Inspired by all the reading I've done of my favorite Prague and Czech expat blogs, I headed out with enthusiasm to play tourist in my own town today -- with spectacular results.
My community is fortunate to have the #1 rated Japanese gardens in all of North America. They were created by a local industrialist, John Anderson, who fell in love with Japanese gardens he had seen in Portland, Oregon. He and his wife decided to create their own.
This is a wondrous Spring day, made all the more beautiful by the lack of any pretty days like this preceding it. Seventy degrees. Blue, blue skies. Birds are singing. Finally, the Midwestern crabapple and dogwood around town are starting to bloom.
I walked into the brand new Anderson Gardens Visitor's Center with no expectations and was overwhelmed with the level of excellence. What a gift this couple has given to my city! My eye was immediately drawn to the brand new restaurant (it just opened last Thursday - who knew) and the gorgeous view of the flowers and rock gardens below.
In my excitement I chatted up a lady who turned out to be the restaurant manager. She had read about the owner stopping construction on his visitor's center and new restaurant because he couldn't find the perfect executive chef. She said Mr. Anderson, the garden's owner, wanted the new chef to be able to design his own kitchen to his own exacting chef specifications.
Sue, the restaurant manager, after reading this story, appreciated the patience and exacting nature shown by John Anderson in his search for the perfect person. She, told her up-and-coming, as-yet-undiscovered executive chef husband that he might want to take a look at this opportunity. Her pride in her husband and her advocacy for his work brought tears to my eyes. She took me back to the kitchen to meet him. What a pleasure to experience their joy as this new venture begins to charm my area!
Afterwards I went out into the gardens and enjoyed the waterfalls, the Japanese tea and guest houses, and feeding the koi in the numerous ponds. One of the ladies in the gift shop said that the Japanese do not turn their heads when enjoying a view from a garden bench. They stare straight ahead and when they are ready, they move to the next spot so that they can then again look straight ahead at the view they would like to focus on. In this way, they completely see the scene before them. I tried this at a pond overlook and lost myself in the garden reflections. I felt like I was 17 again and seeing Monet's paintings of pond lillies and the light at Giverney for the first time. I haven't thought about that in a long time.
The gardeners change the patterns in the Zen gravel gardens every three days. Each pattern represents water. A favorite pattern appreciated by the staff is one where they put a rock in the middle of the gravel and the gardener designs the ripples that emanate outward.
The website does the gardens some justice but not complete justice (being able to hear the garden sounds was a nice touch).
I want to go back when the Japanese irises are blooming.