Tag Archives: ikebana

Plants and permanence

Permanent: fixed and changeless; lasting; not expected to change in status, condition or place
Permanence: the condition of quality of being permanent

I spent much of the weekend in the garden, dealing with my plants (wanted and unwanted). Last week I hired Joe to deal with the plethora of my unwanted plants (otherwise known as weeds), and the garden looked fabulous. The rhodies, iris and peonies were at their peak, and the roses coming on.

But now the rhody bushes are covered with dead florets and look like hell. Ditto the iris and peonies. I want everything to STOP! Why won’t the rhodies just STAY in perfect bloom? Ditto the iris and peonies.

If there is one thing plants teach it’s impermanence. A plant is at its peak only for a couple of weeks. Cut a flower to bring inside and maybe it lasts a few days.

A few years ago I took an Ikebana (Japanese flower arranging) class at the Shambhala Meditation Center in Portland. The teacher had brought all sorts of plant materials as well as just enough low vases and kenzan (the spiky base that hold stems in place) for each of us. I have had a fair amount of ikebana training so the lesson wasn’t particularly new for me, but some of the materials were novel (those flat sweet little peaches, for example).

We all fixed and fussed on our own arrangements for maybe an hour. Mine turned out the most beautiful, the most interesting, the most wonderful (etc etc etc) arrangement I had ever created (at least I thought so). It totally tickled me, particularly how I’d used the peach and picked up its subtle colors in the other plant materials I used.

The teacher walked us from arrangement to arrangement tweaking here and there and discussing what worked in each one. We were inspired by each other’s creations.

Then she said, “OK, take them apart. We’re going to do another arrangement and you’ll need to re-use that vase.”

WHAT !?!?! My chef ‘ouevre? The pinnacle of my ikebana career? Destroyed after only one hour??

I know that plants are ephemeral, but to KILL an arrangement after only one hour was unthinkable! And I didn’t even bring a camera to capture it on film for my continuing pleasure.

Buddhist teachings stress that all is impermanent, that attachment is suffering.  I got it.

Paths: Japanese Garden, Portland

Today I went to the Portland Japanese Garden, ostensibly to see the ikebana show that is an annual adjunct of the Rose Festival (demonstrating how to incorporate roses into this traditional flower arranging art).

The arrangements were interesting but couldn’t hold a candle to the garden itself, which was arrayed in every shade of green imaginable, a perfectly framed view in every direction no matter where you stood. Here’s one shot to give you a sense of the lush beauty:

What really entranced me, however, were the paths… each one different, each one meandering off to another place, each one so irregular that you have to mind your step.

The paths don’t just take you from here to there; they are metaphoric – designed to make you think about your own life’s journey.  Life’s twists and turns, dead ends, new vistas.

You are supposed to sloooww down. Look up. Look down.

Look around you.

Some of the paths have random rocks inserted in them, others have end tiles from roof caps, still others ask you to stop and simply appreciate the design at your feet.

I loved this detail. It’s an abstract work of art in stone and moss.