Shanti Emerson: Happy at home here in Nirvana County |

Shanti Emerson: Happy at home here in Nirvana County

Shanti Emerson

In the ’90s, a friend from Pasadena was moving to Nevada City.

“Do you mean in Nevada?” I asked.

“No,” she said. “I did a lot of research online and found that Nevada City, California has more bookstores and art galleries per capita than any other city in California.”

Not exactly my criteria, but it worked for her and so she left So Cal forever.

When we crossed the Bear River, I noticed that I felt different. I became aware that I was in a spiritual place.

Fast forward a couple of years, and I moved to San Francisco. My friend, Lee, heard about a healing weekend at Ananda, and since she tried everything else to stop the brain cancer, she wanted to seek some alternative techniques.

“I’ll go with you. Just fly to San Francisco and I’ll drive you to Ananda.”

So that was my first visit to this county. When we crossed the Bear River, I noticed that I felt different. I became aware that I was in a spiritual place. Words can’t explain it, I just knew. Others I have met had similar experiences. What is this special feeling?

The next day, driving to San Juan Ridge, I remember the thrill of seeing the aqua Yuba River splashing over the giant smooth white rocks at South Fork. It was mesmerizing.

A couple of years later, I came to Nevada City with my boyfriend, and this time, I knew I must live here. So as soon as I could, I sold my San Francisco Victorian and bought a ranch style house on Banner. I have always been grateful for that choice.

The longer I live here the more I realize how special it is. Driving up 49 into Grass Valley/Nevada City those first times, it seemed that it was all trees and no houses, but there are so many beautiful homes here.

A week after I moved here, I came upon a place called “The Center for the Arts” in Grass Valley. Now this was thrilling … arts in addition to natural beauty. I knocked on the door and no one answered. I went to that building every day for a week until finally John Blinder opened up and gave me a tour. His enthusiasm was palpable as he explained that the building used to be a new car showroom and that the wooden floor had been taken from a skating rink. I don’t think either of us could have imagined the heights The Center for the Arts would attain (especially under the brilliant leadership of Julie Baker) and the number of accomplished artists who would entertain here.

Foothill Theatre was going strong, and so I saw every play I could, especially the ones with Gary Wright. Now there are at least five theater companies, plus the Nugget Fringe Festival, and the Wild and Scenic and Nevada City film festivals.

Music? Of course, all over the place.

Cooper’s and Crazy Horse’s have bands, and classical music is presented by Music in the Mountains and InConcert Sierra. I have enjoyed concerts from Rachmaninoff to Judy Collins.

Then there is the Nevada County Fair with bands, magicians, paintings, photographs, carnival rides, rodeos, quilts, canned fruits, and animals raised by FFA students, and most of all, Treat Street to get our favorite baked potato, corn dog or chicken teriyaki. And if that isn’t enough, there are five exciting music festivals at the fairgrounds each year.

More? Yes, look at all the organizations one can join … interest groups, international service clubs, local nonprofits like Utah’s Place or Women of Worth.

As the years go by, I grow to love this county even more and wonder if a place like this could change the world.

It is truly Nirvana County. But then, you already know that.

Shanti Emerson is a Nevada County resident and a member of The Union Editorial Board. Her opinions are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of the board or its members. She can be reached at

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