One of the first tours I led this season was of a group of older adults from a residential community. When I met the group and their leader, they expressed some familiarity with gardens, Japan, and even the Seattle Japanese Garden, so it was with anticipation of learning from them that I started our garden stroll.
Stepping on the threshold stone, we shed our outside cares away and walked into the garden. Individuals noticed the pines, the dry stream bed. I spoke of the ‘hide and reveal’ principle in Juki Iida’s design of the garden.
The group leader said that one member, Sally, was here in 1960 when the garden was built; in fact, Sally’s husband had helped to build it. He was one of the Japanese American gardeners on Juki Iida’s team that constructed the garden. What a wonderful opportunity to hear about that group of gardeners, whose assistance was invaluable to create what we see in the garden today, 55 years later!
|The stone is there (in the water to the R of the men), but not the lantern on it yet ... The archival photo was taken during the construction in spring of 1960; Aleks found it at the Miller Library. The original photographer is unknown.|
Sally said the garden looks very different now, noting the maturity of plants and the weathering of stone elements her husband had helped to place. She shared a story about observing the construction one day. She remembered her husband in the pond with a heavy lantern, patiently following Iida’s instructions to move it this way and that till it was placed exactly on a stone as the designer wished it. “It was that one,” she said, pointing to the yukimi-toro (snow-viewing lantern) on the south shore of the pond, a favorite lantern in the garden for many visitors and certainly one of the most-photographed due to its mossy cap, the probable consequence of its placement at the shoreline and the direction it faces.
|Similar angle, the pic taken in spring 2011; the zigzag bridge is to the north and stone peninsula to the right. The lantern has now been sitting on the stone for 55 years - or since Sally's husband helped to place it there.|
That day in 1960, Sally took a photo of her husband, crouched low in the pond to avoid blocking the designer’s view and still be able to move the lantern. She really liked that photo, although it's become misplaced over the years, she mentioned. As she shared her memory of that day, I knew I'd think of Sally and her husband every time I see the yukimi-toro from now on.