Ocean Song (1980)
In 1980, the second rural Ananda center was formed at Ocean Song on the northern California coast.
Memories of Oceansong
The ‘second Ananda Village’ or an Ananda rural community was called Oceansong and it is, sorry to say, not still in existence. Nevertheless, it was a glorious experiment in community building, great fun for all who lived and visited there, and definitely a wonderful training ground and learning experience for me personally!
In the Spring of 1979, Swamiji proposed an ambitions undertaking which came to be called “The Blitz.” It was a series of promotional classes in various Bay Area cities, leading up to a weekend of classes in San Francisco by Swamiji on the subject of “Superconscious Living.” One of the cities picked for these classes was Santa Rosa, CA, a beautiful location north of San Francisco and home to Luther Burbank, who was a good friend and student of Master’s.
Each of the classes had a separate theme, such as Organic Gardening, Music, Meditation, Starting Communities, etc. Attending the “Communities” workshop in Santa Rosa was a couple named Pieter and Marya Myers. They owned a truly magnificent 900 acre parcel of land in Sonoma County, on Coleman Valley Road and fairly close to Bodega Bay, CA, upon which they had been attempting, for several years, to found a cooperative community. Not meeting with much success in their endeavors, they came to the Ananda “Starting Communities” workshop looking for ideas and inspiration.
They became convinced that Ananda Village was everything they had hoped for in establishing a successful cooperative community and after visiting the Village frequently, becoming kriyabans, and meeting Swamiji, they offered to give the land to Ananda, if Ananda members would move to the land and establish another similar community.
The land on which Oceansong was located is almost “astral” in its beauty. It sits on rolling hills of meadows and redwood forests and has spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. The climate is ideal for gardening, never too cold or too hot, with fog and sunshine playing tag with each other on an almost daily basis. A verbal agreement was reached with the Myers and a group of Ananda residents moved to Oceansong in 1980 and began creating housing, a school, and a temple.
At its peak of population, it was home to some 25 community members. Its elementary school had 20 or so students—the founders and primary teachers included Ivor Sowton, Shoshana Leah, and Tim Tschantz. Sunday Services and meditation and yoga classes began to be held on a regular basis. There was a branch of the Ananda Builders’ Guild at Oceansong which helped to supplement community income.
Sudarshan and I were asked to move to Oceansong in the Fall of 1982 and serve as its Ministers. Roy and Paula Gugliotta were then in residence as managers of the community. Paula converted the nicest home on the property into a 3-bedroom bed and breakfast lodge, called St. Francis Bed and Breakfast Inn.
This was also a great boon to the community income flow and a really pretty place which many, many friends and guests enjoyed for several years. We also had a small monastery for men located in an isolated section of the land.
The gardens and orchards at Oceansong were fertile and beautiful and we all worked in them as time allowed. Flowers were abundant and colorful. One of our favorite crops was the amazingly delicious raspberries we planted and tended. Another crop we loved was the exceptionally tasty potatoes.
We had a small dairy with Jersey cows who gave exceptionally creamy milk. We all ate well! And we came to understand through direct experience why Luther Burbank had chosen an
area not too far from Oceansong to establish is world-famous experimental gardens.
For the 3 years we lived and served at Oceansong, we continued along the guidelines of “community building and managing” we had learned from Swami and from our experiences at Ananda Village. We kept in close touch with Swami, the Ananda leadership, and other fledgling Ananda communities in the Bay Area. Things seemed to be moving along very well indeed!
My time there was filled with learning how to teach classes on many different topics. I taught a class almost every night of the week, either at Oceansong itself or at some neighboring community like Sebastopol, Petaluma, Gurneville, Bodega Bay, and Santa Rosa. I was a fairly new Ananda Minister/teacher, with much to learn! Sudarshan became very good at setting up and promoting classes for me to teach in our area. Our marriage was in its early years also, and we began to figure out how to work as a harmonious team.
Money was always scarce, so almost all of our residents had outside jobs of some sort to supplement their incomes. I cleaned houses in a retirement center near Santa Rosa, and Sudarshan took handy-man jobs where he could find them in our area.
I have many happy memories of walking the spectacular hills and valleys of Oceansong. Our beautiful little temple there was a bee-hive of spiritual activities: daily morning meditations, Sunday Services, classes, kirtans, holiday celebrations and so on. Although it was a lot of hard work and ceaseless service, it was also a great blessing to be there—Divine Mother seemed so close and so comforting to me in that heavenly scenery.
Our newsletter was called Sea Melodies, and it supplemented our regular quarterly calendar of events. We offered a yoga teacher training program, a How to Live (apprenticeship) program, Biodynamic Gardening and Dairy two-month intensive course, Human Relationships course, membership training (Discipleship) series, regular monthly retreats, visiting programs by Swami, Asha and Shivani, Rajarsi and World Brotherhood Days, How to Deepen Your Meditations, Cooperative Spiritual Living Program, whale watching trips, hosted All-Ananda Ministers’ Training (and other) Programs, built a temple while we were there, put on skits and other entertainments, made ice cream from our own Jersey cow’s cream, and had weekly 3-hour meditations,
Our housing situations were primitive and barely adequate—just like the early days at Ananda Village. Sudarshan and I lived in a log cabin which had once been home to a bull. It did have water and electricity (occasionally) but no phone and only an outhouse, which I dug myself! It was indeed living closer to nature than I would have preferred, but still it was great fun and an experience I would not have wanted to miss.
In 1985 we returned to Ananda Village as we were needed there and because Oceansong was beginning to move into a different phase. Alas, our verbal agreement with the land owners was becoming not enough to justify further building and development of the land without a more definite agreement. When we began to negotiate to either purchase the land or have a long-term lease, it became clear that our mission as a community in service to Master was now not in alignment with the owners’ wishes.
Oceansong officially closed as an Ananda Community in 1986. Why was it not able to continue on as an Ananda Community? I’ve often asked Divine Mother that question over the years. No good answer has ever come. But certainly there is always a reason for everything! Still it was such an excellent training ground for many long-time Ananda members, most of whom remember our “Oceansong years” very fondly.
—Savitri Simpson with Sudarshan Simpson