Sunday, May 15, 2011

an idler-- under the cherry blossoms I live

by aleks
(Click on the pics to enlarge them)
 5/13/11 - Kwanzan cherries in the commons next to SJG
They were playing ball under the kwanzan cherry trees in the commons, by the Garden parking lot, and every time the ball went up in the air, it caused thousands of pink petals to fall on them. I wasn't sure if they did it on purpose or wether it was an accident of ball playing, but it was a mesmerizing scene to watch so I sat in my car much longer than needed, just observing them while "I think to myself what a wonderful world" was self-playing in my head...

I needed not hurry, because the young people were waiting for their 10:50 tour  - the very one I came to guide with 3 other docents, and it was only 10:30.  Their teacher, Joshua A., brings his 9th grade Honors Humanities students  from Monroe High School to the Japanese Garden for tours every year - it's a part of their Pacific Rim cultures study, and the students are usually a joy to be with: smart, sharp, polite and curious.

This year's group of 15/16 y.o. from Monroe HS was no exception: focused, asking intelligent questions, while being properly zen-relaxed at the same time - they told me that their only assignment was to enjoy the Garden and to note something of personal interest to remember. To match their relaxed attitude I changed the tour narrative a bit, and instead of taking them 'from station to station' and cramming their heads with details they'd likely forget, I guided them on a more leisurely stroll, mainly talking about general elements of the Japanese Garden, common to all Japanese gardens they'd likely visit in the future: the water, stones and pines and different 'rooms' of the Garden - orchard, mountains or fishing village.

SJG • 5/13/11 - Students from Monroe HS feed koi
... and have a good time.

Rosario (sorry if I misspelled your name) asked about the East Gate when we were passing it, so I said that Seattle Garden is likely the only one in the world with the entry gate on the 'wrong' side of the garden (due to the traffic issues outside), and what she is looking at is the original gate - the Japanese like to be in harmony with nature and enter the garden from the East, where the sun rises...

Once we reached the 'mountains', we paused to look at the Garden below and ponder its many levels, now revealed to our eyes:  Turtle Island, bridges, moon viewing platform and across the pond still half-hidden Tea House Garden and towering ginkgo trees.  Kathy was passing with her part of the Monroe HS students and pointed out to them the Kobe lantern above us - a gift from Seattle's sister city in Japan.  I welcomed her aiding my maybe too leisurely (or lazy - I forgot about the lantern!) narrative, so when my group of students followed with their eyes to what Kathy was pointing to her group, I only added: "what she said".

SJG • 5/13/11 - Students from Monroe HS read haiku; Kobe Lantern behind them

Since we were already sitting, we took the time to read seasonal haiku by Kobayashi Issa and this one seemed to be the group's favorite (I wonder if in connection with their earlier playing ball under the cherry blossoms):

Kobayashi Issa 1806
gokutsubushi sakura no shita ni kurashi keri

an idler--
under the cherry blossoms
I live 
(Translation by David Lanoue)
The Friday tour ended promptly at 11:40 and the students boarded the school bus which was taking them to the afternoon's stop of their day-trip of things all-Pacific-Rim: the Asian Art Museum.  Next Friday the teacher Joshua A. will be back with more students, and I will have to find new haiku poems for them, maybe about different trees than this week's...

Kobayashi Issa 1808
asu araba araba to omou sakura kana

tomorrow and tomorrow
will they still be?
cherry blossoms
(Translation by David Lanoue)
Because they won't. 

P.S.  The photos posted with the students' permission. 


  1. A shame to pick it
    A shame to leave it
    The violet.

    One of my favorites. Lovely post. The teacher's assignment to enjoy and remember one salient aspect reminds me of speaker Robertson's suggestion some months ago about using our senses in the garden.

  2. thank you for that, Anonymous. i didn't know that haiku, apparently written by Naojo. while googling for it, i came upon interesting site called HOKKu and maintained by David Coomler, where he discusses the poem you quoted:

    [...]Naojo is caught in her own attachment. She is, as the old saying goes, like a dog at a pot of boiling fat; he can neither taste it nor leave it. But what she tells us indirectly — indirectness being very appropriate for hokku — is how beautiful the violet is. It is because of that delicate beauty that she finds herself caught in attachment. [...]

    David's is a very interesting site, which he himself describes this way:
    [...]This site began years ago as a place for the discussion and teaching of hokku — the continuation in English of the old Japanese verse form that has become notoriously distorted and altered in the West as “haiku.” [...]

    ha, learn something every day! as a haiku/hokku lover (on rather pedestrian level) i appreciate being steered his way and seeing this form of verse in a new way; so thanks, Anonymous.

    copy and paste the link below to see the rest of David's VIOLETS, HEART AND MIND post, and while there enjoy the rest of David's writings.