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JAPAN [four]: TEMPLE GARDENS…

In this reality the sacred is close… inviting, yet.. elusive. One feels invitation… permission to taste & sample. Heaven seems to exist first in life on this earth… reality as abstract gardens.
While I can claim no real knowledge about theology or religion in Japan, architecturally at least, they present themselves quite often at street level. Never so grandiose as European cathedrals, they seem to support everyday life in their presence… or to offer a deep sense of remove behind gated walls.

I often felt a bit intrusive as we explored… Yet each accommodates stocking-footed visitors along the verandas circumambulating the temples while coming to awareness that these garden are many centuries alive… even those made only of sere stone. A difficult concept even to this organic gardener remembering the natural temples in the Red Rocks of Sedona.

Thus the gardens, which have long been part of the meditational practice of the temple devotees, proving a literally living faith. While there is resonance between them, there does not seem to be any formula. Each presents an individual history of story & style.

This is the most famous of the raked gravel type:

We were nearly always accompanied by groups of youngsters on school outings…

I was enthralled by the wooden walkways, protected by the eaves, with deliciously comfortable flooring made with extravagantly wide polished boards. They buffered the building from the garden, while offering possibility of opening the shoji to marry interior with the exterior spaces.

Another was a study in moss…

Details I liked included interactive margins & the surprize of these red buckets, both just over the edges of the walkways. I must presume the buckets are part of fire protection…

Compositions could be severely geometric or quite amorphic. All were poetic dialogues & dramatic conversations between rocks & plants inside constucted controlled space surrounding a wooden space built as “nature” by & for humans… becoming rather an elaborately organic theatre.

I caught Stephen in a sweet reverie at sunset in this rich Zen environment…

The meditation rooms of the zendos were serene, with lively painting on the shoji.

Skillful craftsmanship in wood abounds in Japan, of course.

There is a pair of famous temples on the eastern & western sides of Kyoto, close to the bordering mountains…  one Silver & the other Golden… both having large gardens… in opposing styles. The Silver Temple never got its metallic treatment… the dark two-story building just to the right of sand cone is the temple. It’s gardens are the attraction, beginning with this sand garden featuring a blunt conical shape representing Mount Fuji… seemingly as symbolic volcano.

This was the largest… & tallest! of this kind of sculptural construct in nature we saw.
The shogun who built this garden lived his retirement in the larger villa near the temple.

The severity of the geometric sand evolves as the path turns into more verdant planting while the mountain receeds into the distance.

A waterfall is another typical feature of Kyoto’s gardens… as are the props used to shape the trees… I may need to make a separate post of the many images I made of such devices & other tools which caught this gardener’s eyes…

 The path climbs quite high up the steep hillside to a viewpoint of the temple complex before relaxing down through green glades.

One last glyphic sand garden…
Plus a glimpse I made into a gardener’s toy box…
For the record, I must explain that both Stephen & I were making photographs with our cameras & phones. We do not always know which of us took these images, so I give equal credit to him…

ENDING A SEASON… ENDING AN ERA…

I broke my favorite gardening tool several days ago… ending a twenty year era using it to fork-up garden soil. I bought it just after my 50th birthday with a gift of cash from Frederick & Rodney in Sonoma County, California, carving an inscription to that effect along the handle. It had been fragile & we had replaced it with another so as to coddle its weakness, but, in a mood of reminiscence. I took it out of its corner in the shed for a gentle chore. 
Its time had obviously come… 

I might have used it to dig the tubers of the Mashua, which has covered its trellis this summer & is now blooming… the first indication that the harvest at its roots is beginning to develop… probably to be ready around solstice…

The entire plant is edible, leading leaflets are great in salad, as are the insignificant blossoms, 

This is a Peruvian nasturtium I discovered when I was volunteering at the “Mother Garden”, the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center, also in Sonoma. Most years I’ve had difficulty growing enough “seed” tubers to plant, but last year I didn’t let us eat any of the zippy morsels  & we are now going to be rewarded! We happily eat them sliced raw, but they are also delicious roasted, when they mellow n flavor. I’ve posted about this before with these photos of a previous crop…
 I’ll close with these delightfully colored Fava beans from earlier this summer…

Apprentice Chandler took the time to sort them into a gradually spectral line…

Now I will shop for a new handle for the still sturdy tines of the fork… 
perhaps it will yet help to harvest Mashua!

Frogs & Fog…

Recent mornings have been rather mystically misty.

Bringing my morning coffee down to sit in the garden startles the frogs into silence for only a few minutes while they assess that I am no danger. I could not say “chorus”, which certainly applies to the sound we often open car windows, slowing on our drive home, to enjoy passing several ponds higher on the slopes above Soundcliff.

As I settle the quiet restores & they begin again… usually only a trio or quartet of young explorers, presumably from those wet places further up-slope. I sip, celebrating that they chose to grace this garden at the edge of… well… everything! To have frogs, butterflies & bees, plus increasing variety of birdsong in our Eden gives some hope on our cliff’s edge… emissaries of the Goddess.

How does one measure a garden’s progress?  Years ago I grounded myself as quincunx to the center of the four raised beds I call “Roothole”. I’ve held faith in the intelligence of growing beauty & food, rejuvenating my patchy gardener, after some years living urban… proving my devotion.

These musings sometime get warmed by bright moments aptly described  in our vernacular as the sun-breaks we cherish. The camomile bed begins to call me. I’ve ignored it this summer to the point I was ready to give up weeding it. Weeding again becomes meditation…

Summer has been gloriously sunny… the garden has similarly responded!

There is a lovely wild plant abundant in our neighborhood. I do not know any name, but we have dubbed it a “gourd”. It is not. Instead it is a fragile husk which protects three large seeds, which develop into a sturdy perennial octopus-like root mass. While not on my list of weeds, I am chary to let its lovely rampant growth into my garden!

 The pea trellis eventually gave a long season of both snow peas & sugar snap varieties.

 It grew in the old fire-pit, which has developed rich soil…

I found seeds for a variety of beans I knew from the Mother Garden in Sonoma County… which we came to call “Dragon’s Lingerie” mimicking the French name.

 We grow many kales & greens, but our favorite kale has long been Lacinata, rich substance, dark green. Late summer brought another old favorite in Trombonchino, a squash often living up to its name in shape!

Our favorite of the several varieties of kale we grow is Lacinatta, a deeply vital, dark green, rich in texture & nutrition… glorious fiber!

Squash blossoms are further boom, offering cavities to stuff with goodie before sauteing.

One result…

We love having fine displays from new bulbs… Hymenocalis, so reminiscent of blooms in Bali, we can only welcoming this exotic flower to Soundcliff’s garden!

Another “exotique” was dug out between paving stones as I weeded…
This ginger was gift from Taylor some years ago. finally finding a home to bloom…
The challenge is to determine our zone as it might define our unique exposure for such specimens… I’ve a life’s-work yet in this garden. 
I end with a nocturnal view of Soundcliff wishing you good night.

GARDEN GATES…

I have long wished to be able to write on my computer in my own hand lettering. Now, with the new iPad I’ve recently treated myself to, I can… if not very well yet. I’m certain I will become more facile with a stylus on its glass screen, it will take practice & more exploration of various apps to facilitate better control.

Last night saw the completion of a project to build gates for the deer fence mentioned in the previous post… this morning I “penned” several pages to share my celebration & joy at the progress:

!YES! FENCE ME IN…

Our Island’s deer population is increasing since there are few predators… excepting automobiles. Any suggestion of introducing cougars seems unpopular… while my favorite fantasy of a “bevy of bare-chested bow-hunters” has proven complicated as well! After gardening here for years with only minimal damage, the past several seasons have seemed to educate their palates to a boldness which I can no longer tolerate… I vowed this summer to not garden until they are fenced out!  I took inspiration from our neighbors’ having recently enclosed their garden with recycled fish netting.

Because they now are nibbling many plants in our landscape beyond the potager kitchen beds… even ornamentals which have been “safe” for many years… I wanted to fence the entire property, meaning almost 400 feet of length. A project made more daunting given the steep slope & uneven terrain through the woods from one cliff edge up to the road & house then down & around to the cliff edge again.

Fortune smiled when a young man named Tom arrived to help me realize such solution. He’d gravitated to our bell booth at our local Strawberry Festival in July… with a charmingly wide smile. At 19 he has finished his Associate’s Degree & is heading to Evergreen College to begin studies anticipating his becoming a farmer… how could we not put him to work?!?!!

Tom wore this wrap of the netting so as to carry it down through the woods to keep it from dragging & snagging on  the brambles before it got hung & fastened…

Here he contemplates throwing a line to fell a small tree for a fence post…

But we first needed to have some major tree work done, a clump of huge, too-old & diseased Alders were required to be brought down, before another fell as inopportunely happened last winter… blocking the road during a big snow storm.

The cherry tree which has always reclined will remain a character.
In this part of the yard has long been a shade garden…
Now the light has broken through… to our mixed emotions.
Aaron has done such work for us before, although not at such scale
The result is now much more open…
Even as the trees fell crashing into heaps below…
Piles of wood were bucked into lengths ready to  split…
Stephen consults with Tom about the work he will do…
He contemplates the task…
 Answering with his predictable attitude…

Those random piles became some 6-7 cords of fire wood,  split & neatly stacked by this young man’s energy… now curing until next year… clearing space we needed for completing the fence line.

A large pile of debris awaits the end of our unusually long dry spell’s  burn ban.

While he certainly did the major part, he also put me to work. He’s small & wiry & energized in a way quite unfathomable, with all the necessary experience & tools to make improbable work seem easy. He’s regular & reasonable.  He’s bright & creative. We worked well together, having good mind connections wrestling with the problems we tackled. I became his go-fer & assistant, while maintaining an eye toward design.

We used as many standing trees as possible, filling in with fence posts as necessary. We acquired a quantity of salvaged netting & rope we found for free in the city.

The north end of the fence begins down at the cliff to the left in this view 
… continuing along the road approaching the house.
Looking back from closer to the house…
down, around the wood piles, to end at the cliff on the south..
The aesthetic mostly works…
Looking south, the coil of extra rope will be gifted to some other…

Tom ultimately gave me one last of his deliciously big hugs… habitual to our hellos & goodbyes… on his way to his next admirable adventure… leaving me quite wallowing in the blessings of a fine Platonic love.

Such definition of territory protects & gifts me with new richness.

WORKIN’ ON A CHAIN GANG…

We were delighted when earlier this spring the contractor who did the remodel of Soundcliff more than a decade ago finally had some time to work on a much smaller series of projects we had long been dreaming.

Falling in love with the views from our part of the Island he bought a house just up the road & became a neighbor… Peter has also become our friend. We trust & appreciate his attention to the details inside his sense of basic, simple & sturdy design… all done with singular quality. Much of the  Soundcliff’s character has his fingerprints…

As his reputation grew the projects he took on grew ever more complex as well.  Multi-million dollar rehabs, however, are rather more rare these days, so we were able to attract his attention once again to our several comparably small projects.

The initial work involved remaking the rather steep rock path leading down the south side of the house to the studio with steps to harmonize with those built from the parking during the remodel. As one can see in these two views before we began the change, our entire property is quite a slope down into the view over the edge of our cliff.

That rustic lower path was a great solution in the beginnings of making a garden from what had been a severely raw site reworked after the new foundation was poured & the septic system/drain field installed. Megan, who designed the bones of the garden, gifted us some necessary early traction… gardening here includes a good deal of hiking!

When I moved to Soundcliff we made the garden level into my working space & soon I became involved with the Island’s Open Studio tours. I had, for a number of years, wanted to make that path more comfortable & inviting for those guests. Here is the current result:

 

This terrace  broadens into a functional destination giving access to the hose bib & the half wine barrel we use to coil the hose. We got more of the square Indonesian paving stones I first found 5 years ago for another walkway on the north of the house to make this detail. The posts act as guides for the hose while moving around to water the gardens. I’ve been dreaming all this for several years…

Since we’d decided to do the work of re-laying the old stones into the new frames ourselves… not quite realizing what that meant, there was a summer’s worth of rock moving… hence my notion that I’ve been working on a chain gang!

Indeed, it became a huge jigsaw puzzle!

I particularly like this image from the beginning, when the stones were first lifted, leaving the sod which had grown between them… like a negative “print”.

Peter had worked very carefully to plan so the steps would be graceful to both eyes & feet, then sprayed a working drawing directly onto the ground from from his various horizontal measurements & vertical leveling stakes, since ultimately such work must be accomplished

I believe he accomplished that grace…

But… the project continued to include more… just as the path continues… down & around, leading to my studio door, which itself acquired another terrace paved with those Indonesian stones & presenting a cedar plank bench… a working surface for garden projects or to become a buffet or bar for entertaining…

This was built atop a new drainage system to relieve what had become a problematic puddle during winter’s wet.

[Peter is on the left, directing that work…]

This view shows the terrace from the deck above when it had just been filled with a pristine layer of  sand into which the stones were laid:

Then with the bench & stone installed:

Inside the studio a new step levels the entrance, replacing a ramp which had served when we stored the lawn mower in the space now occupied by the metal polishing area:

Another terrace laid out some years ago finally got paved with the same dressed volcanic Indonesian paving stones. I’d first used them to make the steps & path traversing the north side of the house, on the way up from the house deck to The Forge, Stephen’s writing cottage, or down to my studio, which in turn, we call, The Hold. I again called the Islander who had back then advertised them in the local newspaper & we bought 120 more. They are gently geometrical , yet have wonderfully subtle variety of color & surface… they are easy & fun to lay in comparison to finding a fit of the irregular shapes. I love both their looks in combination for contrast!

A new step was made from the end of the plank used for the bench of the studio terrace… bringing additional harmony to our wide mix of materials…

A mystery emerged deepened when several more stones revealed a curious marking carved into the surface. I had evolved a notion that perhaps it indicated a sign for some “hotel”, even as the spacing seemed odd for that, but each of the three additional examples we found were quite similar, with the same three glyphs. Another opinion suggests them to be some sort of mason’s mark, like a signature or brand. I settled one into each terrace…
While I tried to resist tackling the final bit of path, even as it is the route which I personally use in daily frequency on my way from house to studio & back. But, I was in a groove, so that resolve lost to one last project, building several steps from recycled lumber & relaid the stones which largely had become buried. 
I also reconfigured a crudely rough pile of stones at the corner of the building into a new garden for miniatures…

 That  brings my recent attentions fully ’round the perambulation of the house we use to negotiate our slope… I am content.

One last overview from the deck brings us back to the bottom of the steps… all rock laid during my stint on this chain gang. I’m back in the studio now, reorganizing the aftermath of all these projects!
 
You’re invited to come take a walk!