Saturday, September 8, 2007

Quest by Quotation

The obstacle is the path. Zen proverb

Have you ever tried to find peace, only to be blocked by one obstacle after another? Did you give up or did you work your way through? What would it mean to believe that gaining peace is hard work well worth doing?

The Rocky Road to Zen

I planned to put a Japanese or zen garden in the corner of the backyard to hide the fact that all green things had died in our North Carolina drought. I planned to create a place of peace and meditation in the midst of a busy fall and my husband's latest PSA test results being up more than we like. I planned to research, ask for help finding resources, and just enjoy creating something that I could appreciate all year long.

Little did I know!!! Searching on-line I discovered that the term "zen garden" is not truly Japanese but was re appropriated after the term had origins in the west, like pizza making its way back to Italy. So there went my idea of being authentic except for my inherited Japanese lantern from my mother's garden. I couldn't find anyone who could tell me what kind of gravel to use in my garden so that I could make lovely raked patterns. I found Japanese screens on-line which definitely would not bring me peace due to the price. Finding a lovely substitute at our local Lowes was only a momentary thrill as I discovered it was the only one in the entire Raleigh area after the end of season clearance...sure enough, I needed two. My husband's truck battery was dead when we tried beat the heat and get to the Stone Center early to pick up the stones I had eyed the day before. What on earth?

Those obstacles really threw me for a loop on my journey to build my little haven of peace. This was supposed to be an easy project with a relaxing outcome and, instead, turned into a mountain of aggravation. I sure wasn't feeling peaceful this morning when the truck situation pushed me over the edge. But as the proverb says, "obstacles are the path." So I began cataloguing the good parts of this adventure coming through the struggles.

If the information I needed had been at my finger tips, I wouldn't have searched as much on-line and learned about the all the famous, and not so famous, gardens in Japan, including the one that was my inspiration, Ryoan-ji. (Thanks to the Bowdoin College site on Japanese gardens )

I wouldn't have discovered the Stone Center (highway 55 in Durham, NC) head guy, Pat Lynn who was available when we finally arrived, is a fount of knowledge about zen gardens, the types of stones and gravel people look for. Of course, with all that new found information, I couldn't decide whether to go for mountain looking stones or the practice of having a papa, mama, and baby stone so I did the American thing and got them all. So much for simplicity.

I wouldn't have appreciated how hard my husband worked in the heat when I hit a snag as I put up my screens. He also looked pretty good with his muscles flexing. Oh, did I say "screenS"? Yes, indeed. I wouldn't have had the joy of finding another bamboo screen unexpectedly in a corner of another Lowes, next to the first of the Christmas ornaments already out in September!

My muscles are aching. I still have a day's work of laying down a pebble path and planting a juniper as my sole bit of green in my garden. I might even go back to the Stone Center for more gravel to make sure I have the required two inches. But my little garden, "Julie's interpretation of a Japanese garden that Westerners call zen," has enlightened me, tired me enough to sleep well tonight, and promises plenty of meditation in the days ahead. The obstacles have been worth the path to peace.

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