Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Sherpa and the Chairs of Chanticleer

Center of all centers, core of cores,
almond self-enclosed and growing sweet —
all this universe, to the furthest stars
and beyond them, is your flesh, your fruit.*
Rainer Maria Rilke
We are once again without our Sherpa. She left on Sunday on a bus to Massachusetts and her boyfriend, and we have resumed the usual routine. That’s not to say we’re unhappy, only that we miss our friend, again.

Sherpa is one of our New Zealand Friends, and the one who followed us from Nelson, where we first met, to Wellington before driving us through the North Island to Auckland. More commonly known as Diane, our Sherpa is capoeirista, yogini, surfer, clairvoyant, barista, and, even if she doesn’t yet know it, burgeoning life coach: She’ll Get You There™. She is a New Zealander by way of San Diego, having sailed in a small boat across the Pacific with the family of another NZF, Taya.

Our holiday began last Wednesday evening, when we drove to Baltimore to pick her up. There was something adventurous about the extravagant distance, and something right about picking her up a year to the day since we had returned from the Land of the Long White Cloud. Seeing her again reminded Jenifer and me that perhaps the greatest thing that came out of our trip to New Zealand, apart from the magnificent sense of freedom and possibility, was the friends we made. A reminder that the best of friends pick up whenever they meet as if no time has passed at all.

I recently joked with the very first of these friends, with whom my history goes back over 30 years, that most of our friends are over 50. He said that we need to get out more. I replied that we don’t like young people. He laughed. My statement was not a complaint but a recognition of the Venn diagram of circles we travel in locally through the yoga community, my local men’s group, and the cultural creatives of Phoenixville. And so it’s odd that we should slip so easily into a network of similarly aged new people so far away from home, and odder still that this should have happened in Nelson. It is a town that is surprising international in population and which serves the same function for New Zealanders as the Southwest does for Americans. People go there to escape, retreat, recover, retire.

We wanted to show Sherpa our place, of course, but also something beyond the usual routines and haunts. Sure, Sherpa accompanied Jenifer on her daily yoga rounds, and we visited Artisan’s (where in a fit of nostalgia I claimed the title of Mr. Americano, imbibing my favorite Kiwi coffee drink with not two but three shots of espresso — P-P-P-POW!) But we needed to do something special, only what?

Memory of a brief documentary surfaced (public television being our chief means of contact with the Outer World), an inkling blossomed into an impulse, and suddenly the answer was clear: we would visit Chanticleer Garden. We had been astounded to learn of this place nestled only a short drive away in the horse country of Wayne.

Chanticleer proved amazing from the very beginning. After a picnic lunch alongside a stream, we made our way through the vast lawns and intimate gardens, marveling at the variety of wildflowers and coziness of tree-sheltered hideaways. Sprinkled throughout the property at key viewing points was an assortment of Adirondack chairs, and we tried them all. Delightfully playful and many-colored, one set was even painted with giraffe spots. From the solid New Colonial architecture of the estate to the sculptural benches and footbridges, everything seemed integrated and chosen with care. A fraction of the size of the ever-popular Longwood Gardens, Chanticleer was more private and more immediate. It’s designed to be experienced, not consumed. Truly a pleasure garden.

The remainder of the week found us mostly lazing, in part because my foray into the Wild had brought about the worst episode of allergicality since the elms of Stockholm laid siege to my sinuses two summers ago. We attended a beautiful kirtan on Saturday night, but our thoughts kept returning to the garden of the rooster.

The funny thing about traveling is that you really do learn as much about yourself, your culture, as you do about the foreign destination. At Chanticleer we were traveling previously unknown pathways in our own land and finding ourselves somehow richer, freer. The day was an affirmation of what we already have: a secret world hidden in plain view. In Chanticleer we found a little piece of luck in our own backyard. It gave us the kind of experience we’ve been so fortunate in finding abroad. For all our yearning to be elsewhere at times, we have a pretty good life right here.

*From “Buddha in Glory” in The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke. Copyright © 1982 by Stephen Mitchell.

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Blogger Mainline Mom said...

Sounds like someplace worth visiting before we move south. Jenifer is looking beautiful in that photo :) I love how pregnant women look.

4:02 PM  
Anonymous Eric said...

Dude, the shoulders on Sherpa are Schwarzenegarian!


6:12 PM  
Anonymous jenifer said...


it is a really beautiful garden--it only cost $5 to get in (for adults) and i think little ones are free.

easy to get to, you can picnic of course, and really lovely. :D

(and yeah, sherpa is hot!)

6:50 AM  

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