Saturday, July 25, 2009

Now and Zen

I’m wilting on the steps of Kelowna’s Rotary Centre for the Arts, in the heat of a cloudless July afternoon. My thoughts turn north towards Tugboat Beach …yes, that’s what I need, the beach where’s there’s water and cool breezes and a lounge chair with my name on it. Where there’s people…lots and lots of people. And children, noisy children… and girls in bikinis….flaunting bodies that have yet to succumb to the affects of gravity and childbirth. Ah… the beach. I do not need the beach. My mind and body do a quick 180 (surprisingly quick in this sluggish heat) pointing me in the direction of what I truly need….the tranquility and peace of Kasugai Gardens.

At the south end of the Cultural District, on the shady east side of City Hall, weathered pine doors are propped open, welcoming me into a beautifully tended sanctuary named for Kelowna’s Japanese sister city. Even as I step through the doorway of Kasugai Gardens, the din of the busy transit centre on the Queensway is muffled to dull background noise and I’m struck by contrasting sights and textures integral to traditional Japanese gardening. Pathways of crushed stone draw me past beds of pale pachysandra, into mini forests in shady corners, and around lush tama-mono pruned in a way that puts me in mind of a green mogul field.

A traditional Japanese bridge crosses the reflecting pond in a graceful curve. This is the garden’s centerpiece where spotted koi nibble on lily pads, jostling waxy pink blossoms. Through a veil of weeping birch leaves I spy a small turtle basking in the sunlight, while three crows strut along the river rock on the opposite shore.

Benches are scattered throughout in both public and secluded areas. Seating myself in a shady spot, I feel the tension drain away. Once the mental distractions are gone, I soon discover that peaceful does not mean without sound. Water spills from a bamboo spout and splashes into a shallow basin near the garden entrance while gentle birdsong wafts through the air. From under a bridge at the back of the garden, water rushes over large stones into the reflecting pond. Human generated noise is minimal as most people seem to arrive on their own, and those in pairs or groups speak in hushed tones, instinctively protecting the serenity.

With a sigh I wiggle my feet out of my sandals, close my eyes and take a deep breath. My nose is filled with the scents of green plants, damp earth and sunshine and I feel more carefree with each passing moment. A little more time in this sanctuary and I may even visit the beach this afternoon, sporting my vacation bikini. Who knows, I might even dare to remove the cover-up.

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