Find Focus, Peace & Joy at MOPL Zen Garden

By Cheryl Conway 

Most would agree that the library is a great place for reading, studying, working on a computer and just a nice alternative if stepping away from one’s office.

But distractions could occur, really, and if this happens, there is a Zen Garden outside the Mt. Olive Public Library in Flanders where one can escape to relax and refocus.

Recent Mt. Olive High school graduate Anish Pradhan, 18, of Budd Lake is the creator of the Zen Garden at the MOPL. He completed the landscape as part of his Eagle Scout project with Troop 156 in Flanders. 

“A Zen meditation garden is a landscape made in reverence to nature,” describes Pradhan. “It has a minimal design with sand, gravel, stones, rocks with a serene aesthetic addition of pebbles, statues, plants, shrubs, lamps and a water fountain. This landscape symbolizes the elements of nature helping bring inner focus, peace and joy. I felt that a Zen garden would be very fitting in the library because it is a calm and quiet place.”

Mt. Olive Twp. Council President Joe Nicastro presented Anish Pradhan with a certificate of recognition on May 20 for his Eagle Scout Court of Honor. 

Pradhan started his project in June 2022 and completed it in five working days over a two-week period. putting in anywhere between four to eight hours of work each day.   

A soon-to-be college student with plans to attend Georgia Tech in the fall, Pradhan got the idea for the garden while deciding on his next chapter. 

“When I went on college visits, I noticed many of them included a Zen garden,” says Pradhan. 

“I realized that our community does not have a Zen garden, which would make my Eagle Project unique,” says Pradhan. He went through the proper channel to get his idea on the ground. 

“The idea for the garden was 100% Anish’s idea,” says Mauro Magarelli, MOPL director. “He presented the concept to me, and I simply helped him through the process of presenting it to the library board, which holds final approval.  Since I thought it would be a good addition to the library, I did advocate in favor of the garden to the library’s board of trustees.”

Through donations received from family and friends, Pradhan spent $977 to complete the Zen garden. The help he received from his Boy Scout troop and others was priceless.  

“Several members of my Boy Scout troop came to help along with adult leaders,” said Pradhan, who has been involved with the organization for about 12 years, since the first grade when he joined the Cub Scouts. “Additionally, a few of my friends and their dads came to help me too.”

He is pleased with the garden. 

“I really enjoyed the finished product and am very glad to see that it has been well maintained after one whole year,” says Pradhan, co-valedictorian of MOHS Class of 2023, head mechanical engineer for the MOHS Robotics team and second-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. 

A year since it was completed, the library’s Zen garden is growing in popularity. 

“I heard that there were little kids who used the Zen garden one day for Yoga,” says Pradhan. “I have heard that many people sit down there to relax.” 

Adds Magarelli, “I see people out there all the time.  Whether it be just for a few moments or to sit and read.

“I think it’s great,” he adds. “It’s something different that connects the building and patrons to the ton of open space we have behind the library.   It’s also a very nice space, very well constructed. It’s a great setup that utilizes the space in a unique way.” 

Magarelli is quite appreciative of Pradhan’s Zen garden as well as other projects completed at the library. 

“The Eagle Scouts have been a tremendous help to the library,” says Magarelli. “Prior to the Zen garden, one scout spearheaded the repair of the base of our entrance sign (located at the front of the parking lot) and another scout constructed the gazebo in the front of building.  The Gazebo is a beloved addition to the library and used daily by patrons.

“Special thanks to Anish and to all the other scouts who have helped us in the past,” he adds. “Your work is greatly appreciated.”

Other projects are always welcome. 

“Perhaps a sustainable wildflower garden?” suggests Magarelli. “I think it would be great to let a portion of our back campus go fallow and allow native plants to thrive.  Although, I admit this would be a tough endeavor since the project would have to eliminate invasion plants and also deter the deer population.”    

Until then, find time to Zen at the garden.

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