For me, blogging is both of words and about words. I fantasize that, if they were alive and blogging today, Chuang-tzu and Thomas Merton would understand and concur, though they would express it far more eloquently and memorably (see top quote, far right).
My posts may be about Taoism and Zen, which inspired the domain name and the blog title. Or about technology or travel or three-dimensional fonts or anything else. For the moment (pun intended), let’s stay with that “inspiration,” left-right, top-down, as it were.
18th-century brush paintings of Daruma (Bodhidharma), the monk traditionally acknowledged for bringing Zen to China some 13 centuries earlier. As Kenneth Baker, art critic of the San Francisco Chronicle, put it in a 2001 review of a show at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, Onko’s images are generally “a simple outline, barely suggestive of a seated figure,” cross-legged in meditation. Just so. Here is a link to the one that I used as a model. If you have a copy of Tanchu Terayama’s Zen Brushwork, go to Exercise 19, where you can see him draw Daruma in Onko’s style.
The dry landscape garden (kare-sansui) at Ryoan-ji temple in Kyoto is the archetypal, austere Japanese garden — carefully raked gravel as a metaphor for water, punctuated by upright stone mountains or islands. All of which is great for the meditative practice of resident monks and visiting tourists, but the rest of us need something closer to home. Literally. More like the small courtyard garden (tsubo-niwa) that we might find in a home or inn. So, during the fall of 2009, I began thinking about how to build something that would at least evoke, if not quite be, a Japanese garden. On an apartment balcony. Outside in an Upstate NY winter. The process and result were enormously fun and very gratifying. Some of the elements are highlighted in the Nettleton Hollow blog, and details of others are in this post.
In the spirit of Chuang-tzu and Thomas Merton, I hope that these posts and pages prompt you to forget about the words and think about the ideas. And occasionally laugh.
Addendum: The title of this blog was certainly a conscious pun on A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson. I was totally unaware, however, that it is only one letter removed from being a direct copy of A Dog’s Garden of Verses, a small 1971 book by Florence van Wyck dedicated to her Yorkshire Terrier. I learned this in a Google search on my intended title, which returned no hits but offered instead a Did-you-mean nudge to re-search with her title. But that may be a story for another post.