Thursday, July 4, 2013

Thoughts of a New SJG Guide

Posted by Cara I.

After the informative, intense training this spring, it was delightful to be declared a Unit 86 Seattle Japanese Garden docent. It was also stressful, because that meant actually leading tours was next – to help with that stressor, the members of the ‘Class of 2013’ were encouraged to meet with mentors and shadow veteran guides as we developed our own tours.

So, I talked a lot with my mentor and shadowed tours; like other novitiates, I also brought friends to the Garden and practiced explaining its elements, noting structures, and stopping at spots where those kind friends could enjoy the scenery. It was a pleasure as well to stroll through the Garden with a fellow new guide, a plant expert, who taught me more about its collection of flora.

As the azalea and rhododendron (which I learned belong to the same genus) started to blossom, filling the Garden with color, I realized it was time to ‘just do it’; since May, I’ve led two public tours, including one in which we were all surprised by a young man in the group who stopped us at the highest point of the Garden, faced his girlfriend, reached into his pocket…, pulled out a ring…, got down on one knee… and proposed to her! She accepted! The private tour groups I’ve guided have been of school children, and I had so much fun with them – I hope they had fun, too!!
Photo taken after a garden photography
presentation by David Cobb

I am continually grateful for the generosity of the employees at the SJG and senior guides, especially my very capable mentor, who so willingly offer ideas to help me develop tours. It’s now summer – a particularly green time in the Garden – and I am also enjoying other opportunities that being a Unit 86 volunteer brings, like making new friends, helping tend the garden, attending continuing education activities, and helping at special events such as the Tanabata event this Sunday.

Becoming a contributor to this blog is another opportunity I am already appreciating, and I look forward to posting entries from time to time, from my ‘new guide’ point of view!


  1. I've been guiding for...ummm...a number of years and never had anything that approaches an engagement take place while on tour! Thanks for adding such a treasure to our store of happenings en route around the garden.

    Welcome to you and other members of the Class of 2013. (It's a very good year.) So glad to read you are sampling the garden's menu of opportunities and look forward to reading more of your posts!

  2. Cara,
    What a well-rounded, mindful guide you're becoming at the SJG. And you're having the kinds of experiences that are what one hopes a new guide can have. Delighted that you volunteered to do this.

  3. bravo Cara on your first post!

    wonderful and hilarious that you had people engaging to wed, and all within your first two public tours! i certainly want to shadow YOU now - seems like interesting things happen to you along the way:).

    YES, concurring with Monzie and wobbly-sabi: welcome to you and other members of the 2013 class! may you all want to guide, blog and share with the rest of the world :)

  4. Thanks for your comments - I'm happy to be a member of the 2013 class!! I was told that people often get engaged at the Garden (what a gorgeous setting for such a moment) but I was lucky that the man, who'd been carrying the ring around for days apparently, decided to ask the big question while they were on the Garden tour :-)

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