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  • by Janet St. John

Art & Soul Short #27

Portland Japanese Garden, 2017.

In the garden, hands have clipped, wired branches, run a wide-toothed wood rake through gravel in rings around a mossy island, made space in a forest for us sit and be. We entered through a gateway, dropping tourists’ chatter, distant trains’ blaring horns, persistent highway hum like a robe no longer needed, at least for now, for this moment. We wandered through bamboo and stepped over carefully placed stones, climbed short-shelved stairs, crossed an arching wood bridge. Everything measured for ease. A bench here to overlook the koi pond. A covered half room where a woman sits in meditation, despite the passers-by and the sound of gardeners hammering stone, resetting the bed of a manmade stream. An open space among the trees makes us pause and witness the frozen motion of ring-ripples. Sound waves stopped in time. Tide pattern captured. Our breath held for one second, then exhaled into easier rhythm. Observing, listening, being still. Time slows in the garden so many hands made. Manipulating nature by miniature degrees, they created a space we can inhabit, wrap up in a square of kimono fabric, and knot closed. Space we will take home, unfold, and open in our lives.

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