It is so easy to get caught and stressed, and yet so precious to be able to find opportunities for calming the mind, breathing and smiling, and centering. For example, Tim Kreider writes in the New York Times about “The Busy Trap” (http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/30/the-busy-trap) and how we too often overload our schedules and run around lamenting how over busy we are, just to avoid the fear of space, quiet, down time–the true ingredients of creativity. “More, more, and more” has long been the American way of life (or, should I say the American way of death…?) but there are (dare I say?) more and more of us pursuing a quieter, calmer path. As Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh so sapiently offers:
DONT DO SOMETHING…. JUST SIT THERE…..
Cultured Asians have long understood the value of solace and respite, and to that end, have created sublime gardens to foster peace, calm and tranquility. This fall, while traveling on the book tour, we have savored three such beautiful gardens: the Chinese and especially the Japanese Gardens at the Huntington Library and Art Gallery in San Marino, California–(about a block from where both Jim and I grew up), and the Chinese Gardens in Portland, Oregon.
In each, we found peace and quiet and such a clear privileging of aesthetics and beauty over any other value. Time spent in an urban garden as even a brief respite from the busy-ness of urban life can be as refuelling as a day in the wild.
The Chinese gardens in Portland provided welcome respite from a busy schedule on the book tour in the Northwest–In Portland, we did a “meet the author” at Annie’s Bloom’s Books. Annie Bloom’s Books | Your neighborhood independent bookstore. www.annieblooms.com/. We stayed at the beautiful Portland hillside home of Lilio Aragonez, one of my favorite colleagues from teaching days at Beverly Hills High School a few decades ago! We adventured around the city with Maina Ptolomy, one of my high school buddies from San Marino. So book touring was always an adventure combined with kicks and old home week.
Taking only a whole city block, these gardens invite us to step into the home of a Chinese scholar and calligrapher, pausing by contemplative ponds and bridges.Lan Su Chinese Garden is one of Portland’s greatest treasures—a powerfully inspiring experience that takes one through time, offering a window into Chinese culture, history and way of thinking.
Lan Su Chinese Garden www.lansugarden.org/
Entering the welcoming courtyard, looking through the keyhole gate, we are invited to look inward, to leave the city’s hustle and bustle behind and to enjoy time for contemplation, for focusing on aesthetic beauty and on both timelessness and time passing. As Thich Nhat Hanh teaches, “I have arrived, I am home” and “No Coming, No Going…..”