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Ordinary Rocks, Extraordinary Messages

Gardens are good for our bodies and minds.

On Sunday November 30, thirty five rocks were designed and painted amidst the sweet smells of lemongrass.  Large smooth round river rocks, flat triangular-shaped, smaller and larger rocks. Ordinary river rocks for a not so ordinary purpose.  By the end of the day, they would carry extraordinary messages.

The seed idea for the new Oasis Healing Gardens garden came from Danielle Kootchick, who was inspired to connect people with the sensory delights of participatory garden creations. The first phase of the 12 gardens is a rock garden built on messages of hope and happiness. This initial hands-on experience painting the rocks also provided an opportunity to learn more about the Healing Gardens.

“I love the community coming together to creatively interpret and paint what they feel is healing and positive,” Danielle says.

Some of the other gardens for the twelve-phase healing gardens area include the healing heart, balance in life, a donor wall, a wishing well, and a twelve-step walk leading to the wishing well. Each area will have its own sponsors whose design ideas will be welcomed. The different thematic areas will be interactive and engage people in healing activities.

Unlike the other 11 gardens, which will only require maintenance once they are built, Danielle sees the River of Hope rock garden as continuing to grow and change as opportunities to paint and add rocks will be ongoing.

“People can also come back and see their rock for years to come. This is like a diamond waiting for them every time they return to the garden,” Danielle explains.

The day before the opening rock painting event, the entire healing gardens area was cleared by a group of 30 Vista high school volunteers, who worked in two separate shifts to load trucks with debris and tree trimmings. This special group of volunteers are college scholarship students who upkeep the Alta Vista Botanical Gardens once a month.

Vice President of Alta Vista Botanical Gardens, Naomi Stein, was very impressed by this teenage volunteer crew. “We were blown away that they cleared the entire 6000 square foot area in only 4 hours!” she says. “They also trimmed back and pruned many of the existing plants. Their attitude was so wonderful!”

On the morning of the rock painting event, the first group of families and individuals arrived at 10:00, donning masks and seated in socially distanced tables with paints, brushes, instructions, and even downloaded ideas.  Personally greeted by Danielle, they were given steps and ideas.

“The first step is a basic coat of paint,” Danielle instructed. “While your rock is drying, draw your idea on a piece of paper.”  Indeed, every detail of the process was taken care of, leaving participants the opportunity to joyfully immerse themselves in their own creative experience.

“The creative expression with our brushes and rocks opened up in me a childlike sense of playfulness,” Oceanside resident Kyra Umanoff recalls.  “It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.”

By 11:30 the first group had completed their rock paintings with colorful drawings, healing symbols, and encouraging words. The tables were re-set and ready to welcome the second group, followed by a final group at 2:00.

Commenting on the overall experience, Naomi Stein says:  “I was amazed at how artistic everyone was and how they poured out their feelings of hope and beauty that will further the healing community.”

Also present for the day’s activity, Bill Stein comments:  “I witnessed the desire to make this project a success thru creative participation. The organization and creativity were incredible. I know this will be successful for Danielle, the gardens, and the community.

The construction of phase 1, the inspirational rock garden, began in January 2021 and will be completed in the spring. To view a map of the planned layout or to donate your time, materials, or rock painting creativity, please see the healing gardens web page: https://altavistabotanicalgardens.org/healing-garden-oasis/

Rock painting events will be help monthly. Visit our webpage for dates and the signup link: https://altavistabotanicalgardens.org/healing-garden-oasis/

Rock painting kits to do at home are available for purchase at the entry gate on weekends and may also be obtained online by contacting Danielle: avbgevents@gmail.com

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