The blue door. Abandoned project #2

The door was locked. I expected nothing less. Every day for three months I’d tested this door, every day since I’d first noticed it. Why hadn’t I stepped down this alleyway before? What was it about that Tuesday in July that made me take a different path? My walk to the university had been boring, predictable even, up until that day.

Had I even seen that alleyway before – really seen it? Certainly it had passed before my eyes, but just as certainly it had not passed before my mind.

A new path, once taken, changed the path-taker forever.

A part of me wanted to drink in every nook and cranny, every crease and crevice. I wanted it to stay new, stay fresh. I was wary of this new path becoming worn like my old one, so familiar and comfortable that I didn’t even see it anymore. I was wary of it becoming just a way to get somewhere, instead of a destination in and of itself.

But this door was different. I’d tested it unthinkingly that first afternoon because of the aromas wafting through the gaps created by a century of settling. I was certain it must be the gateway to the side courtyard of a restaurant. Only when the portal did not budge did I take the time to look for a sign on the wall. Finding none, I halted. If this was a home and not a restaurant, I should not persist.

The next day I chose to walk down that alleyway again, noticing even more than I had the day before. How much I had missed! Yet again I was drawn to this door. This time I could hear a child’s laughter and the sounds of a fountain. What treasures lay behind this ancient door? What Paradise was hidden just beyond these walls? To imagine that just a few inches of stone and stucco separated me from this treasure! A hand’s breadth away from the dirt and grime of this forgotten alley-street was another world. I would have to check this door every day from now on until it yielded to me.


(The image is from Pinterest – copyright belongs to the photographer.)

Books on Japanese garden/home design

I spent one summer studying what makes a Japanese garden distinctly Japanese. These books were very helpful on my quest. Some of them cover interiors as well as exteriors of Japanese homes, so there is more to them than just gardens. I found it quite interesting that the Japanese word for “home” is composed of two characters – the one for “house” and the one for “garden”. A house isn’t a home unless it has a garden. The home is often designed around the garden, rather than the other way around.

A Path Through the Japanese Garden by Bryan Albright and Constance Tindale

The Japanese House: Architecture and Interiors by Alexandra Black

Zen Gardens by Erik Borja

Quiet Beauty: The Japanese Gardens of North America by Kendall Brown

The New Asian Architecture: Vernacular Traditions and Contemporary Style by William Lim

Japan Style: Architecture Interiors Design by Geeta Mehta

Japan Modern: New Ideas for Contemporary Living by Michiko Rico Nose

The Art of Japanese Architecture by Michiko Young

Serene Gardens – creating Japanese design and detail in the western garden. by Yoko Kawaguchi

Creating Japanese Gardens by Philip Cave

Prayer in the Garden

Jesus went with his disciples to a part of the Mount of Olives called Gethsemane. He told them “Stay here while I go a little further away to pray. Pray that you will not be tempted.”

Walking a little further away, he took Peter and James and John (the sons of Zebedee) with him. He was overcome with a sense of immense sorrow and anxiety. He told them “My soul is full of sadness to the point of grief. Stay here and remain awake with me.”

He walked about a stone’s throw away from them, fell facedown on the ground, and began to pray that he would not have to undergo the upcoming trial. “Father, everything is possible for you. If it is your will, let this cup pass by me. However, it isn’t what I want, but what you want that is important.”

Returning to where the three disciples were, he found them sleeping. “Why are you asleep? Couldn’t you all stay awake for just one hour? Keep awake and pray so that temptation will not overpower you. The soul is willing, but the body is weak.”

He went away a second time and prayed as before. “Father, if this cup cannot pass by me unless I drink it, let it be so because that is your will.” He returned again to where the three were and again found them sleeping because their eyes were heavy with grief. They didn’t know what to say.

He went away a third time, praying in the same way. An angel appeared before him and gave him strength. He prayed even more fervently because he was in despair, and his sweat fell like drops of blood upon the ground. Returning to his disciples, he said “Are you still sleeping? It is time to get up and go! Look, the hour has come. The Son of Man is about to be handed over to sinners. See? My betrayer is very close.”

MT 26:36-46, MK 14:32-42, LK 22:39-46

The value of slow.

I’ve realized I’m trying to write a blog in a time where people can’t even take the time to write out what they are saying. We have acronyms for everything. I just learned a new one – “tltr”. This means “too long to read.” I’m part amused and part saddened that we don’t even have the time to write out that something is “too long to read” but have to have an acronym for it. We don’t have time to have time.

I could change how I do things. I could shorten everything down to small digestible chunks. I could distill out the essence of the thing. I could write it out, but post the synopsis at the beginning so people don’t have to wade through to the end. I could post just two sentences, or a paragraph at most. Or I can keep doing what I am doing. Sometimes you have to go through the whole thing to get it. The Cliff’s notes may tell you what happened, but you’ll miss everything else.

I’ve learned that if you really want to see something, you have to draw it. Go find some paper and a pencil. Draw one thing. Pick something that you look at all the time or that you’ve seen every day for years. When you draw it, you’ll notice it for the first time. You’ll see lines and curves that you’ve never noticed before. You’ll notice blends of color that you’ve never seen. Did you know that a fig has a bit of green in the purple? Did you know that there were five washing machines in a row at the laundromat you go to, not four? When you take time to draw what you see instead of what you think you see, you start to notice other things. You start to wonder what else you’ve missed because you’ve assumed something about it.

We often want to get to the punchline before we’ve even heard the joke. We want things to be fast. We don’t want it now – we want it yesterday. We think that we have gained an advantage by making everything fast.

We want to blast through our emotions and stop feeling sad and go straight to happy. But how can we appreciate the mountain top unless we have been in the valley?

We want to have labels for people and put them in boxes. But how can we really get to know someone if we assume they are the same as everyone else of that race/gender/nationality/creed?

We want to have our lives prepackaged. We want to be told what to do, to eat, to think. Until we don’t. People are starting to wake up to how much power we have given away by letting others make our decisions for us. It isn’t that long ago that major life events were done at home. Now we are born in a hospital, get educated in a school, and when we die we are taken to a funeral home. Strangers take care of us our whole lives. And because they take care of us, we don’t know how to take care of ourselves. The old knowledge is fading away. We barely know how to feed ourselves – everything is prepackaged.

Fortunately, there are people who are realizing the danger in this prepackaged, convenience-store life. The more we give away, the less we have. The more we let others do for us, the less we know how to do.

I’m grateful for the upsurge in crafting. I’m glad that people are relearning how to sew, knit, crochet, quilt, and embroider. I’m grateful that people are taking the time to paint and bead for fun. I’m grateful that people are starting to appreciate the value of slow.

People are taking the initiative and not only learning how to cook their own food but how to grow it as well. They are learning the value of taking care of their bodies instead of getting a doctor to treat the symptom rather than the cause. They are exercising for health, not weight loss. They are looking at the long term rather than the right now. They are starting to question everything that they have been told – education, government, religion – nothing escapes their scrutiny. “We’ve always done it this way” no longer stands as an excuse for ignorance.

Slow down. Slow down, because you might miss something. And the thing you will miss the most is your life.

Prayer for a Garden

Eternal God,
Source of all life and light,

We are here today in Your Creation,
to Create,
and to

Help us to create in this space a sanctuary,
where we can remember who we were,
who we are,
and who we are to become.

Help us to have that sense of childlike wonder that causes us
to seek You
and to be found by You.

Kindle in us the fire of Your Spirit,
that our hands may create beauty here,
that our voices may create music here,
and that our laughter may create joy here.

Amen. Amen. Amen.