Imagine seventeen-thousand tulips in an amazing variety of shapes, colors, and sizes, all blooming amidst the vast vistas of the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. April is the time for “Springtime at Ananda,” the annual tulip festival at Crystal Hermitage Gardens, and thousands of viewers come from throughout the state to enjoy the superlative beauty.
These gardens have a special magic that attracts and uplifts people. The sensitive blending of colors and the imaginative landscaping are sublime. And the flowers themselves seem to understand that they are serving as channels of God’s blessings to all who come. In every imaginable hue, the radiant blossoms nod gently in the breeze as if to say, “You are welcome here. Enjoy the beauty, and feel a touch of God’s joy in your heart.”
Last Saturday as we walked through the gardens, what struck us even more than the variety of flowers was the variety of people who had come. The diversity of religions, races, and nationalities enjoying the beautiful natural display was wonderful to see.
Visitors to these gardens come year after year, bringing their children, parents, and friends. Last weekend one family especially caught my eye, a multigenerational Hispanic family: bright-eyed, energetic children; patient, slower-moving grandparents; and bustling, organizing parents all happily gathered together to enjoy a picnic in this haven of peace and beauty.
The place they chose to eat was an outdoor patio table—a table at which Swami Kriyananda would often sit to rest during his afternoon walks through the garden. So many memories of happy, precious moments came flooding back to me of times spent with Swamiji at this table.
Thinking of the Hispanic families in America now living in fear of being deported and separated, my heart was filled with joy seeing their happy faces. Inwardly I thought, “Swamiji, you’ve created a little oasis of peace for this family at your table.” And in response I felt his smile in my heart.
These gardens are a microcosm of the natural beauty which shines equally on everyone. Rain, sun, wind, clouds, trees, and flowers—all of nature—are expressions of God’s love and grace shining without boundaries on all His children. They are messengers to awaken us to our unity with all people, all life, and, ultimately, with God.
For even the beauty of the Hermitage Gardens is only a dim reflection of the divine garden of God’s kingdom. As Paramhansa Yogananda wrote in his Whispers from Eternity:
O Flower of Fragrance! Send us the scent of love, to inspire us always in our search for Thee with longing to climb ever higher into the stratosphere of divine realization. May dreams of Thy perfect garden, far above all space and time—but near to us always, in our hearts!—speed our souls’ journey and quench our thirst in Thee.
May we all find that sacred, hidden garden of divine beauty within.