Explore the Kripalu Grounds with Moose
Grounds Supervisor Kevin Foran, known as “Moose,” has been the steward of the Kripalu grounds in Stockbridge for more than 25 years, since the Kripalu community moved to the Berkshires in 1983. He shared with us some details of what goes into caretaking the property, a bit of grounds history, and a list of his favorite spots.
What’s involved in taking care of the grounds in the spring and summer?
First, I say a prayer of gratitude for having made it through the winter storms in good health and free of injury—then I bid old man winter goodbye and greet spring with enthusiasm, as if we’re meeting for the first time. In the spring, we first turn to the tasks of cleaning up trees, trails, lawns, and roads after the winter storms, then shift over to garden preparations (we have about 12 perennial gardens of various sizes) and landscape planting. During the summer, routine operations include mowing—and by adopting biodiverse practices, I’ve reduced the number of acres we need to mow by half—maintenance of machinery, upkeep of the gardens and landscape plantings, roadway improvement projects, and beachfront management. There’s a lot to do, and we do it with an all-volunteer staff of three to four people.
What are your favorite places on the grounds?
I kind of favor the whole property, since all the small parts equal the whole. And I try to make the place I’m in at the time my favorite place—comes along with the practice of appreciating the power of the present moment. But there are a few highlights:
The area that hosts the Labyrinth has a powerful healing radiance, and I find that it discharges energy throughout the whole property, a reason I planned to locate the Labyrinth there. It’s a place where the inner and outer landscapes meet, and gives a 360-degree perspective of nature’s beauty.
The panoramic view from the Front Terrace is humbling and awe-inspiring. The view showcases Mother Nature’s rhythms—the mountain range and its textures, fragrances, colors, and hues invite deeper inquiry into the magic and mystery of creation.
East of the Former Shadowbrook Mansion
The area just east of the former mansion still has remnants of Gilded Age period landscaping and holds a special quiet and stillness. A walk on the pathways reveals the hard work and love of the workers from that time, and the stillness there can shut down the cluttered thoughts that hold peace hostage.
The Camperdown Elm
I love sitting under the Camperdown Elm, located below the lawn of the former mansion. This tree, mentioned in the Wikipedia list of notable camperdown elms, is a favorite place for meditation; here at Kripalu, we often call it the Prayer Tree.
Swami Kripalu’s Meditation Garden
Located above the East Drive, Swami Kripalu’s Meditation Garden is a quiet, reflective, and peaceful spot used for individual and group meditations.
Any fun facts or history people might be interested in?
The estate that was built in 1893 by Mr. and Mrs. Stokes has a long and rich history. The landscaping was designed by Ernest Bowditch, who collaborated with Frederick Olmsted (famed for his design of Central Park in New York). Andrew Carnegie owned the property for several years before passing away at Shadowbrook. And while the property was being used by the Jesuit community, they constructed a number of outdoor altars for specific religious ceremonies—you can see several of these that still exist on a casual walk around the grounds. [To read more about the history of the property, check out History of Shadowbrook.]
When Kripalu purchased the property in 1983 and began necessary renovations, I was tending the grounds alone. Neighbors and curiosity seekers would drive through to ask what this place was. So often being taken away from all the work there was to do, I came up with a standard response that kept the conversations short and simple: I don’t know, I just work here.