One of my favorite places in Portland snuck up on me. It’s a garden just one block big. In a city near mountains and surrounded by forests, a city of parks and trails, I still need a place where the fragrance can be heard and rocks can sing.
That place is the Lan Su Chinese Garden in Old Town. I’m not a poet, so rather than butcher their words as I’ve done above, I should quote them instead. Throughout the garden, poetry, such as “Listen to the Fragrance,” is inscribed on rocks and on doorways. A different poem, by Wen Zhengming, sums up my need for the garden, “Most cherished in this mundane world is a place without traffic; truly in the midst of a city there can be mountain and forest.”
The Lan Su Chinese Garden only opened in 2000, but I can’t imagine the city without it. If a formal European garden is geometric, a Chinese garden may seem chaotic at first. A Chinese garden, however, is planned. It unfolds, very deliberately. Each path brings a new view, a new story. It’s beauty in the sun is obvious.
In the rain, you just need a different perspective.
Like any garden, it also unfolds over time. Each season brings a new story to the garden. It’s beauty in the spring is explosive.
I don’t know if it is a cosmic joke or just a test of our senses, but that tree in the back corner with red leaves will turn green as the seasons progress!
I became of member of the Garden almost immediately and stop in several times a week. I still notice something new with each visit. It’s hard to see past the colors, but one inscription reminds us to look beyond and notice the scattered shadows (that also requires the good fortune of a sunny day).
I wanted you to meet the garden on its own terms before I introduce you to my next fear.
To be continued . . .