By: Bill Leyden
Joshua Tree, California
There was never a reason not to visit the Joshua Tree Retreat Center (JTRC). And the architecture by Lloyd Wright, the quiet of the Mojave Desert, the self-realization nature of the curricula and more make a bouquet of reasons to visit this special place located on Hwy 62 in the California Desert. Now they’ve discovered hot springs! Although yet to be developed, this post describes what is available now.
For those of us who gravitate to the lake or sea, we might be thinking that we would miss the water — but no more! Since I have been visiting here, it has become more lush. So with a couple of days on my own, I decided to take a photographic inventory of the water features at JTRC.
The Chalice Pond (1)
It’s 7am on a crisp late October morning. I get up and in my quest for coffee at the Dining Hall; I pass the Chalice Pond. Constructed in 2009, this was the first of a major undertaking of the new water projects conceived by the Director here, Victoria GeVoian. The sun is behind the fountain to the East, and is just beginning to hit the upper jet. The Chalice Pond is located between the Apartments and Studios and the Ridge-line Cottages (See map near the end of this post).
The Dining Hall Fountain (2)
I continue on my quest to the dining hall. There is nobody up-and-around yet, and I pass the “grandmother” of JTRC fountains, located just north of the dining hall. In the distance to the East are the Caravancias (dormitories) and the new swimming pool. I have taken still pictures here before for groups that have attended the Center, including a “fotobomb” shot. My son introduced me to the concept of the fotobomb – something that appears in the picture that is definitely and most absurdly out-of-place. In my youth, we would have asked, “what’s wrong with this picture?” (I have omitted the picture here to protect the faces of the innocent — and the guilty!)
The image that I am thinking about was done for a school that holds classes here. I arranged some of the staff and students around this triangular-shaped fountain. It was a magical moment. Everyone took my direction, and continued to interact as they had before I had guided them into position — so the moment was “real.” I had a Quantum Q flash ready to fill-in the shadows of the strong desert sun and was ready to release the shutter. Suddenly, a passer-by ran into frame claiming, “hey, what are you guys doing here taking this picture? — pictures should not be posed, posed pictures not real!” (My dear mentor, the late Monte Zucker is smiling now). I clicked the shutter, and she was the only thing in the shot that appeared out-of-place. She was later “Shopped” from the image. The actual image made was picked-up be the school catalog.
There are coy in this pond, and it is a meeting place for the people who attend events here. It’s a great place to sit and not be too far from the coffee!
Doing an about-face will give you this view of the dining facilities. The facilities are really quite special — designed with a high, peaked ceiling and picture windows.
And when you are inside the dining room in the daytime looking back to the North, you’ll be rewarded with a view of the fountain as well:
The Caravansary Fountain (3)
The Caravansary rooms have a special spot in my heart. Maybe because it was where I stayed during my first visit here over five years ago. Or, maybe it’s because it is where I met several close friends like Jim Dewell and where I first saw Brooke Medicine Eagle. There was no fountain at the Caravansary then; perhaps the Director, Victoria had it in-the-works. But at that time it was just desert. The Caravansary Fountain may not be as active as the Chalice Pond, or as serene as the Dining Hall Fountain, but I think this one is my favorites. I think this is partially because it reflects the shape of Lloyd Wright’s architectural details on the roof-line of the Caravansary just beyond.
The Pool and Spa (4)
Directly behind this location, adjacent to Friendship Hall, are the new pool and spa. I am told that there are still some landscaping plans in-the-works, but the pool and spa are heated operational. At the time that I made this image, there as a German photographer doing laps at about 9 in the morning. He was being observed or accompanied by the mysterious, hatted figure seen in the shadows of the foreground.
The Friendship Hall Fountain (5)
I thought that I had finished the inventory of water features and fountains when I remembered a large pot by the Friendship Hall. I drove (yes, I know, a purist would have walked) over to the area adjacent to the caravancias and grabbed this quick image of the Friendship Hall Fountain.
The Gift Shop Fountain (6)
If you check in at the Office, you’ll pass through the Center’s great gift store — but not before you pass this sight on the left:
The Sanctuary Fountain and Detail (7)
Of course, by now I should have known that there would be a fountain at the Sanctuary. The sound from this one echoes off of the stone walls of the Sanctuary building onto the quadrangle.
I am informed that the proper Fung Shui for this fountain is just right where it is: on the “dragon-side” of the building.
The Meditation Building Fountain (8)
Quiet, secluded and peaceful, the Meditation Building is directly behind (to the West) the Sanctuary. Here, a quiet fountain is watched-over by a goddess (at the time of this writing, I believe it is one of the Taras). Silence is encouraged here.
If you ask about the figures in silhouette in the image above, I am afraid that I just couldn’t say, other than to mention that my assistants often wear hats.
The Ding Le Mei House Pool (9)
I have photographed the house of the founder of the Institute of Mental Physics (yes, it is a name that can be an ice-breaker) before. For background on the center and the founder, I invite the reader to visit the Institute of Mental Physics website. I walked (this time) over to the Ding Le Mei House to scout the pool. The next day, I returned to make this image with the help of Regina, my daughter-in-law.
On the Grounds Map
Here are the map locations of the water features that I have mentioned in this article:
Oh, did I mention the gift shop itself? One of the best-stocked New Age gift shops that I have seen is here. I just couldn’t help picking up a rattle made from nut shells!
In this image, the pendulae in the center are moved by the breeze coming in from the front door — or are they?
Photographers always encourage each other to have personal projects. I made use of some personal time in the desert to do this one — for myself, and for my friends at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center. I hope you like it.
After reviewing this blog post, Victoria informed me that I had missed one. I said, “you mean that one that is in pieces next to Noble Hall?” “No! The one on the exercise pad next to Noble Hall.” “So, I missed two!” I include these for the sake of completeness.
First, the lonely fountain south of Noble Hall:
And the one with miles of potential:
The Joshua Tree Retreat Center at the Institute of Mentalphysics will host a community drum circle celebrating the Full Moon from 7 – 9 p.m. on Tuesday, October 11. Well-known Joshua Tree percussionist Sam Sloneker will facilitate the gathering, which will be held in the center’s Sanctuary.
“Fall has arrived here in the desert, ushered in by some spectacular meteor showers and our September Autumn Equinox drum circle. It’s bringing us some welcomed cooler temperatures, and I’m really looking forward to our drumming together beneath October’s Full Moon,” says Sloneker. “The polarity effect created by the Sun and Moon pulling in opposing directions with Earth in the middle can bring on a period of intense energy and precarious balance, and playing together in our circle can help to ground and center us during this time of heightened energies.
“This event will wind up our third year of community drum circles at the Retreat Center and offers us a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with ourselves, and with each other, as we move more deeply into our fall season. Our drum circles are always lots of fun, so come play with us in celebration of this special time of aliveness and vibrancy, and bring your family and friends to join in our celebration.”
Studies have shown participation in group drumming to offer a number of worthwhile benefits, including artistic self-expression, community connection and interaction, an expanded sense of self and heightened sense of belonging, increased rapport with others, relief of stress, emotional balancing, and strengthening of the immune system.
Participants are encouraged to bring drums, shakers, tambourines, etc.; a number of instruments will also be available at the event. There is no charge to attend, though a suggested donation of $5 per participant or $10 per family will be welcomed and appreciated.
The Joshua Tree Retreat Center is located at 59700 Twentynine Palms Hwy. in Joshua Tree, on the north side of the Highway, just east of the intersection of La Contenta Rd./Yucca Mesa Rd. Turn left after entering the Center; the Sanctuary is the building with the tall spire (follow the signs). For additional information, please call the Center at 760-365-8371.