Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Rainy Day Tour

SJG - October colors (taken on a sunny day)
by aleks

Yesterday was raining cats and dogs and my calendar had 1:00 PM tour for Arboretum Foundation Unit 41; would they come in such weather?   The SJG docent group makes AF Unit 86 (that's us, the guides) and I always wondered who the remaining 85 units are, now I could ask, if they show up.  Almost all of them did and it turned out they share the love of gardening and mainly help with AF events.  'So, do you want a TOUR tour? You probably know all of that already'.  Regular tour is fine, but may have some questions about the design and maintenance, they answered, and off into the rain we went.

I normally avoid guiding groups listed as 'gardeners' of any kind, simply because my knowledge of plants is not enough for their curiosity - this gang tricked me, being listed as something else. May have to be that they will teach ME something, I thought after they revealed their true gardener identities. We just started the tour and stopped by the paperbark maple;  the question came: 'do you know its botanical name?'  Nope, eerr, or maybe I do, kind of: Acer? Acer palmatum something?  Several of them noded and then told me: 'Acer, but not palmatum, no palm-like leaves here, it's Acer griseum'. (All right, the way it's going I'm sure by the end of the tour I'l get several tree names firmly attached to my brain cells :) )

Paper bark maple leaves
It's pretty hard to find pictures of Acer griseum leaves because most people photograph its famously peeling, cinnamon colored bark: try putting the name of the paper bark maple into a goggle 'image search' and you will get countless images of the trunk alone.  I had to do a specific search, and the pic here came from the TreeTopic website.

By the Katsuga lantern we are all under umbrellas or rain-hoods; the Garden looked spectacular with its autumn foliage, just with a different, but still breath taking away wet-angle to it.  Unit 41 gardeners had many questions about maintenance, plus noted and admired many details normally overlooked by the tourist-visitors: how well the moss is kept, clever rooting of the cotoneaster in the northern rock wall and the general weed-free look of the place; they had a deep understanding why our garden maintenance crew starts their day at 6 or 7 am, well before the rest of us gets there -  to prepare the garden for presentation.

The tour lasted well above the prescribed hour - as the rain never stops a true gardener.  It was the cold air that finally brought us back to the gate, our hands and noses red, but still chatting the garden wonders.  Now I have only 84 AF units to figure out.  Joan L. and Maggie C. guided the rest of Unit 41; perhaps they'll chime in with their wet impressions.

十人十色 •  juu nin to iro - different strokes for different folks • lit: " 10 people; 10 colors "

Monday, October 18, 2010

Maple Viewing Fest

by aleks

I'm sure Seattle Parks officials are thrilled by the attendance of the Maple Viewing Fest this year -  I have never seen our Japanese Garden that crowded and although it probably means it is getting its well deserved recognition, I surely hope we will not become that crowded on regular basis.  Professor Ken Brown, of the California State University Long Beach, who had to climb benches a few times to be heard by us all during his over-attended public tour, quipped that the Japanese garden is a lot like Disneyland: lots of hills and valleys crowded into small space, to make illusion of a much bigger space than it really is. Having to step aside while making room for strolling fellow visitors and getting run into by a few of them,  made me think that  illusion of the size is not the only similarity this Sunday.

Beautiful weather surely spiked the attendance, as people rushed out on a brilliant day to catch the last rays of sun, admire the vivid colors or enjoy the taiko drummers before the rainy season closes on us...

I was scheduled to cover the origami table afternoon shift; was a bit worried how to make up for the fact that my skills are only one lesson old... Thankfully Elizabeth M. showed up, unscheduled, and kindly offered her help if anyone wanted to do something else; so I went to catch the tour/lecture and a few pics of the autumn leaves.  Upon my return Elizabeth and Lynnda were still patiently  folding paper and making boxes and cranes with everyone who wanted to learn -  a very popular activity all day.

The ikebana exhibit was well attended, too - and so was the Katsura photo-art part 2, as they shared the Tateuchi Room.

Lynnda taught me how to make an origami box only a week ago; yesterday she taught me how to make an origami crane.  Sorry I wasn't a good student, or a good co-worker at the Maple Viewing Fest (I chatted with guests too much) but I so appreciated my first pink crane!

Below are on-line instructions on how  to make origami box and crane - both links will take you to very delightful sites about the origami art:
- origami box here
- origami crane here

猿も木から落ちる (Saru mo ki kara ochiru) -- even experts make mistakes (lit. Even monkeys drop from a tree) (typically translated as Even Homer sometimes nods)

Friday, October 15, 2010

A short film about the Garden

Ginkos in SJG
by aleks

Tuesday edition of Seattle Times (Local News) published an article by Sonia Krishman titled 'Photographers feast on fall colors at special Japanese Garden shoots' - click on the title of the article to read it, and don't miss the video attached to it - you will enjoy it on many levels...

BTW, I think there is a couple of photo session still open to photographers this year  - check with the Park for space availability.

Here is direct link to Seattle Times film about SJG photo session - if it loads too long on your computer (it does on my) try going through the article above...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Weaving Wonders at the Burke Museum

by Monzie

On your way to or from the garden, take a swing (it's not too far a swing) through the Burke Museum's new exhibit of textile masterpieces from Japan and 12 other countries and regions on the Pacific Rim and Tibet.

Traditionally, weaving has been shared by individuals, families and communities working  patterns representing local legends and beliefs into cloth.  Now largely replaced by machines, the skill is being promoted in a growing number of craft centers worldwide, while examples of past and present works are preserved in such collections as the Burke's.

The exhibit contains approximately 10 examples of colorful textiles from each region with explanatory text - both superbly illuminated in one large room. (No sore feet when you leave.)

But:  No Photography Allowed.  Today's adaptation of A. A. Milne's fearsome "Trespassers W."

Introductory displays have examples of fibers (cotton, wool, silk), colors for dying, tools and looms used in weaving.  A show stopper factoid for me:  a cultivated silk worm's cocoon is unraveled in a single continuous filament that can reach as long a 1,600 yards. (Four cocoons are on view.) No wonder the Chinese kept the process secret for 2,500 years under punishment by death.

Lots of opportunities to try your  hand at weaving,  too.  Available references include sources of local instruction and bibliographies.

I visited at 2 pm and happened to have the room to myself, except for a student monitor who gave me the O.K. to move a small stool  to in front of the Japanese textiles so I could have a prolonged,  seated look.  Some highlights:

  • Length of green kasuri cloth (19C), a method using resist dyed threads to produce images, in this case of lobsters in white where the thread had been resist dyed.
  • Ainu robe (1937) woven of elm bark and cotton in muted shades, clearly showing its distinctive culture within Japan.
  • Woman's kimono (furisake) in silk (1931) worn on Coming of Age Day,
  • Woman's outer bridal kimono (uchikake) in silk (1975) of the type worn beginning in the 16C by ladies of warriors and noble families.
Motifs:  waterfalls, branches, flying birds, blossoms and bamboo.

Midori Thiel will be talking about textiles and bringing some from her own collection November 6 when she speaks to guides on Nature in Japan's Performing and Fine Arts.

I moved my stool to other collections.  Travelers will have recognition moments like the one I had seeing a rug from Oaxaca with woven symbols of the Zapotec language and small diamonds beautifully described as the "eyes of rain."

Because every post should have a picture, the one here is a mat I have from the Center of Traditional Textiles, a demonstration weaving center in Cuzco, Peru, another country represented in the exhibit.  The weaver, Tasiana Quispe Auccacusi, has interpreted a river in a style traditional to the Chinceros of the Quechua.  The center was established in 1998 to aid in the survival of Peruvian textiles and weaving traditions.

Don't miss this exhibit!  Check for information and the schedule of weaving demonstrations.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Volunteer Appreciation Lunch

Yesterday: I was reading and just minding my own business while Katsura-exhibition-sitting, when Libby bursted into Tateuchi Room,  bucket of pretty flowers in her hands; she looked definitely excited, and I was definitely bored (no fun in reading about HTML code for the technically challenged undersigned).

SJG - 10/4/10 Volunteer Appreciation Day
'What's that for?'  'Tomorrow's Volunteer Appreciation Day'  - she smiled broadly...  'Oh, yeah, so who is catering?'  'Nobody is catering, Thomas and David will be cooking for you, they just brought barbecue grill on the premises!'.  What?  You mean no usual 'thank-you speeches' while chewing on the well-intentioned, but often cardboardy catered food?

SJG - 10/4/10 Soup with a view
Today: Now, I don't know anybody who volunteers for getting appreciation lunches, but it was quite something else what the Japanese Garden Advisory Council and Seattle Parks Department had in mind!  It was more like pre-WW2 village wedding I read of somewhere:  big red tent in the court-yard with tables set under it, barbecue grill fired up on the back of the T-Room and miso soup (with a view) simmering on its patio, past the wide open French door, snacks and salads inside the T-Room, extremely attentive Garden/Council staff people who smilingly invited us to many-course meal, with... gasp.. hardly any speeches.  Just 'we love you and thank you' atmosphere.

Hiroko in a pretty apron was doing a double duty as a guest and a soup/cultural specialist,  Consul of Japan politely pointing out to our welcoming gift: a red bag, with a set of chopsticks, my-green-tea bags, cookies, spices, postcards of Japan and other goodies inside. And then just being gladly relaxed together for a few fleeting hours, while normally we are scattered about the Garden, attending to our separate tasks.

SJG - 10/4/10 Consul of Japan and the red bags
The Food!  I keep telling myself this is NOT a food blog (I wish! and maybe get recipes in the comment section in return), but the food is sooo worth mentioning...  I want to make those of you who were not able to make it today plain jealous:  two miso soups: one with clams, and one with tofu, grilled chicken and shrimp satays, oysters (in many ways), then roll your own sushi with smoked salmon and steamed rice + wasabi or plum sauce, seaweed and spinach salads, then apple cider, pomegranate juice and then green tea +  the most decadent cakes baked personally by Rachel. 
Karate Cook & 'I-learned-cooking-from-TV' Cook

If they burned it all on the grill, overcooked the soup and left accidental pecan shells in the cake, made it awful and inedible, it would be still the most wonderful meal,  because of the attention to detail and love conveyed. It was truly like visiting someone's house: the hosts were the most gracious and welcoming. I was floored... And yes, felt super-appreciated. 

Were you? Please, send your pics if you took any - we can post more in T-Room section.   What a day it was!  Thanks Seattle Parks and  SJAC!  =D>
(Clapping hands smilie the result of reading about HTML code, ha!)
The courtyard red tent (the rest of the people by the the grill & pots & trays elsewhere)
P.S. Having grown up in a totalitarian country I'm naturally paranoid and give no last names on the blog, unless I have a permission or someone is already internationally famous or published... Ditto for no close-ups pics. 

見ぬが花 • Minu ga hana.  • Literally: Not seeing is a flower. • Meaning: Reality can't compete with imagination.