Thursday, February 23, 2012

Zen Squirrel And Lord Heron In Japanese Winter's Repose (Photo Essay)

Another year is gone;
and I still wear
straw hat and straw sandal.


Branch Silhouette

As the good book says, there is a time for all things under the sun. To me, that means there's as much beauty in winter as any season. And while oftentimes on the surface nothing may appear to be happening, the true story is under the covers waiting to blossom at a later date. Knowing this, I slipped into the Japanese Garden of my escape from this time of earthly woe to see what I could see on a cloudy, wintry morn.

Zen Squirrel

Zen Squirrel Close

Zen Squirrel Stand

After a long night's rain I found a squirrel in prayer at the Zen rock garden. In the Spring will come the time for gathering and feeding the body. In winter's respite, a time to feed the soul.

Let us meditate on the movements of the rocks
and the illusion of now.

Zen Rocks 2

Zen Water
Quiet reflection

Zen Wet

The knell of the bells at the Gion temple
Echoes the impermanence of all things.

As blossoms prepare for their unveiling hidden from the naked eye, the garden heals itself before April's coming festival. A heavy stone from a path through the water had fallen, cutting off one side from the other for the past two years. With the water drained for that, a good time to rebuild the tea house. The garden shall return in triumph.

Wash Out

Tea House 1

Water Still

The colour of the flowers on its double-trunked tree
Reveals the truth that to flourish is to fall.

In winter's time to each his own, a contrast of color and colorless, of leafy and bare, and dormancy and activity. The Japanese garden celebrates all these aspects with equal joy, providing a rich palette of experience in joyful invitation.

Colors Close

Tree Skinny

White Blossoms

Tree Outline

He who is proud is not so for long,
Like a passing dream on a night in spring.

Water Long

The harmony of symmetry

Tree With Reflection


He who is brave is finally destroyed,
To be no more than dust before the wind.

- the Heike tale

Branches Gathering
Like a gathering storm

Gazebo Top

Arch Bridge 2

Branch Arch

The garden is also the private domain of this heron who flies in on a daily basis oblivious to any interlopers or seasonal change. Ooaosagi is the Japanese word for a Great Blue Heron. For short, we'll call him "sagi-san". It is said he will imperiously stand in one spot for hours.

Stepping Stones Heron

Heron Stepping Stones

Heron Stepping Stones Close


The mountains in autumn,
there are so many fallen leaves
- looking for my lost lover
I cannot find the path.

In the south end, new paths are under construction. An elevated walkway, new overlooks and even a moat's wall! But alas, I will lose one of my favorite spots: the red brick pathway through the green bamboo. The bricks are from the roads of Fort Worth. The use of bricks in Japanese Gardens is not traditional but the recycling of local material very much is. Perhaps, someone mourns the loss of their brick road as it's replaced with dull pavement.

The old pathway

Brick Path
It is now intercepted by new decking


New Path
Walkway descends into this new stone path

New overlook area

Stone Wall
Mimicking stone moat walls of the great Japanese castles

Kanazawa castle

The Zen Squirrel and Lord Heron were not the only wildlife to be seen.

Duck Wings

Koi Reflections

Couple Koi

A ronin photographer!

When two ronin meet on the road, each stops with his hand firmly upon his unsheathed sword. The opponents search the other's eyes for strength of spirit, deciding if battle should be done. All warfare is based upon deception but the honest eye cannot be deceived. And thus we did battle with our breath visible in the frigid, wintry air.

Branch Hangers
A picture only an "artsy" judge might like

He was a "competition photographer" only. He parried forth: "I could walk around here all day taking pictures I thought were just interesting to myself." But he chose not to. Only pictures prized by committess did he also prize. But he also expressed grave doubts any picture he took on a cloudy winter's day such as today would have any merit in their eyes. "Too lifeless."

Overlook View

I left my sword in its scabbard. He must find his own path and I could not let him distract me from mine - there was simply too much life in the garden I might miss.

From my proud and strong friend Saburo,
who could not fail you were he even to try...


to secret viewing spots...

Bush Overlook

to the small but unique personalities...

Squiggly Tree

to nature's coloring book...


To the climbing moss on the gift shop...

Gift Shop Moss

to the majesty of still water...

Leaf Water

and the infinity of a single leaf,
a composition beyond all human understanding.

Leaf Water Crop

Our life in this world -
to what shall I compare it?
Its like an echo
resounding through the mountains
and off into the empty sky.

- Monk Ryokan

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