In romantic love and even Bonsai love, we seek to find the hidden magic behind the power of physical love. In a Karesansui Japanese garden, we are asked to imagine water that is not there and islands that exist only as a stone placed within a bed of sand. In seeking both visions, we are asked to see beyond what our eyes tell us. We are being asked to seek from within.
The Karesansui style of Japanese garden first appeared in the Muromachi period (1392 to 1568). Influenced by Zen Buddhism, and much favoured as a meditation retreat, this garden style creates entire landscapes by using sand, moss, rocks, smaller stones and small plants. Sand is raked to simulate water movement. Rocks are placed in the middle of the sand pond to represent islands. Moss covered rocks surrounding the pond become gently rolling hills, and the tiny trees create miniature forests. Not a drop of water in sight, yet we delight in the search for it.
The Karesansui garden is an abstract which can have many interpretations. That is the intent. Just as no two people experience love in the same way, no two people will meditate at a Karesansui garden and come away with the same impression. What looks like a mountain in a tranquil lake to some may look like a ragged cliff with wind driven ocean waves to another. Love to one person might feel like a gentle breeze, to another like a raging storm.
The Tsukiyama style of Japanese garden that gained favour in the Edo period (1603 to 1867), takes a slightly different approach. Rather than a search for meaning in an abstract form, a Tsukiyama style garden presents an accurate representation of the natural world. Real water flows in streams crossed by curved bridges or cascades from waterfalls into quiet ponds. Koi fish brighten the ponds with their gold and calico colours. In larger gardens pathways lead you from one display feature to another. In smaller affairs, a vantage point has been created so the garden can be viewed from the best angle.
The Karesansui garden encourages us to search for our spiritual interpretation of love. Just as the sand ponds never change unless we take the rake and alter the waves, this intangible part of love does not change unless it is of our doing. The Tsukiyama garden lets us reflect on the beauty of love that can be touched. This is the tangible part of love, affected by the passage of time, just as the gardens change with the passing of the seasons.
the heart takes notice
of inner beauty enhanced
by timeless wisdom
M. Rose 2010