Scripps Ranch has a garden of wisdom

Scripps Ranch has a garden of wisdom

By John Gregory

There is greed. There is selfishness. There is evil. There are a lot of rotten things in this world, but in one secluded corner on the western edge of Scripps Ranch, there is wisdom. 

Though drivers often recklessly swerve around this curve in the street, there is peace and tranquility just feet away in the form of a simple rock garden. Residents have painted philosophical messages on oblong stones and carefully placed them in a patch of dirt along this northernmost corner of Erma Road as the street turns just before meeting Scripps Vista Way. It’s as if a garden of sagacious memorandums sprouted along this bend as an outpost of decency and acuity.

One day this spring, a figure was kneeling, tending to the rock garden. She was a red-headed woman who leapt to her feet. It was none other than Bobbie Best McArdle, the creator and caretaker of this special place. She is an energetic and artistic being who is instantly likeable. Bobbi painted most of the stones in the garden.

She has lived in Scripps Ranch for 20 years, and started the painted rock garden in 2013.

“I would randomly paint a little rock of inspiration that I thought would inspire someone and I would … drop it in a random place,” she said. “I did this about a dozen times. I had these random inspirations that I would leave. Once I was driving by and somebody had taken all my rocks, collected them all and lined them up. … They just put them all together there.”

A small, kinetic garden sculpture holds seasonal banners above the rock garden. (photo by John Gregory)

The management company for Scripps Westview Condominiums put the subject of the rock garden on its homeowners meeting agenda once about three years ago, Bobbi recalled. When the group took a vote to see if the rock garden should be allowed, everyone voted unanimously that the rocks should stay because they had become too meaningful to the community to take away. They allowed the rock garden as long as Bobbie maintains the area. Now, this community painted rock garden is a popular Scripps Ranch landmark filled with encouraging and inspirational messages.

“It makes me happy that this has come to mean something to people,” she said. “People stop here and take pictures of it … and that always touches my heart.”

Bobbi tends the garden about twice each week, pulling weeds and rearranging the stones. She added a few plants and found a small kinetic metal garden sculpture which now stands in the center. The art piece holds banners which she rotates to match the seasons.

“Some neighbors who have become friends were nice enough to make their contribution to the rock art garden with a gift of different seasonal garden flags they bought at the Scripps Ranch Farmer’s Market, and another friend and resident sewed a lovely Christmas-season flag she made herself that was hung over the holidays,” Bobbi explained.   

She added more painted rocks and welcomes others to do the same. She noticed many children paint rocks and leave them. A flat, smooth stone is best, one without pores or holes, she advised. Bobbi also suggested putting a clear gloss coat over the finished message, otherwise the sun will make the paint fade quickly.

Bobbie Best McArdle is the creator and caretaker of a rock garden with inspirational messages on Erma Road. (courtesy photo)

Bobbi said there are 400 rocks in the garden, and about 395 are ones she has painted.

“I noticed many of my rocks go missing and that never bothers me at all,” she explained. “I always feel that if that rock meant something to somebody, that I’m happy that they took it. I’m happy that they could take it and look at it every day.”

Colorful painted stones are carefully placed in the rock garden. (courtesy photo)

Recently, Bobbi met a woman near the corner who said she was going through a divorce and had battled cancer. The woman said she read the messages on the rocks several times and they put her in a better place.

“That’s something meaningful to me, when somebody can share something like that with me. (To) have a stranger come up and give me a hug. That’s nice.” Bobbi said.

“One evening a young woman in her twenties approached me and asked me if she could give me a hug, going on to tell me that she had just moved to San Diego and away from her friends and family, and told me she would walk every night and read my rocks and they would help her feel less lonely,” Bobbi said. “I was so touched and gratified.”

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