Thursday, April 5, 2012

Nature's Din

Latourell Falls
My partner and I often visit these Falls to admire the striking basalt columns on the face of the cliff. The columns are more easily visible in the lower half of the photograph. Mom can be seen in the lower left corner. Her presence in the photograph gives an indication of the scale of the Falls.

The beauty of these Falls rests, for me, in the fact that everything about the scene is bold, striking, and vital. The cliff face itself is compelling, the lichen growing on the rock is eye catching with its dazzling color that refuses to blend in with that of the rock, and the water falls straight down into the pool, rejecting the usual tumbling and cascading course taken by most waterfalls. And, of course, the roar of the water can be heard long before the Falls reveal themselves.
Latourell Falls

The scene is intense and forceful. Nothing about it is quiet. Yet the effect it has is one of serenity and tranquility. It brings peace and inner calm. It quietens my mind and gently takes me into its embrace. The fresh smell of the wet vegetation, the mist drifting away from the falling water and resting on my face, and the crashing sound of the water -- all compel me to be fully present in the moment.

I find it endlessly fascinating that Nature's din does not overload my senses but actually focuses them. A similarly loud, man made object, no matter how beautiful, cannot do the same for me. Were I to stand in front of  a beautiful, strong and bold painting with a sound track to match, I would be impressed, provoked, unsettled, and perhaps overwhelmed. But not soothed. Not enfolded. The Falls are no painting, they're something more. They are a dynamic, alive, and ever changing entity. A painting once completed never changes although perceptions around it might change with time. The Falls, on the other hand, are constantly changing, moving and shifting. Much like us, they change their environment and are changed by it. Perhaps it's this underlying visceral affinity that transforms the boldness and the loudness of the Falls into a harmonious scene that envelopes completely without suffocating.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Beauty of Impermanence

Rock Garden
Inspired by the Portland Japanese Gardens that I visit often, I decided to put in a small Japanese style vignette in my yard. I found the stone bowl at a garden show and bought river rocks from a local place. I dug up the turf, placed landscape paper on the ground, and then moved in tons of rock, one wheelbarrow at a time. Of course, my obliging partner helped, who, like me, is inspired by all things Japanese  (okay most things Japanese). We both love the Japanese aesthetic - the attention to detail, the obsession to seek perfection in form, in any form, and the honed ability to transform the mundane into the sacred.

I digress. It took two of us two days to construct this rock garden. By the end of it, our arms were trembling with fatigue. However, we loved the result so much that we did not mind the aches and pains. This was our little nod to Zen sensibility -- minimal, peaceful, and harmonious. We had created something beautiful.

Next day, we decided to take a picture for my mum-in-law (from now on known exclusively as Mom) who happens to be a terrific gardener with an exquisite sense of beauty. We filled up the stone bowl with water and floated a cluster of Verbena blossoms. My partner took the picture shown above. Then we went around the corner to take pictures of other parts of the garden that we thought Mom might enjoy. 

After five minutes or so, we decided to go back to the our rock garden and linger a while, soaking up its beauty.When we turned the corner, we were in shock. The water in the bowl had disappeared. The Verbena cluster looked like a ship stranded on the bed of a long ago dried up river or sea. This mystified us -- so much water could not have evaporated in five or ten minutes, and yet we could not deny the fact that there was no trace of water. I took the hose and filled up the bowl again, and we both watched as the water slowly seeped away through the porous stone bowl. Yep, the stone bowl was porous, we had no idea! We laughed our heads off and decided not to seal the bowl. Why? Because the bowl would now forever be symbolic of a lesson we needed to learn - yes Zen is minimal, peaceful, and harmonious, but it is also impermanent. Beauty is impermanent, the marks of hard labor are impermanent, heck everything is impermanent.

Some say that whatever you publish on the Web stays forever. Uh-uh -- that too is impermanent.