29 Apr 2009

Tender balance: Edinburgh-Kyoto Friendship Garden

Look straight ahead. What’s there?
If you see it as it is
You will never err
-Bassui Tokusho

On the edge of the grounds of Lauriston Castle, lies this one-hectare garden, stuck on and unassuming like one of those tabs you use to control the movable pictures in pop-up books.

There is a plaque at the entrance advising visitors that the garden was opened in 2002, as well as a host of other information, lines of wasted words that politicians use to stroke each other’s egos. We will ignore the facts and talk about more important things.

Like the way the large stones, black islands in a sea of light pebbles, catch the sun and turn the shadows around themselves. The edges look so sharp, yet they cut nothing.

Or how, on a spring morning, you can walk through this garden alone and watch the pink petals float down from the trees and land on the still pond before drifting between shoots of bamboo, where a lily is also blooming.

Broad, flat stones mark a path across one end of the pond, making a short journey feel much longer. Stand on the middle stone and you can look across to where the trees seem to grow like ribbons from the edges of a small bridge, underneath of which a waterfall is collapsing over a series of rocky platforms, sending rippling arches across the surface. You can watch these ripples widen as they reach out to you in their slow, calm deaths.

As the sun climbs you can take to the bamboo-walled shelter and look through the trees toward the lazy slink of the Forth estuary. The hours pass and it will be hard to leave the garden. The subtle changes in light nudge your perception like time against the minute hand just before it relinquishes the fight and lets go.
The truth is never taken
from another.
One carries it always
By oneself.
-Tetto Giko

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