Saturday, 10 April 2010

Zen and the Art of Enjoying Spring

It took me a while to work out what was odd about the moment I drove up to my house yesterday, Friday, evening at around 7:30. Then I suddenly realised: it was still broad daylight, with a blue sky and a warm sun casting a a general sense of wellbeing over everything. It spoke a promise of a glorious weekend, already realised in part when we took our dog Janka out today on Cannock Chase, and for the first time of the year were able to go in shirtsleeves. And the people we met were all smiling.

I sat behind my wheel yesterday and thought ‘that’s it – that long winter is over at last. This is really spring.’

But then I thought of the Ryonaji Temple and Rock Garden in Kyoto. We were only in Japan for less than two weeks, but it has left an indelible impression on my mind. Kyoto, in particular, is a city of innumerable magical places, and the Ryoanji is one of them.

Central to the temple is the rock garden which consists of a sea of small stones raked into wave-like forms, across which are scattered fifteen islands of larger rocks. However, they are so disposed that only fourteen of them are ever visible, the idea being that seeing them all is to gain a view of perfection that can only be attained by enlightenment and doesn’t belong to this mortal and therefore imperfect world.

Glimpsing a little bit of perfection: part of the Ryoanji rock garden

It’s a lesson I learned again on Friday evening. The days are lengthening, the warmth is growing, the trees are covered in blossom; but on Sunday, I shall finally have to face up to a responsibility that I’ve been putting off from weekend to weekend for at least a month now.

The lawnmower’s going to have to come back out of the garage. I’ve never learned to think of mowing as anything but one of the ghastly tasks that are there to teach us fortitude. Even with our tiny little lawn, it still bores me.

Ah, well. I need to learn the Zen Buddhism of the Ryoanji. No experience down here on Earth is ever flawless. In fact, the defect is precisely what makes the rest feel like perfection.


Victor Chisholm said...

I think lawns are at their finest at this time of year (in temperate climates that is), when they have greened up after the winter, when each blade is perfect and lush, and when the surface is a bit irregular in height because it hasn't been sheared yet. Summer lawns never look quite as fresh or inviting after they've been mauled by blades.

David Beeson said...

Alas! I've wrecked that spring perfection - the blades have hacked it back. But it took long enough without letting the grass grow any higher...

Davide said...

Here's a good excuse for ones responsible for mowing lawns - turns out that it's best to leave the grass grow longer this time of year in order to help out the local bee population. Heard it on gardner's question time on Radio 4 last week, so it must be true!

So now you all know why my garden looks scruffy ...

Awoogamuffin said...

Yeah, I heard about the bee thing too. Turns out bees are vital to everything, from local eco-systems to the London stock exchange. We have to protect the bees. Great excuse not to mow.