Friday 27 September 2013

Kaetsu Centre Garden, Cambridge, UK

The Gardens at the Kaetsu Centre, Cambridge

Before, from the interior looking towards the left.
Before, right side garden from interior.
Earlier this year at the Kaetsu Centre in the grounds of Murray Edwards College, Cambridge, an educational establishment founded by a Japanese philantrophic family, a group of volunteers gave up a weekend to create a series of gardens under the direction of garden creator Robert Ketchell. The garden spaces are very small but prominent as they are seen from a glass stairwell. Originally filled with ferns that found themselves growing there, it is an example of using the Japanese garden approach to maximise  and create interest in even the most unlikely spaces. 

There are four small garden areas, each has a ‘story’ to tell; one section is a simple rock arrangement representing the Kaetsu foundation founders, another section represents the Chōshū Five (five young Japanese who were sent to study at imperial College, London in 1863, two of whom became important political figures in Japan), and yet another part of the garden represents the symbolic interconnection of two island states.

The garden is composed of four elements:

Founders Garden

1      To the left of the stairwell (in the exterior space) is the ‘Founder’s Garden”, i設者の庭, a karesansui arrangement of three stones. The two tall principal stones represent the Kaetsu family the third smaller stone represents their benevolence flowing out into society.

Five stone arrangement representing the Chōshū Five
     To the right of the stairwell (in the exterior space) is the ‘Chōshū Gotetsu Garden’, 長州五傑の庭, composed of five stones representing the five young members of the Chōshū clan from Kyushu who were sent to study at imperial College, London in 1863. Two of whom (Itō Hirobumi and Inoue Kaoru) went on to became important political figures in Japan in their day. At the time they left sumuggled aboard a English ship it was forbidden for Japanese to leave their shores under the policy of isolation. The small stone lantern represents the light of knowledge and education.

3   Beyond the glass wall of the stairwell are seven upright stones (six set into the bank covered by ivy, one by the glass wall), this arrangement of stones represents the students who have passed through the Kaetsu Centre out in the world.

     Within the stairwell is a trayscape arrangement in the karesansui style, it is a stylised representation of the link between two island nations.

A symbolic river of black pebbles winds through each of the individual gardens suggesting the flow of ideas and knowledge crossing oceans, boundaries and time. 

Sketch plan of gardens layout

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Thursday 26 September 2013

In Mystery Do We Dwell

Living within walls
With a roof over my head –
The carousel lurches around
As dreams lie still as stepping stones.

Deep within the earth
Guided only by instinct and touch
Below sight, where light never visits
Finding an opening to yet another world:
“Wait,” she says, “not yet, not now.”

Something has bitten off half the moon,
It was all there the other night
Looming bright patience in the sky-
I looked again tonight,
But could not see beyond
Cloud curtains firmly shut-
In mystery doubt flourishes,
Perchance we are lost for now
‘Til night’s light returns to illume the path.

Along the towpath
Held out as if jewels
Blackberries dense in summer sun-
I picked some for you
But could only carry them in my mouth.

Ahh, by Beauty’s grace
Things come and things pass –
In the unfolding is the joy alive.

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Tuesday 24 September 2013

Our Very Home

Each and every kind heart
Remembered with gratitude
The grace the fall
The coming back to knowingness.
Memory and redemption
Forming love’s headstones in the grass.

Over spilling its boundaries
The pot cannot contain its fecundity
Creams, green and terracotta
Oh the earth, the earth.
Our very home.

Voices gliding -

Star bound
Soaring dipping
Till they fade into silence –
Circles within circles.

In the wood there is no silence
Stillness an illusory desire,
The brilliant dragonfly
And the mirroring pond.

Looking in to see out
Looking out to see in.
What else can we share
When all is said and done?

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Monday 23 September 2013

The Tipping Point

At the tipping point
Between the in breath and the out breath
Between the sun and the moon –
We came to dance together
Celebrating the very shift of gravity.

Pushing out to the very edge
The boundary of woods and fields
One step further to untangle the senses in open space
From the density, the complexity of the woods,
So releasing myself toward distance and beckoning hills.

Yet the woods have penetrated my being
With foraging roots taking fast hold
Growing down through my sex into the earth
Reaching beyond the senses, beyond vision,
Nourishing the same self in all its simple complexity.

One quiet breath overlays another
Feathering the one into the next and the next.
The song of scattered yellow leaves as stars
Unfolding in the river of becoming.

No wind to disturb
Leaf towers holding up the sky
The call of the unseen owl
The foraging rustle of the dark –
The softening fall of autumn.

Dreaming awake
Dreaming to awaken,
Soft breath making a circle of emptiness.

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Tuesday 17 September 2013

Autumn's Soft Belly

The moon
A blur of soft broken light
Through thick cloud breaks –
The belly of the sky
Stained orange by city light.

Deep running water
Holding songs of trepidation,
Ahh, there are misgivings
Wrapped in soft memoried silks.

The river
The same body, yet never the same
Moment to moment –
Breathing in and breathing out.

Did you touch a star
Cut the moon with a blade
Bathe in earth’s gratitude?
Holding both silence and separation
In empty hands apart.

Gypsy guitar a’fired in flow

Throwing out notes as spray

Each cutting to the core

Shredding melody to a pulp -

Emptiness defining form.

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Water And The Japanese Garden

Water (‘sui’ 水) has always been central to the deign and layout of the Japanese garden; it is one of the prime elements of the garden, the other principal element being mountains. The earliest gardens created in Japan featured lakes or ponds as their central motif. The ponds were of irregular outline, dotted with large boulders, and always at some point an island would break the surface of the water. The image of the pond with its attendant island, must have of been of great importance, as we know the word first used to describe a garden, was 'shima' meaning 'island'. The garden was recognised as being a sacred space, and to be a place to attract the gods to.

The pond garden was not the only use of water to be considered important, great attention was also given to the creation of yarimizu, or 'Winding stream courses'. If the pond and island garden occupied the central position in the garden layout, then the courtyards and other such areas, particularly in association with architecture, were graced by running water. They were not there solely for decorative purposes either. During the Heian period (785 1184) the kyokusui no en (曲水の宴) ceremony was a popular event in the lives of the aristocracy held in March every year. The attendants sat along the banks of a stream composing verses of poetry, cups of sake and dishes with food were floated downstream, and when the verse was enjoyed by the company, the cup or bowl could be emptied. The idea was transmitted to Japan from China via Korea.

It is important to recognise that the garden existed not simply as an adornment to the architecture, but also functioned in an official capacity, as a site of numerous ceremonies, that were such a feature of life in the Imperial Court and for the aristocracy. There are numerous references in court documents and records, as well as in literary sources of boating excursions taking place on garden ponds. These must have of been highly colourful occasions, with the boats decorated as dragons, kimono clad courtiers, and even accompanying boats filled with musicians and priests. Visits would be made to the variety of scenes presented in the garden landscape, the island in the pond was often taken to represent a mythical paradise island. It is clear that the pond was very much the centre of attention.

We are told in the Sakuteiki (the 'Book of Garden Making' 11th c), that the pond should fit the natural lie of the land. Rocks should be placed about the shoreline and island, practical instruction is given on the question of determining the finished water level. The line of axis of bridges to and from the island is considered carefully. Water should lead into the garden from the direction of the south-east, and the overflow should lead to the west. This is to satisfy the principles and demands of geomancy.

Different styles of islands are discussed in the Sakuteiki, the Hill Island, the Field Island, the Forest Island, Rocky-shore Island, Ebb tide Island, and so on. Various styles of garden are discussed, Ocean style, River style, Mountain style, Pond style, and 'Reed Hand' style, among others. Waterfalls have also been assigned symbolic interpretations, representing Buddhist deities, for example, Fudo Myõõ, a protective deity. Waterfalls were known by various designations depending on the manner of the way the water fell; they include 'Side falling', 'Thread falls', 'Sheet fall' etc

The water gardens that featured so strongly up to the 12th century, can also be seen from a Buddhist perspective. The form of Buddhism that first came to popularity in Japan, was known as Jodo Buddhism. Jodo was intent on presenting a form of paradise that would be accessible to the many. An important text is the Lotus Sutra, and the beginning of the Lotus Sutra sets out a clear description of how Paradise looked. Located in the western direction, often set on a series of islands with tall mountains with trees that bore jewels for fruit, and fabulous birds of exotic colours. The gardens that were created attempted to interpret these ideas by earthly means. It is interesting to note that many of the grander temple complexes,  featured formal ponds just inside the entry gateways (‘hanchi’  泮池). The visitor had to cross the 'Water-Dividing Bridge' in order to proceed toward his destination. The symbolic intent being that the water as a purifying agent that needed to be crossed in order to gain access to the sacred ground of the temple complex itself. Often these ponds were planted with Nelumbium lotus, a plant deeply associated with Buddhist art, growing as it does with its roots in the mud and its peerless flowers reaching toward heaven.

In karesansui ('dry landscape') gardens water still has its central, unifying, role, but the presence of water is suggested rather than actual. Very often, raked white gravel takes the place of water in dry 'streams and oceans'. The layout of gardens remained true to the original models, that is expressing a vision of an ideal landscape. Though now, under the influence of Zen, that vision would be reduced to its core, essential elements. The expression that the garden is complete, 'when nothing further may be taken away', gives a flavour of the Zen way of thinking.

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Conjuring Tricks

I leave my poems like spraint
On a rock by the riverbank,
Caught in waving grasses –
Stripping down to bathe naked.

Light of three parts of a moon
No stars
But pinprick lights of aircraft
Reaching beyond the city’s horizon.

Pushing at the boundaries
To rediscover the limits of Being
Learning of the fears of self limitations
Setting free the becomings of fullness.

Now the sun loses its edge of heat
Standing at the cusp of light and dark
As the cycle slips around
Circles within the gift of circles.

Out of the dust and rubble
A garden landscape emerges glistening new,
Beauty's revealing conjuring trick
Wiping away the sheet. 

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Monday 16 September 2013

Light Cradling Gravity's Weight

It begins with pattering pinpricks of sound
Sudden and unexpected,
Before blending into a percussive flow–
Autumnal rain and the crab apple tree.

While sitting still
Thoughts rising and falling
As if a stream rushing from the source
Body held still, mind arising.

One glance, one realisation.
Just laying the foundation
For the next moment to unfold.

In no way held to fortune
Softening and blurring the edges
Of mind unfolding as mind –
The ringing bowl beginning and ending.

Seeking for solutions
Without the application of reason.
Just trusting the Universe to know itself –
Voices tumbling in dream cascade
As light cradles gravity’s weight.

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Thursday 12 September 2013

Bird World In Flow

Swaying for grip in the gusty wind
The magpie eyes me suspiciously,
What business have I in his world?
I throw him the evil eye before closing the door

Turning over the soil,
Work is work is pleasure too.
The robin waiting on impatient.

In a wildly unstructured dream:
A flock of crows rise congenially together
Twisting and rendering the air black with their cawing-
Searching for a name amid the weeds of the field.

Yet barely more than a speck,
Dwarfed by billowed clouds towers,
The kite holding station.

From somewhere amidst night’s secret flow
The call of the owl –
Tiny feet frozen earthbound.

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