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.

  • The favicon, the image preceding the URL (Web address) at the top of your browser window, is a tiny version of my digital drawing to the right. This mimics Jiun Onko’s
    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.

  • That “seated figure” is also very important. Daruma is often described as “wall-gazing” in homage to his nine years of meditation while facing the wall of a cave. This sense of single-minded commitment is the root of the Zen aphorism that gently reminds us of the value of meditation: “Just sit down and face the wall.” “Just sit down…” for short. Or as shorthand for, say, a domain name: JUst SIt DOwn… JU..SI..DO… jusido.com. Just so. (Full disclosure: Despite having carried this aphorism in my head for at least a decade, I do not recall where I first encountered it. I am confident that I didn’t invent it myself and yet, search though I might both in print and online, I continue to come up empty(!). At least I will know that Google has indexed this page if it finally returns one hit on the phrase.)

  • “A dog’s…” In the famous Peter Steiner cartoon from The New Yorker on July 5, 1993, one dog is sitting on a chair in front of a computer, looking down at another on the floor and saying, “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” Fame can be ephemeral, but an image search on Google should yield more than a million hits. So much for copyright protection at The Cartoon Bank. There is also a famous Zen koan that asks whether a dog has Buddha nature. It is sometimes called “Joshu’s dog” (not to be confused with “Basho’s frog”), but never mind. Let’s stick with Peter Steiner’s lovable dog, which in any case is the inspiration for my companion Website, otinokyad.com. I know it sounds vaguely like a hybrid Finnish-Greek name — Otino Kyad — but replace “nobody” with “no one,” and you should be able to figure it out. It is home to some static pages that I (will) reference from time to time in the dynamic content of this blog.

  • “…garden…”

    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.

  • “…of versus.” As in light vs. dark, good vs. bad, rich vs. poor, or any of the other gazillion dualities that drive us nuts, especially when we come up against the not-so-nice half of each pair. Very Taoist, very Zen. Just so.

    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.

    Steve DeLong

    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.