The sound of a bird walking
On fallen leaves
You could say that Portland’s Japanese Garden uses every traditional motif there is: waterfalls, koi moving lazily in a reflective pond, intricate bamboo railings, tall stands of live bamboo, carefully raked Zen stone gardens, wooden arches and bridges, bonsai, moss covered mosaic stone paths, stone pagodas, lanterns, and shrines, shoji screens on the buildings. Eight Japanese garden styles in just twelve acres.
Seems like a cacophony of design and yet, as soon as I pass that first archway, a quiet descends, though I didn’t realize how much my mind had been distracted and diffused. Just a few steps beyond the gate comes an uprush of peace, a transformative hush, a calm alertness to sounds, smells, textures. My busy mind is left behind. Each of these garden devices seems to be a sleight of hand, and I watch the few silent gardeners move around to examine their tricks. Their subtle branch-snipping here and there belie a grand scheme of creativity and purpose, all for the good.
Shades of greens are scattered throughout the garden and the eye is drawn to layered lines of evergreens and variegated plants intermingled with deciduous flora for fall (and spring) delights.
The early morning members-only time is a pleasure; with fewer people about, the tranquility is palpable. Many are photographers with a stunning array of fancy equipment, though I did not envy their enormous backpacks and bulky tripods as they traipsed along the narrow paths, spending excruciatingly long (to me) moments collecting their artistic imprints.
For me, the delight is the hush of nature, the subtle arch of a branch, the precise curve of the path, the trickling sound of water, the well-thought out stratum of colors, and the expansive view of Portland laid out below, with Mt. Hood resplendent and floating on the other side of the wide valley. Knowing the rains were about to start, and fall colors would soon fade made the morning’s impermanent beauty especially poignant.
I prefer the disorganized chaos of nature, the pristine remoteness of wilderness. But the immersion into this sort of intentional stylized and sculpted landscape, and another culture’s way of seeing, is yet another gift in this world of treasures.
And then not sweeping
The fallen leaves