On Sitting in a Chinese Garden I find myself with a pond and a fountain and little bridges. It is too hot to sit directly in the sun so I walk to find some shade that feels right. There are small pods of people moving around, kissing the leaves of the plants with their conversations about everything. I sit down on a little stone bridge two feet above the water and am careful not to get my shoes wet in the water below.
The garden is a work of art. A cultivation of the raw ingredients. They always talk of harmony with nature in the more eastern religious aesthetics. They speak of going with the flow and enjoying ease. They praise a life of dynamic harmony, which I am discovering today is reflected in this garden around me.
This garden is a symbolic mirror of our inner world. A combination of structures and natural elements. Just like we are a combination of cultural ideas and natural instincts. The garden is laid out in a way that feels balanced in that every orientation. Every point along the path offers a different view—a moment of blended texture. Containment is explored through endlessness—like a fractal balanced, evolving and immeasurably deep.
This place is a little enclave of harmony planted in the midst of a city. It is the same way we are. Little organic bodies moving through an ecosystem of concrete, steel and fumes. The sounds of the city peek over the garden walls. The tall buildings look in from their deep foundations.The city birds perch on street lamps and perch in trees.
This garden represents an idealized balance of the inner world. A place of refreshment and inspiration. A place that lives more as one contemplates it more profoundly. Quiet and peace holding daylight vigils within the tall walls of plaster and stone.. Just as the inner world over every person is a maze, so are the paths of this garden. Every moment along the path becomes a foot or a lung or a heart. Each vantage and feature contributes to the whole and each is a world unto itself.
I see the garden today for the first time. Its cultivation is like that of a balanced personhood. Mind and body swim around one another like golden koi. The unspoken poetry of the moment lives in my contemplation the way virgin rice paper dreams of a spring river. The city makes its marks on us as we grow older and deeper with time—and we are blessed. The invisible gardeners walk around with their shears and worn boots. Time folds another breath into the call of a passing bird.
Writer: James Thomas Thomas is a Canadian poet, folk musician and writer based between London and Vancouver. He has released three solo albums and composes songs envisaging them as paintings. His work is informed by the wild landscapes of Canada, the contemporary cosmopolitan experience and a multitude of writers and artists including Blaise Cendrars, Walt Whitman and Milton. http://jamesthomas.io
Editor: Harriet Poznansky
Poznansky is a British artist currently based between Oakland and London. She studied at the Slade School of Fine Art London and School of the Art Institute Chicago. She currently works from her studio in Oakland’s Fruitvale district, making paintings, music, and writing short stories. www.harrietpoznansky.com