I just spent about an hour and half wandering through the Japanese Garden in Portland. It’s a spectacular garden no matter what time of year you visit. In the summer it is verdant and green, with bright colors of flowers bursting out. In the fall the palette tends towards reds and oranges. The spring is a lighter green color, with the pastels of the spring flowers. The winter is when the garden is at its least colorful. Today there were a variety of greens, from the boughs of cedars and firs, the forest green of camellias, the sage green of most of the mosses. There were a few pale pink flowers bursting off what might have been dwarf cherry trees, and some camellia flowers.
What I love about the Japanese Gardens is the way in which they encourage you to stop and contemplate what you are seeing. The goal is not to walk through quickly, but to stop and see as much as you can in what is there. To look at the patterns in the rock gardens, to see how the moss curves around the rocks, and how the rocks are placed amid the grasses. To appreciate how sparsely the bamboo is growing, and admire the work which must be required to keep the bamboo from taking over the entire area. To appreciate the twisted branches of the trees, which have been carefully trimmed and trained into a specific form.
The Japanese Garden is designed to encourage a sort of observation and mindfulness which is too often absent from our lives. We do not take the time in everyday life to notice the feel of different surfaces under our shoes…the transition from a slab of stone to gravel to packed dirt. The garden encourages you to notice these transitions, to be aware of how each feels differently as you plant your feet upon it.
The Japanese Garden is a highly artificial natural environment. It is constructed oh so carefully by humans to create an experience, but is build entirely out of natural growing features, as well as stone and water. It is a place of contemplation and peace, and among my favorite places in Portland.