Wednesday, October 22, 2008

More on Japanese Gardens







Spend just an hour in a beautiful Japanese Garden and try to understand the concept of war. Try to understand why we fight. Why we struggle. Why we hurt. Why we hate.

It doesn't seem possible. Here, everything is serene and peaceful. The world is gentle. Nothing more is necessary, and everything seems right.

Too often, formal Western garden design (of the kind you might see in London or Paris) is heavy-handed and stiff. It reveals the dark side of the Enlightenment: that somehow, mankind can conquer Nature through Reason. Plants are brought in from far-flung locales and assembled in long, strict rows. They're meticulously trimmed into forms they don't wish to take. The overall effect, though beautiful, often resembles a military procession.

Japanese Garden design, on the other hand, values the intellectual recreation (and miniaturization) of natural scenes. Raked sand symbolizes a river. Stones represent mountain ranges. Plant groupings represent forests. As you stroll through a Japanese Garden, new landscapes unfold, and surprises pop up at each turn. It's poetry, written with leaves and stones and water.

I'm especially interested in seeing how Japanese Gardens are interpreted in different climates. I've now seen gardens in the Southeast US (Atlanta), the Pacific Northwest (Portland), Northern California (San Francisco), and the Lower Plains (Ft. Worth). I'm anxious to see the Japanese Gardens in Phoenix to find out how desert plants adapt the aesthetic. And yes, hopefully one day, a tour of the gardens of Kyoto...

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