Wednesday, July 2, 2014

How Am I Driving? Call 1-800...

Pity the truck driver. Does anyone actually call? It seems like every day there’s a jack-knifed big rig on the 605 or 710 freeway.

Imagine if we all had that bumper sticker on our back. How am I doing on this long-distance haul?

Last week my daughter, Shari, and son-in-law, Jim, were in town. We treated ourselves to a day at the Huntington Gardens. Jim and I took turns pushing Peggy in her wheelchair, which is to say, I lasted about 20 minutes through the hothouse of orchids and then Jim generously did the grunt work for the next 2-3 hours. The downhills were harder than the uphills.

Life is a zig-zag over speed bumps leading into dead-ends. If you don’t believe it try navigating a wheelchair through the spectacular Chinese into the Japanese gardens. The signage is poor but I’m not complaining since it allowed us to double back and linger longer and that's what it’s all about.

The paths were laid in intricate pebbled patterns one of which led us under a waterfall. Every wrong turn offered another angle to gaze and fix the image in our head for further contemplation. Pink lotus blossom in reflective ponds with stone bridges arching. Willows drape over the water alongside plum trees and lilac. Pavilions are perfectly placed with wood carvings. Huge, withered limestone edifices sculpted by wind gave a contrasting dimension to the scene.

A bamboo-lined road led us to the Japanese garden with a markedly different aesthetic, spare and simple. Boulders set within a large area of raked gravel offered an appreciation of negative space. Manicured Bonsai trees. Wooden foot bridges over orange koi fish. A tea-house built and shipped from Kyoto. Suiseki stones, an ancient art form are miniature landscapes in themselves. 

Both gardens are stunning. On some level you begin to experience the balance achieved by the solidity of wood or stone against the transient sky as seen in the mirrored water. The Chinese garden also inspires calligraphy poems which caption each vantage point.  

You have to hand it to these robber-barons. They pinched and plundered, bribed and connived their way to obscene riches. Henry Huntington rode on the fortune amassed by Uncle Collis and was smart enough to marry Arabella, the widow of his uncle. Together they put their 207 acres to good use. Ironic how the exploited labor of the Chinese who built the railroads is returned in the exquisite garden.

How am I driving? The journey is the destination. There is no speeding through the Huntington. We have been there about a dozen times over the years and still have not visited the Australian or sub-tropical foliage.  If life is a steady stream I’m a reckless driver, holding up traffic. Go ahead, call 800….. I’m too busy smelling the roses in their three acre garden intoxicated by the perfume and dazzled by the colors and textures.

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