A Personal Account of Garth’s Boulder Gardens
By Naveed Ansari
I remember the first time we entered forever and took a right turn onto an unpaved road. It was summer and it was 105 degrees; the desert was ablaze, and you were driving. I didn’t know where we were going.
Left on God’s Way Love. You said, “we’re close”. “Where are we going?” “It’s a surprise.”
Nestled in the foothills of the San Gorgonio Mountains, there are thousands of boulders – a place known as Garth’s Boulder Gardens; the site of dreams.
“One can discuss it forever and never exhaust it.” Rumi
A BIPOC couple greeted us, embraced us, and offered us water. They were visiting in a bright yellow school bus that had been converted into a living space. I poked my head in and saw tarot cards, sage, palo santo, books on Zen, organic foods, Kabbalah, Sufism, psilocybin, and crystals. Beatniks in the desert, dharma bums out of a Kerouac novel who’d found themselves here, at the end of God’s Way Love.
We arrive at Garth’s teepee. There is an outdoor kitchen, sauna, watering hole, a firepit, a large teepee, and several cars parked outside. A dog rushed to greet us and show us love. We sat down to play with him, and someone told us his name was Buddha. The enchantment! The desert in high heat, and here we are, experiencing here, now, with Buddha. I had a profound feeling of being held by the land, cradled in the immanence of the experience, the mesmerizing spontaneity of the day, the synchronicities, and absolute delight. I was getting a different experience; I felt that immediately, something new, something fresh, an experience that brought me closer to myself, and nurtured a deliverance into my body, my mind, my spirit. Boulder Gardens, an experience where the mind or soul manifests.
Boulder Gardens is structured through a nonprofit organization and is mostly donation based. People have been hanging out here for over 45 years, and Garth has been there the entire time; one man on a 640-acre property; the big man who founded Boulder Gardens. I don’t know too much about his origin story. He used to wear white and walk across the United States, barefoot, hitching rides. He came to adopt Boulder Gardens in the late 1970’s and began cultivating the land. He’s a quiet guy and perhaps it is because a being like Garth, who has spent many days and nights amongst the trees, the birds, the storms, and the wind, who has lived well and nurtured a multi-generational community of beautiful people, doesn’t need to say much.
Most of the people who hang out here really respect him, and I’ve been coming out to Boulder Gardens more or less every week since I’ve been in the desert. It really does strike me that Garth is a mystic of a sort. I often bring sunflowers for Garth. He seems to really enjoy receiving them, and I love to do it. Garth’s compassion is where I continue to feel the presence of a unique humility and Garth’s particular reverence for a greater kind of consciousness. Inside and outside of his teepee that he has been living in for forty years, there are hundreds of stones, gems, crystals, and esoteric artifacts. An exhibitor, Garth exhibits the beauty of the land, the beauty of the Earth, for all to experience. His generosity has created a catalysis for connecting with my higher self as I continue to spend Boulder Gardens and hike, sing, run, share stories, play music, and love. I’ve explored deep into the subterranean systems that lie underneath the boulders, and its quite a cozy experience to return back to camp and see Garth sitting there wearing some far-out hand-crafted ornaments, bobbles, and beads, slightly relieved to see me alive.
A number of different characters visit Boulder Gardens. They fill all the positions: writers, painters, sound healers, queer folk, nuclear physicists, travelers, pranksters, musicians. People like Birdman Rick. He has a dog, Susie. He feeds the birds on the property. He’s fond of rattlesnakes. Or Pixl, eccentric artist, green thumb. Or Willow, a reiki healer, and my occasional flamenco partner. What they all have in common is their beingness, this essential trait that I’ve noticed during my time with Garth and the Boulder Gardens community. It is an essential desire to be present, to be grounded and centered, to be oriented to the music, to the earth, to the sky, with the dogs, the plants, and the birds.
Garth’s Boulder Gardens is a special type of place. Since my first time, there is so much that I can say, and so much I will inevitably forget.
This land, what people believe about it, will continue to be there, as long as we honor the offerings we make to it. Our offerings could be physical or mental, they could be roses or intentions. This is a sacred place that will listen. Learn about the land. Learn its curves, its washes. Trust its platforms and steppes. Show up and be any one you want. Put on any costume. Be yourself. Discover what it means to be yourself. Be open to possibilities. Explore your musical side. Take a cold plunge. Meditate in a cave. Sleep under the stars, those glistening stars, perched in the sky, the brilliance of light seeping through the heavens and spilling itself down on those who remember to look up.
What does it mean to love?
To be vulnerable?
To be open to love, to a different pattern for ourselves.
Part of me doesn’t want to name this place and keep it downlow.
Who deserves this place?
And who am I to gatekeep?
Just explore the dessert till you find a dog named Buddha, and then you’ll know you’re home.
Photo credits: Naveed Ansari and Garth Bowles with permission.