Want to Restore Your Spirit? Unplug and Visit a Mansion

My wife inside the Filoli conservatory

I took this last Friday off. My wife and I visited a garden show and then decided to tour a stunning local mansion called Filoli.

There was plenty to do at work. Not to mention articles and artwork awaiting my attention. But sometimes you need to stop and smell the roses. Unplug from the Internet and get outside on a beautiful day. Breath some fresh air. Run your fingers through the flowers and listen to bird song.

Sometimes, you just need to make time for beauty and restore your spirit. And if you’re lucky, there’s a mansion like Filoli to visit.

Main entrance to Filoli

As Wikipedia states, “Filoli is a country house set in 16 acres of formal gardens surrounded by a 654-acre estate, located in Woodside, California, about 25 miles (40 km) south of San Francisco, at the southern end of Crystal Springs Lake, on the eastern slope of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Now owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Filoli is open to the public. The site is both a California Historical Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.”

Wikipedia further explains: “Filoli was built between 1915 and 1917 for William Bowers Bourn II, owner of one of California’s richest gold mines and president of Spring Valley Water Company, supplying San Francisco’s water,and his wife, Agnes Moody Bourn.”

The name of the mansion was a blend of three words which formed Mr. Bourn II’s philosophy of “Fight for a just cause; Love your fellow man; Live a good life.” Not a bad philosophy, if you ask me.

We often forget about the lives and times of people before us. When evening entertainment was live harpsichord music, book readings, camp fires and conversation. People dressed elegantly and the pace of life was slower. No emails and connecting flights and microwave dinners. A different time.

Pool at Filoli

After the Bourn family passed on, Filoli was bought by Mr. William P. Roth and Mrs. Lurline Matson Roth, heiress to the Matson Navigation Company. Wikipedia adds, “The Roth family built Filoli’s botanic collections of camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas, notably in the woodland garden, and added the serene swimming pool and the screened-in teahouse.

In 1975, Mrs. Roth donated the estate in its entirety to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, with an endowment that helps support annual operating expenses. The estate operates as Filoli Center, a private, non-profit organization with its own Board of Governors, staff and volunteers.”

Stunning grounds at Filoli

Touring Filoli, I looked at the old black and white photographs of the families that lived in the house. As I gazed at the pictures I could see my reflection in the glass.

I thought how not much has changed. Yes, medicine, technology and life are vastly different now. Advanced and accelerated. But when you strip away these differences all you have left are human beings. With dreams, hopes, losses and loves.

Clearly the people who lived in this old mansion celebrated beauty. It’s everywhere. In the furniture and design of the house. And especially throughout the grounds and gardens. Human beings are simply drawn to beauty.

The majority of the visitors at Filoli were older. Some considerably so. They strolled the pathways, sat beside the pools and lingered in the colorful gardens. Taking pictures, smelling flowers. Drinking in the beauty.

Perhaps as we age we feel the pull of beauty more acutely? Maybe the cumulative sharp edges and bruises of life require a commensurate soothing. A salve to ameliorate the indignity and travails of aging.

Gardens, lawns and tranquil vistas are a fine elixir to restore your heart. They remind us that beyond the quotidian struggles and perceived absurdity of modern day life, a certain divine serenity awaits us. We just have to slow down and go to it.

I’m glad I did today. I have my wife to thank for the suggestion. Somehow she always knows when I need an escape like this.

I hope you make the time for beauty, too. It’s good for your health and spirit. Clearly, the elderly folks know what’s good for them. It’s like some part of their older selves feels the call of the past. Of simplicity, beauty and peace.

Making time for a place like Filoli will remind you that’s there a serenity in the natural order. In revisiting the past and the simple beauty of gardens and exquisite home design. It’ll remind you that there’s far more than the blinking of our laptops and endless social media chatter.

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