Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sooooo Seattle

by aleks
I usually have my camera with me when in the Garden, mostly to take pics of the plants for our plant list, and sometimes to record the events that take place in our Garden for this blog...  But I rarely take pictures for the sake of taking pictures, the way people who feel passionate about photography do, trying to capture a certain mood, or light,  or color,  or scene.  My camera usage is strictly pragmatical and since I'm yet to take a single photography lesson I resist the urges of trying anything else.

SJG • 10/23/13 Sooo Seattle

But last fall, when I went to capture some close-ups of maple leaves,  my eye fell on the WPA stone bridge and I saw a little girl about to cross it, amidst flame colored maples.  It was just such a beautiful sight,  'this is sooo Seattle' type of sight, that I couldn't help but click.   I kept looking at it on my computer, because it always made me smile.

This fall when Rumi, our events coordinator, was placing info about the upcoming Maple Fest at the Seattle Child Magazine, she was searching for some applicable photo to go with it,  and asked if I had something which might do: fall/kids/activities.  It wasn't easy because kids rarely wander into the range at which I take photos of the trees or flowers in bloom,  but I did find 5 maybe/possible/ pics and Rumi sent them along with her Maple Fest write-up,  for the mag's editor choosing.  Apparently 'soo Seattle' feeling was not mine alone, because the pic of a girl crossing the bridge was chosen to accompany the mentions about SJG activities for the October issue of SCM.

Yeah, I'm boasting, but it made me genuinely happy to share this pic with the people of the city I love, and an excuse to post it,  too.

Here is an on-line version of the Seattle Child where the pic went with a story about 7 Great Spots for Fall Colors and Kid Photos:

And here is the paper version, where it went to Calendar Section, with Rumi's write-up about Maple fest:'sChildOctober2014/#?page=34

SJG • 10/29/12 - one of the NOT-chosen pics:  I was trying to get a pic of samidare maple,
but those two just seemed to have set down their roots there,  like forever.
I remember thinking: 'if they at least had a sense of dressing in green to blend-in!'
Now you know what I mean by 'pragmatical' pics.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Maple Viewing 2014

by aleks
SJG • 10/12/14

The trees are just starting to turn, so it will be a long and happy Maple Viewing: 16 maples now have labels underneath, which will stay in the ground under each tree till it has no leaves left.

SJG • 10/12/14 - Seattle Kokon Taiko performing in Fishing Village

You can keep coming this fall and enjoy the progress of Osakazuki Akame (by the WPA bridge on the E path)  and Omato (near the wisteria trellis) maples getting crimson red, Koto-no-Ito bamboo-like leaves (at courtyard's entrance) changing to golden yellow, Nikko (on the edge of the orchard, W path) turning stunningly vivid pink, Shigitastsu Sawa reticulated leaves looking like stained glass windows and fern-like green leaves of Aconitifolium getting sharp red edges before turning to its intense fall colors of orange, carmine-red and purple (both on the service road, behind the Tea House Garden)

SJG • 1012/14 - Naoko Fujii from Meito-kai, Japanese Calligraphy Association,
taught visitors  basics of  Japanese calligraphy in Tateuchi Community Room

This year Maple Viewing has opened on Sunday 10/12 in quite unusual way: with Taiko Drummers concert  and several hand-on activities. In the past we just let the trees speak for themselves, but having something else to do and see besides beautiful trees made it really a family affair with something for everyone. Thank you, Rumi Tsuchihashi, the Garden Stewardship and Events Coordinator, for inviting those exciting people and making the Maple Viewing opening truly memorable and special:

• Seattle Kokon Taiko (go to their informative website - they have classes upcoming October through January,  in the International District)
• Naoko Fujii from Meito-kai, Japanese Calligraphy Association, who taught people basic strokes of Japanese calligraphy and helped them to  sing it in Japanese
• Lisa Sanphillipo, school program coordinator the UW Botanic Gardens Education and Outreach Unit, who had brought dried leaves and flowers for visitors to make maple-themed cards.
• Daipan Butoh, who surprised visitors by appearing and disappearing while dancing on the paths.

SJG • 10/12/14 - Daipan Butoh Dancers 
When you come back to check on the trees, don't overlook our glorious, over 100 years old Japanese Lace leaf Maples (2 by the entrance) who are just turning smoky orange, or Samidare maple by the zig-zag bridge, which fall colors are varying blends of gold, crimson and purple - a rainbow effect quite unusual on one tree.

SJG • 10/12/14 - appropriately under maple, maple-themed art with Lisa Sanphillipo
of the UW Botanic Gardens; one of the Garden Guides, Sue C. is helping  with activities
And if you are really late in coming to see the maple show take a look at Shishigashira on the top N path, one of the last maples to change color with leaves turning scarlet or golden yellow burnished with red (during one of the recent public tours a visitor form North Carolina shared a picture of his own scarlet Shishigashira taken in his garden last December),  or note the interesting green stripes on the bark of Acer Capillipes (one along the connector path and two in the NE corner of the Garden.

SJG • 10/12/14 - maple-themed card in the making

Thursday, October 9, 2014

NOH in Seattle

by aleks
9/8/14 - Blood moon over Seattle

Last week I saw a NOH performance (ACT Theater) for the first time in my life and was floored, totally, by its beauty and simple execution.

About a year ago Keiko posted about the NOH theatre coming to Pacific Northwest for a rare appearance, and she explained that it is Japanese opera-like musical form, with a very long, dating to medieval times, tradition. I was highly interested, but, alas, the tickets for their limited performances sold out fast, and I lost one in a lifetime opportunity to see it, or so I thought.

What I didn't know was that when Munenori Takeda and his Noh troupe were here in 2013, he was approached by  Seattle's composer Garrett Fisher and the two of them agreed to collaborate on a musical project together.

9/8/14 - Blood moon over Seattle

Only a year later, the Noh theatre was back: not only with a traditional telling of a love story from Japan's epic The Tale of the Heike, titled Tomoe, but also with a Noh-inspired modern opera Yoshinaka,  which was the fruit of the cross-cultural collaboration between the two musicians, communicating across the oceans via flickering computer screens and through several back and forth translations.

Tomoe story is about a woman warrior of the 12 century famed for her skill in battle, and the traditional Noh performance is set after her death and tells of Tomoe's ghost's resentment toward her lord, general Yoshinaka, for refusing her to remain with him on the battlefield, where subsequently he lost his life.

The Act Theater had the Noh actors dancing on their small stage in traditional costumes and masks, and chanting the slow drama in poetic Japanese language with the English supra-titles. To my surprise, I found the tale very easy to follow and appreciate, extremely moving and breathtakingly beautiful; my surprise was probably steaming from anxiety that the culture of medieval Japan is really far off from my original european roots, therefore perhaps hard to understand + I had no prior Noh exposure.

Munenori Takeda,
picture from Garrett Fisher website

After the intermission we were treated to Yoshinaka, a fusion of Noh and modern American opera: an interesting music ensemble (including Taiko drums and Indian pump harmonium),  dance, beautiful singing and lights.  I couldn't tell in what language they were singing (opera often does it to me, and there were NO supra-titles for that part), but it was fascinating and hauntingly beautiful.

In this telling of the story both Tomoe and Yoshinaka were on the stage, also a Poet made it to it (Matsuo Basho, who in real life  asked his pupils to burry him in the same temple in Ootsu, where the gravestones for Tomoe and Yoshinaka are), and Munenori Takeda was now playing the goddess Shokannon who unites and liberates the once separated spirits of the two warriors.  I'm not ashamed to say that the opera's ending had me in tears of joy.

For some reason I can't embed it, but here is a link to a short interview (with English subtitles)  with Noh actor Munenori Takeda in Bainbridge Island, WA:

Here is link to Beauty of Noh Seattle website for Tomoe and Yoshinaka - it has explanation about Noh and tells about the collaboration between Takeda and Fisher.

Link to an excellent Seattle Times article by Misha Berson Famed Japanese actor embraces Noh and the new...

Link to an article on Medieval Japan: An Introductory Essay by Ethan Segal, Michigan State University - it includes a mention of the Tale of the Heike and the times it was written...

And here a link to a bilingual book I just bought, titled Noh, by Matsuo Takahasi - it has 30 Noh masterpieces + photographs(!) - a great  introductory book to the world of Noh.

Since no pictures were allowed in the theatre I'm offering the blood moon over Seattle pics from last nigh (mere 12 hours after the eclipse the previous night).

• • • • • 
Reminder: This Sunday, October 12, Maple Viewing - all day (our star maples will be named and labeled!);  activities 11am-3pm