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Windhover—Where the Mind Can Hover


Zen Fountain
Zen Fountain

Over Memorial Day Weekend I visited Windhover, the new spiritual and contemplation center on Stanford University’s campus, a minimalist architectural style suggesting Zen and personal renewal. Windhover takes its name from the series of five giant paintings by the internationally renowned Bay Area figurative artist Nathan Oliveira (1928-2010) who, in turn, named this series after Gerald Manley Hopkins’ poem (1877).

Windhover provides an extraordinarily beautiful and serene venue for quiet reflection exclusively for use by Stanford students, faculty, and staff. If you know someone at Stanford, you can walk into Windhover, a calmly powerful testimony to the necessity for meditation and reflection in daily life. [For the general public, there are docent-led tours every Tuesday at 10:00 am.]

Windhover Contemplation Center
Windhover Contemplation Center

As I approached the landscaped grounds I saw a granite labyrinth, a small Zen stone garden, a small grove of ginkgo trees, and a reflecting pool. Floor-to-ceiling windows suggest a sense of a museum, brilliantly combining art, spirituality, and nature. To the right as I stepped through the front doors, was a room for borrowing a zafu (Zen meditation pillow). The first painting one sees is Big Red, a large abstract oil painting of a kestrel (aka “windhover”) flying in a red sky.  Oliveira’s other paintings include the magnificent Diptych, White Wing and Sun Radiating in either earth tones or sunshine yellow.

Windhover Diptych
Windhover Diptych

Windhover is an elegant and understated refuge in nature, its simple lines an eloquent design for meditative thought.

If you’re visiting campus, you could spend a wonderful day taking the Tuesday morning tour, followed by a walk around the Rodin Sculpture Garden, and then a hike up to the Dish in the Stanford Foothills. If weather proved uncooperative, the Cantor Center for Visual Arts and the Stanford Museum would be time well spent.

Zen Garden
Zen Garden



Comments (2)

  • Diana:
    Great article. The Stanford campus has always had a few neat treasured places. The mausoleum (only open once a year, which explains why I have walked around it many times but never been inside), the statue of the Angel of Grief (in honor of Jane Stanford’s brother), and even the cactus garden (bravely existing even though it was not maintained during the years I was around), and, of course, the Rodin Garden.

    Now, you have told me about a new place on campus. In the past 10 years, it seems that each time I returned to the campus, there were massive new buildings standing in what was once a walking area or a pocket-sized parking lot.

    Therefore, I am delighted to know of Windhover, a place for contemplation and reflection. Even if I can’t get in, I’ll enjoy walking around it just as I have walked around the mausoleum in the past. To be honest, we used to take picnics to the mausoleum and sit under the watchful eyes of the sphinxes.

    A picnic outside Windhover? Hum. Thanks.

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