After the Farmers’ Market and the marina (see my post from last week) my daughter Céline took us to the Japanese Garden nearby. First we drove into the large parking lot on the campus of California State University Long Beach. On the side was a door which looked oriental.
The Japanese garden in Long Beach is small, 1.3 acres (5,000 m²) cozy and beautifully maintained. It is called the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden and was dedicated in 1981. Mr. Miller was the late husband of Ms. Loraine Miller Collins who gave most of the funds to establish this garden in his memory. The landscape master plan architect, Ed Lovell, traveled to Japan and was inspired by the Imperial Gardens in Tokyo. At the dedication in 1981 Mr Lovell said : “The garden will mellow in about 30 years. What we are doing is creating something of beauty and value for people we will perhaps never meet." I am very pleased to be able to visit his creation almost 30 years hence and see the beautiful results. It was high noon when we visited, a bright sunny day, so my pictures are a bit washed-out unfortunately.
Just like Lullwater Park on Emory University campus in Atlanta (see post here) the Earl Burns Miller Japanese garden at Cal State Long Beach campus is an environmental gem – a hidden treasure. Founder Loraine Miller Collins contemplated: "I have a dream for this garden. When a person is tired, or anxious, or in a quest of beauty, may they enter and come forth refreshed to meet the problems of the day. There will be music of the wind through the pines, music from the waterfalls and the birds. There will be serenity as you walk around the lake, and joy, I hope, in the beauty of the reflections in that lake… There will be strength and solidity in the rocks and the wooden bridges. And, of course, there will be bamboo, a favorite wood of the Japanese because it is so useful and beautiful. There is an old proverb that says, 'Bamboo bends but never breaks.' It is my hope that as you leave your tour of the garden, you will find in your heart that proverb, and the day will be filled with joy."
That sunny Sunday, Father’s Day, many families were at the garden. Children were gathering at the large Koi pond after having purchased fish feed for a quarter at the vending machine. The hungry Koi came almost out of the water to get the food.
The multi-colored koi, some very large specimens, were close to the bank. These are Japanese carp, an ornamental domesticated variety ("koi" is the Japanese word for carp. )
For this post I read up on the history of Japanese Gardens and was astounded by the wealth of information. The history of Japanese gardens goes back to the 7th century. It was in the 15th century that the traditional Japanese gardens were molded to the philosophy of Zen Buddhism. The gardens can be called Japanese or Zen gardens. The style is almost austere but always aesthetic and showing a reverence for nature. Zen gardens were primarily used by Buddhist monks within their temples and have many symbols inspired by nature; they include the natural elements of stone, water and plants. The gardens also include the dry Zen garden, a stroll garden, a courtyard garden and a Japanese tea garden.
The pond represents the sea, river, lake or pond in nature. The passage of the water from the waterfall to the pond is the symbol for human life – birth, growth and death.
This garden has fountains, lanterns, waterfalls, zigzag walks, a tea house, rocks, a moon bridge and beautiful flowers. This Japanese garden is a work of art, and because of the ephemeral nature of a garden, it changes – as the seasons come and go flowers and plants grow and die, water levels vary, rocks are added or moved.
Click on the pictures to enlarge them, then click again to bigifyBack to the lake I walked along irises fronting a bamboo fountain.
Then I decided to go toward the arched bridge but someone was snapping the picture of a very pregnant lady. I waited and they moved to an adjacent bench. But then the lady proceeded to unsnap her blouse showing her large stomach for everyone to see. I was a bit shocked by this in such a serene surrounding and did not feel it was the proper place to disrobe like that. I am not a prude but still, this is quite nonchalant. It could be that I have been reading too many books from the 1800s where proper behavior was de rigueur. Below are the books I just read -
Celia Thaxter (1835-1894) was a very popular writer in the latter part of the 1800s. She lived mostly on the Isles of Shoals, bordering the coast of Maine and New Hampshire. The poet John Greenleaf Whittier visited her often as well as the American painter Childe Hassam (1859-1935.) Her book “An Island Garden” (the green book in my picture) was very successful. It was illustrated by Childe Hassam – here is a page from my book
Childe Hassam was born Frederick Hassam in Dorchester Massachusetts. He embraced the Impressionist movement and was a leader of American Impressionist painting. He came every year to the Isles of Shoals and painted the same vista on his canvas, in front of a mass of poppies.
In the spring Celia planted a large variety of flowers – you can see their names here. I enjoy reading about all these flowers because I do not have the opportunity to plant them in my garden. Actually it is not a garden, maybe a yard, or rather a bit of land. It is almost an acre of trees and very little sun for flowers.
However we have planted herbs, like basil and rosemary, in planters on the back porch, and colorful petunias. We also have a large fig tree which grows all around the roof in front of the house – wherever it can find some sun. It usually gives us a dozen huge figs – pear size – in late June, then the rest of the figs can be harvested later in the summer.
But I am digressing. To return to the Japanese garden, I did take a picture of the arched bridge, partially at least, behind the lantern.
In a garden like this, it is easy for one’s thoughts to vagabond. So I remembered that Claude Monet, the French Impressionist painter (1840-1926) was in Amsterdam in 1871 (trying to escape the Prussian siege of Paris) and purchased some food in a shop where they used Japanese prints as wrapping paper. He purchased the print right away. He went on to collect 231 Japanese prints, which influenced his work and changed his life and painting as it was known until then. Monet was fascinated by Japan and its art and shared the Japanese’ love of nature. When Monet bought his house in Giverny, he built a Japanese garden complete with a pond and an arched bridge. So fascinated was he by the constant change in the reflection of the light in his garden that he painted 272 canvasses of his garden – many of them of the arched Japanese bridge. He would paint twelve works from one single vantage point – his blue-green bridge and the pond.
No one can see their reflection in running water.
It is only in still water that we can see. - Taoist proverb
It is only in still water that we can see. - Taoist proverb
Monet wished to paint not just the bridge, or the water lilies, but the light on them. He wanted to capture the changing light, the impression of that moment. Japanese gardens change constantly according to the seasons. As trees and plants mature the light hitting the pond is ever changing. The gardens are paintings too, but alive.
Postcard of San Francisco Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park.We had to leave the lovely paradise garden inside the California State University at Long Beach as the day was still young and a look at the sea and the beach was tempting.
Before talking about the beach, I’d like to wish you all a Happy Independence Day since the 4th of July is near. I found a short version clip on YouTube of a French choir in Paris singing the Star Spangled Banner, the American Anthem, for Flag Day. I think it is also à propos and include it below for your pleasure.
Below is a vintage postcard dated 1908 from my collection that I send virtually to all of you.