Explore the Garden...
California Native Grassland
The Story behind the sculpture,'California'
on display at SYVBG
While on a trip to see the La Purisima Mission in Lompoc, CA, stone artist Lon Etzel watched a reenactment performed by the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. One of the tribal members shared an old Chumash myth that has stuck with Lon all his life. A long time ago, California Desert Tortoises burrowed underground to hibernate during winter months. The Indians believe that some of the tortoises waited too long to wake up and were trapped under earth. They continued to grow until the entire land mass of California rode on their backs. As a result, the tortoises grew too large and became cramped in their space, pushing and snapping at one another, causing the earth to tremble, creating an earthquake. Decades after hearing the fascinating tale, Lon was inspired to create a magnificent stone sculpture, he titled 'California'. The detail and character of the five tortoises, the state of California and the Channel Islands is extraordinary. The statue is on loan at the SYV Botanic Garden for everyone to enjoy.