or “Now for the first time I understand what Ananda and communities are all about.” This year Crystal Hermitage boutique even sold out of books on meditation.

People come to see beautiful gardens, but their lives are uplifted and changed on an inner level. When we stop to listen, God can speak to us through His flowers and remind us of the beauty of our true home in Him.

With love in God,

Nayaswami Devi