I head 30 miles North to Woodlake, home of Bravo Lake Botanical Garden. There are no words to describe this utopic place, so hopefully you will have the opportunity to visit sometime. People of all ages are there throughout the year working, laughing, dreaming and eating delicious fruit. Oh yeah, and it is free to the public, including the plentiful fruits and vegetables that grow there. What could be more utopic than a public garden that provides the whole community food without cost, directly from the ‘vine’?

Manuel and Olga Jimenez are generous and demonstrate a true sense of love for the gardens. One juicy sweet fruit after another is placed in my hand. Manuel talks about maintaining invasive species, occasional acts of vandalism and the joys of working with local youth to design attractive, culturally meaningful and maintainable gardens. Themes ran the gamut from memorials for cherished donors to medicinal arrangements. Not to mention their lavish fragrant rose garden and a collection of over 100 species of peppers. Below, Manuel picks and offers a Guava fruit.

A trip to Bravo Lake is not complete without meeting the volunteers. Ayanna, a local volunteer, shares a snake skin that she found. Jennifer, a local, arrives to meet me and help out with the project. She expresses concern for the thinning out of local native plants that are important for ceremonies and basket weaving. Some of the plants she mentioned were Deer Grass, Red Bud and Elderberry. Olga offers to maintain the plants in the garden for future harvesting.

In such a brief amount of time we felt like a part of something special. My younger sister Sara met me there from the Los Angeles area. Here we are holding a variety of rose called Pure Fragrance that Manuel brought forth from the parade of rose beds. The roses certainly held up to their name.