One Villager's Story
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BJ LEDYARD - BEYOND THE VILLAGEBy Blog Master
BEYOND THE VILLAGE – B.J. LEDYARD
Many years ago, during the Christmas holidays, BJ Ledyard took some guests to the Huntington Library where they enjoyed a wonderful rock exhibit. BJ was especially intrigued by the collection of Japanese viewing stones, known as “Suiseki”. But she was a busy working mother with young children, so she put it to the back of her mind.
Years later, retired, divorced, and children grown – BJ resurrected her interest and joined the California Aiseki Kai. Soon she found herself driving a rented four wheel drive jeep into the Yuha desert between El Centro and Alpine in the most southern part of Southern California. She was looking for rocks!
In traditional Japanese culture, Suiseki are small, naturally occurring rocks which are appreciated for their aesthetic value. Suiseki are similar to Chinese Scholar’s rocks which were brought to Japan around 600 AD as gifts from the Chinese Imperial Court. These stones are not just any old rock. They are expressive. They might resemble an animal or a landscape. The stones are often found in old stream beds, which makes the Yuha desert an interesting place to search for them because ages ago this area was part of the Colorado River. Other stones, known as ventifacts, are formed by the wind. The stones, once found, are not allowed to be reshaped unless it is necessary to get a flat bottom so they can be placed on a specially made wooden base called a “daiza”.
BJ explains her Suiseki journey this way. “At first you pick up a lot of junk. But then you begin to notice rocks that have character, that have been bounced around for millennia. I learned by just getting out there on the ground and poking around.” The other thing that drew BJ to the Suiseki group was the people. “They are the nicest people, people I would never have met in my other life.”
Over the years BJ has participated in many outings, to the desert and also to Northern California along the Kern and Merced Rivers. The Eel River is on her bucket list. Her stones have been exhibited along with other members of the group at the annual Huntington Gardens Viewing Stones Exhibition.
Her pursuit of Suiseki heightened her long-time interest in geology. In 1999, finding herself retired and ready to take on new challenges, she enrolled in a geology class at Pasadena City College. “I thought I had died and gone to heaven.” After the introductory geology class she enrolled in Petrology, which is the study of rocks and how they are formed. She also audited geology and chemistry classes at Caltech. The classes were challenging but she felt deep satisfaction in having increased knowledge about the formation composition of the rocks she finds so intriguing.
It’s evident that when BJ gets interested in something she really dives into the subject. And, as with many things in life, our interests often begin quite accidentally. One day BJ was shopping at Trader Joe’s and ran into an old acquaintance who persuaded BJ to take a nature class for docents at Eaton Canyon Nature Center. BJ reluctantly agreed to accompany her. Thirteen years later, BJ is still a volunteer gardener at Eaton Canyon. And she has transformed her yard into a drought tolerant garden with many native plants that make it a haven for birds, bees, and butterflies.
Recently BJ started a new affinity group at the Pasadena Village which focuses on geneology. “It’s fun and I’m getting to know different people.” Together, the members of the group delve into the historical records to discover more about the generations that preceded them. BJ not only enjoys finding out more about her family tree but also enjoys, and assists, others in their
BJ Ledyard, like many of her fellow Pasadena Village members, is a life-long learner whose curiosity and interest in the world around her has not dimmed as she has gotten older. She continues to pursue her interests within the Village and beyond.