Monday, December 7, 2009

The Secret Gardens

I was simultaneously excited and panicked when I saw a picture of one of my favorite places in Orange County featured in C Magazine this month.

Excited because it’s a unique space that not everyone appreciates, or even notices; seeing it receive some recognition in a magazine is cool. And panicked because part of its charm is that it’s kind of a secret space that not everyone appreciates or even notices…and I kind of like that about it. It’s “my” place…my retreat…my sanctuary. But I suppose it’s time to share…

The place is a courtyard in Costa Mesa, tucked behind some tall office buildings and a parking structure. It’s called the Noguchi Gardens.

Yes, you read that right. A courtyard called the Noguchi Gardens. It’s really a space of art and sculpture, created by the Asian American artist Isamu Noguchi, in an attempt to interpret the different elements of California. The work of art itself is called California Scenario.

What I love about this place is that it’s completely other-worldly. Right off the 405, across the street from a busy shopping center, is a serene, quiet, peaceful place to escape the noise of the cars, the crowds of people, and the cares of the day. It’s a place that's restful but alive with movement and energy. A small stream of water trickles from a huge triangular sandstone waterfall and snakes through the middle of the courtyard to a slanted granite pyramid. A circular mound of desert cacti and plants represents the beauty of California’s deserts and contrasts with a square patch of meadowland surrounded by redwood trees. Lights surrounding the perimeter of the space give it a welcoming glow much like a warm fireplace on a chilly night. And the Gardens provide a different visual experience with every visit because of the way natural light creates different shadows with the elements that make up the space. The sound of the water, constantly moving shadows, and variety of textures and plants create a lively space that is more of a garden than a courtyard.

I have many fun memories associated with this place…my friends and I have bundled up on cold nights and watched the stars from the middle of the Gardens, laying flat on our backs. We’ve brought lanterns and cookies and recited famous poems and sonnets (oh yes, with accents), children’s fables and limericks, and one of our favorites, Jabberwocky. We’ve grabbed frozen yogurt from America’s Cup on hot summer nights and sat on the slabs of sandstone that were still warm from the day’s sunshine, as we tried eating our yogurt faster than it was melting. We’ve played card games, hide and seek, and Catchphrase. And we’ve had plenty of impromptu photo shoots and heart-to-hearts.

It's a magical place, and not-so-secret anymore. Are you ready to go to the Gardens?


Julie Hibbard said...

When my kids were little, we used to go there a LOT! We have video footage of the day Allison lost her Jem doll in that 'river' and photographs of William fishing Zac's Matchbox cars out of it on another occasion!
It is a great place to get away and run around and sit and reflect and just take in the unique beauty.
Haven't been there for years.
I have a feeling it might be more relaxing for me these days...

The OC Gazette said...


i go here every sunday on my way to jerry's deli! this place is so relaxing and almost alien looking, haha. the only bummer is that if you want to sit on the edge of the fountain, the security guard will tell you it's a work of art not a seat and make you sit on the designated benches. So i wanna go when you guys do the lantern vigil because obviously the secrurity guards are absent at that time! haha

your the bestest


Mark Dodd said...

i want to go!

Michelle Doerr said...

Well, this will panic you even more: I saw it mentioned in Sunset Magazine. Which, I'm guessing, has a much larger readership than C Magazine.