- Author: Carmen Kappos
Gardens are many things to people: sources of food, entertainment, places of peace, solace, beauty and purpose. To many of the people forced to live at Manzanar Internment camp during WW2, gardens there were all those things. The Japanese Americans and Japanese-born people who were made to spend many years there created rock gardens, victory gardens, gardens in front of barracks, a rose garden, a three acre community park and more. There was even a research project growing guayule plants as an alternative source of rubber needed during the war.
Usually each April, an annual pilgrimage is held at Manzanar National Historic Site. Sadly, this spring it cannot be held due to the threat from the Covid-19 pandemic. In this time of necessary physical distancing and stress due to the virus we can look to history and the gardens that helped many people to persevere under extreme duress. Online, the park service has a rich resource of information about that time in our history.
When possible, I urge you to visit the park. Some of the gardens have been excavated of the silt and sand covering the area over the years. Now, you can see the outlines and rock placement of some of these exceptional gardens. Many people, including relatives of people who were interred there, have donated their time to work on stabilizing the beauty of the gardens. You can walk around the community park with its' strolling areas, 2 small lakes, bridges, symbolic turtle and crane rocks, and a pavilion. Imagine the sound of the waterfall and the many plants; iris, roses, and reeds.
In other locations in the park there are rock gardens built for viewing, as people stood in line 3 times a day for meals. Many gardens had ponds and there was a small stream, the stream bed especially created for the sound the flowing water would make. These gardens are a voice from the past about how important garden spaces can be. There were many beautiful gardens that perhaps helped to cheer the soul and support resilience, or maybe make laughter a little easier.
Get inspired by the gardens that once helped many people survive a very trying time in their lives. Research has shown that gardening can reduce stress. Rocks placed in beautiful ways, and plants nurtured to create a place apart, or become part of a meal; the work of gardening itself can help in stressful times. Gardens can help us rebound, whether it's a veggie patch, a favorite house plant or your own rock garden.
Manzanar National Historic Site : www.nps.gov/manz
Manzanar Visitor Center and Block 14 Exhibits Closed Until Further Notice
Following the guidance from the White House and the CDC, Manzanar National Historic Site Visitor Center and Block 14 exhibits are temporarily closed in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The grounds and parking lots remain open sunrise to sunset. Maintain social distancing./h3>