60-80% of a garden’s beauty can be made from resources already available around your home or among friends. Remember, nature offers its own beauty that may only need minor enhancements. I personally don’t care for regularly maintaining a yard, especially constantly mowing lawns. It just brings out the sneezing in me. Lawn mowing is among the world’s biggest wastes of water and consumes unnecessary time in my lazy, stubborn opinion. Frankly, it offers no creativity or inspiration of natural beauty.
We start with creating a garden image in your head. Imagine an idyllic beautiful scene in your head. Then, dig a space of dirt, any shape you want it to be. Apply that idyllic scene to this bare space. First, simply turn over the grass and put it upside down, occasionally scraping off the loose dirt to further expose the grass roots, so the grass is certain to die. Then, take cedar droppings from underneath cedar trees in the back yard and spread it throughout the dug out space. Cedar is highly acidic and will largely reduce if not eliminate the need for weeding the area garden space. Not much of anything can grow under cedars; maybe a few rhodies (rhododendrons) which thrive in acidic soil.
In the case of the above pictured garden, I dug out the entire side of the front yard off of the concrete path. I left a few “accents” of grass to provide lining for the area garden’s borders. These can be easily held at bay with an occasional weed whacking. If you want you can raise the garden, which I did for the area garden beyond the concrete path toward the top of the above photo. You can raise it as much as you like by simply adding more soil to the area and more mulch. I moved the rhody from another part of this house where it was hidden away, and is now featured in the raised garden. A general rule when creating your own garden is to place the larger items – bushes, trees, or stones – toward the back, while shorter smaller flowers and plants should be placed toward the front. As a taller, larger bush, the rhody serves as an attractive back drop to this area garden.
BORDERS & HIGHLIGHTS:
It’s always nice to have borders for the area garden so as to define its space. Borders can be stone, bricks, slate, wood, bamboo pieces, even plants. In this case, I used stones found in the ground when digging out the garden area. As for the larger boulders highlighted around the rock creek, I was fortunate to find a friend who was excavating a part of his property and was trying to get rid of these beautiful blue-hued boulders (with more to come in later phases). These boulders give the impression of a mountainous terrain with a valley carved out by a rolling creek. Reinforcing this mini- mountain scene is the meandering creek. I place various types of sheet moss, tree moss, and fern moss on the north, more shaded side of the garden area. Eventually, all dirt areas you see in the garden will display a plant, fern, moss, or ground cover of some type to add personality.
The dry creek appears to naturally flow between the larger boulders. Each boulder enforces a bend in the creek, as it does in natural creeks. Large creek rocks are generally placed toward the outer borders of the creek, while smaller rocks are toward the center, again mimicking these natural occurrences in nature. The creek narrows and appears to flow into a small lake in the foreground toward the street. I recommend using black creek rocks if available; otherwise, the varied colored rocks will do. To make the dry creek, I dug out the space and put in a thin layer of cedar mulch, then a thick layer of sand to prevent weeds from growing in the creek rock. Soon to come will be a natural stone recycling water feature at the beginning of the dry creek.
FLOWERING PLANTS & THINGS:
As for the flowering plants and things in this area garden, I looked for anything that might complement the “bones” of these area mounds. Fortunately in the Pacific Northwest, there are lots of plant life growing everywhere, some considered weeds in some circles. For example, ferns, wild white flowering heuchera, crocosmia, and wild blue bells grow like weeds in this region, but one can never get enough of their natural beauty. I placed the wild heuchera on the north side and underneath the rhody where it thrives in shady areas. I scatter the wild crocosmias, blue hyacinths, and blue bells unevenly throughout the area gardens to reinforce the natural look. The blue bells and hyacinths will flower in the spring while the crocosmias flower in late summer into autumn. I also have a relative of the ‘lamb’s ear’ ground cover which grows wild here and flowers a gorgeous deep magenta flower at the ends of each antler-like stem. I also have another ground cover that emerges a bouquet of hundreds of tiny white bulbous flowers during the summer and autumn seasons. I plan to add various types of ornamental grasses in addition to the Japanese red grass and the yellow bamboo grass clumps around the garden areas.
I have shoots of Japanese red grass planted to the side of the weeping blue cedar, tulips and other bulbous flowers not yet blooming scattered around the area gardens as well. I was gifted a rosemary to add a year round pungent aroma and a gorgeous orange rose bush.
A work- in- progress of my Japanese garden in the front yard, the garden includes two dry creek rock gardens (one in the foreground of the featured image and the other in the background as a minimalist Zen garden), featured stones, lantern, bamboo borders, a Japanese lace maple, a coral bark maple, yellow, black and red grass, various ground covers and mosses, irises and crocosmias, an elderberry, succulents, a smoke tree, salvia, purple asters, rhododendrons, anenome flowers, echinacea, 3 types of hellebores, 4 types of heucheras, painted ferns, shark tale, razor and licorice ferns, and the featured weeping “dragon” blue spruce pine in the foreground.
PURCHASED HIGHLIGHTED ITEMS:
The low budget provided for a few highlighted features, such as the Japanese lantern, Japanese coral bark maple, the weeping blue “dragon” cedar, Chinese purple lantern flowers, two red dogwood bushes, and a few ground covers such as English daisies, heucheras, and grasses. Outside of sweat equity, the total budget was a remarkable mere $141! For the future, I plan to add another raised garden across the walkway in the front, mock bamboo, a Japanese purple lace maple, ornamental grasses, and maybe a rare plant such as an aromatic variegated pink daphne, a cone flowering hydrangea, Asian tiger lilies, or a few exotic pink or magenta Japanese anemone flowers. The blue pots can feature beautiful maples such as local vine maples, or anything that requires a controlled environment such as bamboo.
From the Sounds from the Coast CD, “WhalesBreaching“is a celebration of life, sharing the seas with our ocean friends, and a hope that we will never take them for granted. Let’s support their rights as our own.
In other blogs on this site, I talk about how the natural world connects with and replenishes us, performs a balancing of our energy, such as through the negative ions emissions of moving water – waterfalls, streams, and ocean waves – and also deep forests such as old growth forests. We become stressed and toxic by the fact that downtown areas have very little natural life surrounding it, have a deficiency of negative ions, and carry an excess of positive ions.
This article about nature emitting neurotransmitters takes it to a new level. It seems the premise of the blockbuster movie Avatar (by James Cameron) and its premise is pretty close to how things really are in the natural world. This is a good read:
This anniversary party was filled with positive interactions with the attendees between breaks and after my performance. It’s always a wonderful opportunity to meet new people intrigued by and find enjoyment from my music, but on a broader level, Japanese culture. It’s so good to be connected to such a wonderful, kind, generous, forgiving, and loving community in Seattle.
As I played the third song of the night, Tomio Moriguchi, otherwise known as “Mr. Uwajimaya”, came up to me and said he loved the first piece I played, Sakura, and of course I obliged to play it again. A true honor to have known you Tomio through the years, first meeting you in the early 90s karaoking with you and the late Joyce Yoshikawa at Bush Garden, getting caught up at the Bon Odori through the years, your reminders of how much you appreciated my sister Kimberley’s summer JAS programs with your family (yes Kimberley, Tomio asks about you every time!) and now, how could one not play a song for your memory in such a magical setting as Seattle’s Japanese garden! For the person who quite possibly brought more Japanese food and gifts to America than anyone in America! Domo, domo, domo. The people of Seattle’s Japanese Garden, so many of the attendees such as Tomio, The Sasakis (Cherry Blossom Festival and Fujima Fujimine Dance Ensemble) have colored this city of Seattle with the beautiful wonders of Japanese arts and culture for which I am eternally grateful.
Half time playing a piano gig at the pub in South Bend/ Raymond, the oyster capital of the world. And two Koto Jazz fans! This was so much more relaxing than a few weeks ago when I played at the Seattle Center. Ahhh, the taste of the ocean air , a couple koto jazz tunes . . .. and more oysters . …
There are two water features in this mini garden my brother designed which bring his garden to life — a natural looking wood plug-in mini waterfall and the black pebble dry creek and pond.
With the water feature in the background and the black pebble pond in the foreground, he’s created a paradise in his small back yard with three Japanese maples – one purple lace maple to the right, a taller green Japanese maple providing shade to shade plants and flowers below such as hostas and Japanese irises, and a feathery lighter lace maple behind the water feature in the back corner of his space.
The garden also uses a wide variety of ground covers, including one flowering mound of pink in the foreground next to the deck along with blue flowering groundcovers, giving rise to natural imagery. This Japanese mini garden works in this small space because all the plants chosen complement each other, and everything is proportionately sized correctly, including white mini lantern on the side.
The Way of Zen and Zen values of simplicity (kanso), naturalness (shizo), and refined elegance are similar values expressed in the Japanese garden, and defines Japanese rock gardens. Stones and rocks derive from the natural banks of rivers and creeks. They provide accents for distinctive garden areas, including walkways, waterfall bases, creek borders, ponds and lakes, and garden sections. Rocks and pebbles of rock gardens are raked into patterns of flowing streams, undulating waves, and accents around larger stone island or bonsai trees, and other features. Other patterns can be checkered or angled or alternating lines.
Large feature stones are grouped by themselves or they are grouped in threes with a taller boulder standing regally behind two shorter boulders, presenting balance. All three stones are generally vertical, with the taller stone in the center representing The Buddha (one who has become enlightened), and the two other stones on each side representing two Bodhisattvas (one who is “bound for enlightenment; the two stones are called sanson). They are placed next to water, a body of water or water feature, as images of water features, natural hills and/or mountain scenes.
Bodies of water are represented in the Japanese garden by a pond or lake. In the case of dry Zen rock gardens where sand and gravel represent the sea or ocean, the stones would be placed next to or in the sand/ pebble garden. The scene of ocean and sea occupying the majority of the garden space (“chisen”) originates from China, as does the garden aesthetic and spirituality of Zen Buddhism. Groups of rocks on one or more sides of the body of water in the garden may represent the seashore.
This “Raindrops Fall from Trees” song is special as it originated with a fun music exchange with my daughter as we traded turns playing my keyboard one rainy spring day. She came up with a basic melody which is the basis of this song. The song conjures up the likeness of gentle raindrops falling on leaves and tree branches, then coalescing to slide off leaves and land on the moist earth below. It is like the gentle hands of the sky extending its reach to the earth to give us peace in solitude.
While I added to it, the original melody remains, on of the relaxing meditative tunes. It is a beautiful spontaneous expression my daughter came up with and she just as quickly and easily named it. “Why its raindrops falling from trees of course.” Yes, of course.
This energetic Koto jazz piece I wrote this summer (2014) is reflective of the spring season mating patterns of the hummingbird. To attract its mate, the male hummingbird scales up and down the keys of the sky as a kind of mating dance to attract the attention of female hummingbirds. I observed this odd mating dance at Discovery Park in Seattle during a hike in the summer of 2014.
Koto Jazz tunes, though more definitively classical koto in style and sound, may be associated with Japanese American jazz. According to the “Music in Asian America” blog, Asian American jazz is a genre of jazz that arose in the late 20th century in the United States. Asian American jazz is often referred to as a hybrid of African American jazz with Asian influences (see Music In Asian America). It is music played by Japanese/Asian musicians, or jazz music that is in some way connected to Japan, Japanese or Asian culture. Japan has the largest jazz fan base in the world, according to some sources. The diverse styles and genres of these musicians demonstrates the individual unique expressions of Asian American jazz.
The following are summaries of leading Japanese American jazz performers (click on the artists names for music samples):
Hiroshima may be the most well known Asian American fusion jazz/smooth jazz rock band. The group was formed in 1974 by Dan Kuramoto (wind instruments and band leader), Peter Hata (guitar), June Kuramoto (koto), Johnny Mori (percussion and taiko), Dave Iwataki (keyboards) and Danny Yamamoto (drums). Named for the Japanese city of Hiroshima, the band is best known for the fusing of Japanese music and other forms of world music into its playing. Among the band’s many accomplishments– their popularity in the Asian and African American communities for R&B Funk sound, opening act for Miles Davis 1990 world tour, and their 1989 original score “The Moon is a Window to Heaven” used in “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier”.
Ryo Kawasaki (born February 25, 1947) chose a career as a jazz fusion guitarist after spending some years studying as a scientist. During the 60s he played with various Japanese jazz groups and also formed his own bands. In the early 70s he came to New York. Kawasaki is able to switch between hard bop and jazz-rock, and continues to play jazz guitar with an edgy rock influence.
Toshihiko Akiyoshi: Though born in Liaoyang, Manchuria of Japanese emigrants, Toshihiko Akiyoshi began her musical career in Japan. Akiyoshi and Tabackin (her husband) formed a 16-piece big band in 1973 composed of studio musicians a year after moving to Los Angeles. Akiyoshi’s music is distinctive for its textures and for its Japanese influence. Akiyoshi was inspired by her own Japanese musical heritage and composed with Japanese themes, Japanese harmonies, and even Japanese instruments (e.g. kotsuzumi, kakko, utai, tsugaru shamisen, etc.), all the while remaining rooted in jazz.
Gerald Oshita (1942–1992) was an American musician of Japanese ancestry who lived in the San Francisco Bay Area and specialized in wind instruments, particularly those rare ones of low register. He performed and recorded with saxophones, contrabass sarrusophone, and Conn-o-sax, and also made shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flutes). Oshita’s music drew on elements of jazz as well as contemporary classical music.
Glenn Horiuchi (February 27, 1955 – June 3, 2000) was an American jazz pianist, composer, and shamisen player. He was a central figure in the development of the Asian American jazz movement, according to Wikipedia. Glenn Horiuchi was a West Coast pianist who worked to combine jazz with Asian and Western classical music. He released albums on the 80s and 90s such as Soul Note and Asian Improv.
Anthony Brown, the son of a Choctaw and African-American father and Japanese mother, is an American jazz percussionist, drummer, composer, and bandleader. He specialized in American and Asian instruments and styles in his compositions and arrangements. Brown lead a cross-cultural ensemble, the Asian American Orchestra, whose interpretation of Duke Ellington’s Far East Suite was nominated for a 2000 Grammy Award. He also performed with Asian American jazz artists Jon Jang and Mark Izu.
The anime story about “The Charcoal Feather Federation” (Haibane Renmei) sends a deep spiritual message. The setting of the story resides in the idea of a purgatory type of state for lack of a better term (although this does not necessarily reflect the intent of the author nor is it wholly representative of the true translation).
This state is more psycho-social spiritual than an actual physical place or state that are often associated with western ideas of purgatory. The mindset of the main characters are all about relationship, giving and receiving, and letting go of the thinking that holds us back from attaining a place of spiritual freedom- freedom from the trappings of our mind’s thinking, such as self blame and guilt, and lack of self- forgiveness.
This is what makes the Haibane Renmei a must see. Every one of us has a place or part of our life- story and life- thinking that we struggle to come to terms with; we struggle to forgive. It comes in a form we may have long buried and forgotten. If we find ourselves being dismissive when reading this, we most absolutely have something we imperatively must find, face, and forgive.
The first step is to find it and face it. Haibane Renmei emphasizes the important messages we may gather from our dreams and memories. Then, having found and faced it, can we muster the courage to forgive?
This is the ultimate aim of a spiritual life, and I argue each of our lives. If we have not forgiven our self, we are not able to forgive the same in others. Thus, that part of us is projected out; becomes a cancerous toxic presence in our own life, and therefore among our circle of friends and family. The creator of Haibane Renmei, Yoshitoshi Abe, has a gifted way of bringing the spiritual life, including the progression into the next life, as interwoven with the life of here and now, a notion very appropriate for the Shinto tradition. However, it presents the current life we lead and the progression through spirituality into the next life, in terms foreign to western concepts of life and death. These are Shinto- Buddhist concepts, though Abe-san handles it masterfully.
Once we have forgiven the self, we free our self from our own mental trap and become empowered with the capacity to forgive. Often the “forgive process” comes from someone else, as was the case with Reki in the Haibane Renmei story, the girl who could not remember her dream, nor forgive her self. The story suggests a need for a loving catalyst, a loving person in one’s life who reaches and makes the “forgiveness connection”. I’ve needed more than one person to help me make my “forgiveness connections”.
That is the means by which we obtain freedom to reach a higher spiritual presence in this life and the next.
Ike (池), or garden pond, has been accepted as an assumed part of the Japanese gardens, symbolizing a larger body of water, such as the sea or ocean. There are no restriction as to the size a pond can be; it really depends upon space availability. The pond or still body of water in a garden originates from China, where it is thought to represent feminine elements in the natural world, or the “yin” of yin-yang. Adding koi to the pond may presents a dramatic natural feel to wataer garden.
The spiritual pond or body of water, or kami-ike (divine ponds), represents the Japanese Shinto spiritual belief that the pond in Japanese gardens are sacred. It has been a special place of prayer and meditation. As mentioned in KotoJazz 9: Islands of Japanese Gardens, the scene of ocean and sea occupying the majority of the garden space (“chisen”) originates from China. Groups of rocks on one or more sides of the body of water in the garden may represent the image of a seashore and/or mountains. If an island or stone island is placed in the pond, it represents a special divine place from where the kami came hahaguni (妣国).
The pond is the centerpiece of numerous other Japanese garden features, including the following:]
I saw a lot of old faces in the crowd at my performance at the Royal Room (Columbia City, South Seattle) and a lot of new faces.
I can’t thank the old faces enough for coming out to see me play the piano (thank you, thank you, thank you). As we grow in our understanding and expression of koto jazz, it is not possible without your support. What an opportunity to play before a full house on a Monday night. 🙂
I’m also curious about the new faces and why they came. So I went out and talked to them. The feedback I received is that people are interested in the music, but more than the music. They are interested in the flow state and the connection to a spirituality with Nature and the Shinto and Zen Buddhist origins that these Koto jazz pieces introduce to the listener.
I’m surprised I received as much feedback as I did about the spirituality that creativity offers us. On the music side as predicted, people loved certain songs, all the comments came from one of the Koto jazz pieces I wrote (Hatchidori and Kozan no Kaze) and a few endorsements of the variations on known Koto melodies I jazzed up. But it was also the energy they like.
My music is an attempt to re-connect with the spirituality about and around Nature. This spirituality is not locked up in the closed doors of any institution or church, or temple, or shrine. My music serves as a simple offering of our attention to nature and invitation to be present to it in whatever form it takes before us; whether a hummingbird or ripples on creek rocks. Music is one of many vehicles that can unleash that spirituality.
The Shinto influence of it is so much more than the political environmentalism of our time. It’s really not enough for me to say “I drive an electric car”, or “I’m saving up to put solar panels on my home.” Sure, that’s all good, practical good. But it’s not spiritual. It is the essence of the natural world we tend to overlook. We forget that we come from this Natural state and we tend to take it for granted. When do we say thank you in the language of the Creator, that we are grateful for everything created for us in this world? The Creator does not speak a specific human language; not even English. It’s Not just about the stuff We create, but the stuff of Life that’s been here almost forever.
In other blog entries here, I talk about the science of the flow state or Shinto spirituality, ions and all that. Clearly it’s that, but more. I’m interested in all that, because I like science and I like proof, but I’m also interested in the “more” part. There will always be more, and I’m tired of the polemics and ideology that rend our age. I want more, don’t you? I choose today, to pay honor and reverence to that which is “More”; was here long before I came into existence, and most certainly will be here long after I pass on.
The presence of the Natural world in our lives is not a religious proposition, it’s not profound at all, it’s really simple. We can be changed and transformed by it if we “tune in”, if we choose to listen to the language of the Creator. Seek this first, my friend, “and all else . …. ”
Yes, my next big challenge as a musician will be to write a koto jazz piece about the “Sea Slug” (pictured above). If I can write a song about a sea slug, I’m getting somewhere. 🙂