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Monday, May 21, 2007

The Japanese Garden @ Portland, Oregon

I should probably begin by telling you that about the only plant I’ve ever managed to successfully grow was a Chia Pet, so you can imagine that gardens and gardening are somewhat of an impenetrable mystery to me.

On the left is an example of Mt. Hood National Wilderness (From the Ramona Falls trail. See On the right is an example of Portland Oregon’s Japanese Garden. While I personally find both scenes beautiful, there are several aspects about the garden scene that show evidence of human tinkering. Some of the obvious signs are a human constructed concrete artifact, groomed bushes and trees, and a preponderance of plant varieties seemingly chosen for aesthetic purposes.

Just for the purpose of comparison, this corn is an example of a garden designed for the efficient production of a food crop. Curiously, I find this scene aesthetically pleasing also, but did not find any growing at the Japanese gardens.

It is tempting to get carried away and insinuate that the designed gardens are easy to recognize because of their obvious order.

But in the biggest garden of all, we often see that order and disorder go hand in hand. Great swaths of habitable ecosystem are swept away in the blink of an eye. A new niche is provided for some other opportunistic species (and if there are any favorites, it would appear to be the beetle family).

Japanese Garden - Portland, Oregon - Admission gate

After paying eight bucks to get in, I walk past the guardian lions and take a look at the Welcome Brochure I’ve been handed. The brochure informs me that, “Eastern symbolism challenges the visitor to reflect and be open to varying interpretations of sights and sounds.” Keeping this in mind, I take a second look at the guardian lion, and as the brochure suggests, I try to take a moment to feel the Garden’s mood of peace and harmony. The lion’s expression seems none too peaceful and I imagine it softly growling at me, “Stay on the path or this globe I’m standing on might as well be your left testicle.”

Japanese Garden -Portland Oregon - Strolling Pond Garden

It’s an overcast day so I set the White Balance on the Rebel to the cloud symbol. This may have been a mistake because later I will see that most of the pictures have an artificial looking warm yellow-green tint.

Japanese Garden - Portland Oregon - The Natural Garden

See what I mean?

Japanese Garden - Portland Oregon - Strolling Pond Garden

I thought the red in this tree would make a good complement to the predominate greens everywhere else. While I was trying to make the picture, I was also thinking that it would be nice (though not possible) to sit under this shaded canopy for awhile with a quality beer or two, watching the endless line of tourists stopping to pose on the moon bridge to have their portraits captured.

Japanese Garden - Portland Oregon - Authentic Moon Bridge

Here I try desperately to get some believable green colors, but end up using Photoshop’s watercolor filter instead.

Japanese Garden - Portland Oregon - Strolling Pond Garden

The water in the pools was muddy and unsettled. It provided good cover for the Koi until they neared the surface. At first, only a slow moving golden glow would diffuse through the suspended silt, like a distant lantern in the fog.

Japanese Garden - Portland Oregon - Strolling Pond Garden

I spent some time just watching the primitive looking fish moving in their world of water, patrolling the bank in front of the visitor benches just in case some of the bipeds proved to be illiterate (Please don't feed the Koi! - Throwing coins prohibited!) with a pocketful of crumbs. I thought about surfaces and boundaries, ripples and reflections, all between worlds and points of view.

Japanese Garden - Portland Oregon - Sand and Stone Garden

Maybe the attraction of gardens is that it gives us the illusion of control and a chance to feel like co-creators – super-hero sidekicks – helping to order and direct various manifestations of life.

For more information about the Japanese Garden, visit their website at:

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