OAKLAND -- Ok, bring on the chaos and hectic holiday pace.
There never seems to be enough days between Thanksgiving and Christmas -- and certainly never enough hours in those days. I figure about mid-December, I'll be ready to crumble, I'll have lost sight of the holly, jolly spirit of Santa Claus and I'll need to refocus, re-center and rejuvenate.
And I've found the perfect spot for me to do it: the Bonsai Gardens inside Lakeside Park at Lake Merritt, smack dab in the heart of Oakland.
Here I can forget all the tasks still waiting to be done and walk the paths that meander through Northern California's only public bonsai garden. It opened in 1991.
More than 100 bonsai specimens and suiseki, small, naturally formed stones greet visitors and invite close inspection of the intricate bases and the weaving and entwined branches of the small botanical wonders. The garden bonsai are reputed to be some of the oldest in the United States and the collection includes a Japanese Black Pine that is said to be over 400 years old and had once been featured at the Pan Pacific Exposition on Treasure Island in 1915. Also on display is a Daimyo Oak that is believed to be the first bonsai to have been brought to the United States during the 1860s. Occupying other wood platforms are Monterey Cypress, Oak and California junipers all potted and manicured beautifully.
Although small in stature, the bonsai trees at the Bonsai Garden in Lakeside Park measure much larger when it comes to offering tranquility and the opportunity to refocus ... holly, jolly bonsai!
IF YOU GO ...
WHERE: 666 Bellevue Avenue, Oakland inside Lakeside Park.
WHEN: Wednesdays-Fridays 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; Saturdays 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sundays noon to 4 p.m. (Note: The gardens close on rainy days.)
GETTING THERE: From the Central Valley, take Interstate 580 west over Altamont Pass. In Oakland, take the Grand Avenue exit and turn right onto Grand. Turn left onto Bellevue and continue to the Bonsai Garden, located adjacent to the Lake Merritt boat house.
DRIVE TIME: 1 hour, 20 minutes (Mapquest)
MORE INFORMATION: 510-763-8409
Bee assistant librarian Karen Aiello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2392.