Dreaming of Sky Pines by Moira McLaughlin (work in progress), 2011
My May collage of my Longhaired Dachshund Darby is coming along. It's inspired by a walk I took with him on a rural neighborhood road called Sky Pines. We saw all of these animals and birds (the great blue heron flew right over us like a pterodactyl) and more, and had no idea how I was going to fit them all in. That night, Darby was twitching and barking in his sleep, and I thought perhaps he was dreaming of his walk. That was my solution. Make it like a dream, like a Hieronymus Bosch. I'm going to put Darby on the back of the heron like Europa on the back of Zeus disguised as a Bull.
This post is part of an ongoing series of the Longhaired Dachshund calendar I am making. Click here to see the other months.
About 30 minutes from Grass Valley is a place called Ananda Village. According to its website it is "a cooperative spiritual community dedicated to the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda, founded by his direct disciple, Swami Kriyananda." I've heard it referred to as a commune and a former cult. Today, 250 people live there on 900 acres and devote themselves following the advice from the Swami's book How to Be Happy All the Time through "simple living and high thinking."
I've been fascinated by this place for a while. In fact, the truth is Ananda Village is one of the reasons I moved to Grass Valley. No, I didn't want to join the commune. Although the yoga, the lack of one true religion, and the people-are-more-important-than-things-philosophy appeal to me, it was the tulips that drew me here. When my sister, Sheila, who moved here first, started sending me photos of the tulips I was in awe. When she explained that the photos were nothing, and there was no way to describe the beauty of this terraced garden overlooking the gorge of the South Yuba River, and that the gardens were open to the public only once a year in April, something sparked in me. I had to see this place that sounded like a cross between Willy Wonka and The Wizard of Oz. Shortly after that, I decided to move.
Surprisingly, I didn't see the tulips the first year I moved here. April got filled up and I missed the window. This year, I didn't let that happen and I went twice, once with friends and kids on the opening weekend and once with Sheila and her mother-in-law on a weekday. Both visits were powerful; the first for the unbridled energy we all felt with the kids running around (and the special maple-glazed scones one of the member's bakes for the visitors), and the second for the feeling of being in the garden alone. It was just us and two other people
I still don't exactly know what goes on there year-round. But the people I met at Ananda Village did seem happy, really happy, in a way I couldn't get a bead on. They weren't hippie-ish. They looked like suburbanites who shopped the Lands' End catalog yearly -- crisp, colorful, and pressed. Ok, the second time I went, there was a guy in a belted pantsuit with a groovy badge. But mostly the members just seemed sincere. What was their angle? The prices in the gift shop didn't seem to have the standard retail markup. I'm not even sure if there was any markup. And the tulips! Sheila was right, there really is no way to describe them. Willy Wonka and The Wizard of Oz are technical illusions caught on film. This is real, with a blossomy breeze and the sound of the river echoing up with a gurgling roar. The photos here, and all the photos I've ever seen can't capture it. But know that the members plant 9,000 bulbs every year for five months. Then, they pull them up, sketch a new garden plan, and start over, like a living mandala.
So, as I've been making my way through the months for my Longhaired Dachshund Calendar starring my dog, Darby, I knew I wanted the April collage to be about the Ananda tulips. Both times, before we went, I asked my sister Sheila to take photos for me. And I brought my camera too and tried my best...
Between us we had some great shots. But I felt defeated. Anything layered or intricate would pale in comparison. So I decided to go in the opposite direction. I went for concentration instead of intricasy. As I mentioned, in the Ed Ruscha post on Friday, I decided to make a silhouette. When I completed it, I flashed on something someone said on our second visit. It was a woman who was with the pantsuit-guy. She entered the garden and looked out over the view and said, "It really opens up your love chakra, doesn't it?" So that inspired the name for the April collage...
Open Up Your Love Chakra
I did a little research after the piece was finished and was happy to find the colors that represent the love chakra are green and pink. Also, I think it's interesting that one of the most beloved books, and now movies, about dog-love is J.R. Ackerley's My Dog Tulip . Anyone who has one knows that nothing opens up your love chakra like a dog, but every April in Nevada County 9,000 tulips come close.
On to May. It's still freezing up here. Got to get more firewood.
I wanted March to be as explosive as spring in the Sierra Foothills. Thank you Sharon Montrose for letting me use your baby deer photograph. Visit Sharon's Animal Print Shop to see her menagerie of animal photographs. Prints of my collage will be available soon. Calendar will be for sale this fall.
See the rest of my 2012 Longhaired Dachshund Darby Calendar here.