Category Archives: zen

Koto Jazz Tunes 90: 2 Originals “Represent the West” @ Sangre de Cristo

Another stroke of luck. In January – March 2017 two of my original Kotojazz tunes are recognized as “Representing the West” at the Sangre de Cristo Arts and Conference Center annual exhibit. These are pure new age Americana folk songs. “Snow Blossoms” was inspired by the blue violets peeking through melting snow on a sunny winter day along Boulder Creek trail in  Boulder, Colorado. “Windy Kansas Wheat Fields” was inspired by strong wind blowing over fields of grass and wheat creating a steady undulating flow like ocean waves. You can see the wind blowing through wheat fields in eastern Colorado and Kansas. Both feed our souls, in their simplicity and stillness (snow blossoms) and their awesome enduring power (windy Kansas wheat fields).

I am reminded that the “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it; you know neither from where it comes nor to where it goes, and so it is with the Spirit.”

Previews of these songs are available here:

http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/chriskenjibeer5

 

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KotoJazz 88: Dry Creek Rocks

A dry creek is often preferred over a creek with flowing water. It provides the visual effect of flowing water, and doesn’t require the maintenance of a flowing stream. In this case, using black creek rocks offer a striking color contrast to the green ground covers.

The sound of flowing water can be experienced by adding a simple recycling water feature, such as the mini waterfall toward the back of this mini garden.

This landscaper uses a few types of flowering ground covers along the black dry creek in the foreground accented with Japanese maples in the background.

There are three types of Japanese maples featured here. Two Japanese purple lace maples in the foreground and far rear and the canopy created by the taller green moonlight maple in the center.  Variegated hostas, an azalea, tulips, a calla lily, and mock bamboos offer nice fill ins for variety and balance.

Namaste: Living Words of Wisdom

I like the term namaste originating from Hindu Yoga spiritual practice. Here are some meanings –

The spirit within me bows to the spirit within you.

I greet that place where you and I are one.

I honor the place in you which is of love, of truth, of light and of peace.

http://www.livingwordsofwisdom.com/definition-of-namaste.html

 

KotoJazz 84: Low Budget Area Garden Design

A work- in- progress of my Japanese garden in the front yard, including a dry creek rock garden, featured stones, lantern, bamboo borders, Japanese lace maple, yellow, black and red grass, various ground covers and mosses, irises and crocosmias, succulents, smoke tree, salvia, asters, rhodedendrums, 3 types of helleborus, 4 types of heucheras, painted ferns, razer and licourish ferns, and the featured "dragon" weeping blue spruce pine.
A work- in- progress of my Japanese garden in the front yard, including a dry creek rock garden, featured stones, lantern, bamboo borders, Japanese lace maple, yellow, black and red grass, various ground covers and mosses, irises and crocosmias, elderberry, succulents, a smoke tree, salvia, asters, rhodedendrums, 3 types of helleborus, 4 types of heucheras, painted ferns, razer and licorice ferns, and the featured weeping “dragon” blue spruce pine.


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.

AREA GARDENS:

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:

Here is a dry creek pond around the tree, beginning a dry creek meandering along round stone steps which continue along the side of the house to the back yard. We have a fucia in full bloom and a japanese maple in blue pots in the foreground, a reddening sumac to the left, three hydrangeas (white, pink and blue), a Japanese anenome next to the sumac, a light evergreen bush next to the featured stone creating the affect of an island, a white drooping Japanese pine to the right along the mound, sword fern, and five different types and colors of heucheras.
Here is a dry creek pond around the tree, beginning a dry creek meandering along round stone steps which continue along the side of the house to the back yard. We have a fucia in full bloom and a japanese maple in blue pots in the foreground, a reddening sumac to the left, three hydrangeas (white, pink and blue), a Japanese anenome next to the sumac, a light evergreen bush next to the featured stone creating the affect of an island, a white drooping Japanese pine to the right along the mound, sword fern, and five different types and colors of heucheras.

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.

DRY CREEK:

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.

aviary-photo_131187409183508298

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.

kenji-win_20160928_114305

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.

 

Japanese style rock creek garden
Japanese style rock creek garden in the making.
The "Before" photo - What the garden looked like before moving into the house.
The “Before” photo – What the garden looked like before moving into the house.

Seattle’s Biospheres – Exclusive Connection to Nature?

Because “Amazon employees need connection to nature” (geekwire quote). Yes. We all need connection to nature; it connects us to ourselves. Hopefully, parts of it will be accessible to the general public –

http://www.geekwire.com/2016/amazon-biospheres-will-happen-inside-giant-glass-orbs-company-building/

The most recent news as of July 26 by the Seattle Times is that there will only be opportunities for public visits. Specifics  are not yet available. Generally, the space is closed to the public, though much can be viewed from the street.

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Whales Breaching Live @Northwest FOLKLIFE

From the Sounds from the Coast CD, “Whales Breaching 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.

 

Koto Jazz 85: Next Wednesday @The Royal Room

Take a mid-week break next Wednesday and relax by stopping by The Royal Room at 7:00-9:30pm, April 13th as Patrick Wilson and I demo our experimental session of Koto Jazz with bossa nova rhythm and beat on the Steinway and Patrick’s invention, the SyntHorn. We’re attempting to further refine it to make it truly stage worthy in preparation for Northwest Folklife opening day. We perform for Northwest Folklife on Friday, May 27 at 4:30pm-5:10pm. The Koto Jazz will be stage worthy with bossa nova fusion. The Royal Room is located in south Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood at 5000 Rainier Ave South, Seattle. See http://theroyalroomseattle.com for quality dining and drinks. This will be part of a donation of $100 I plan to give to the Royal Room and Wayne Horvitz toward piano repairs!!     

Patrick Wilson’s SyntHorn on the koto jazz tune

For the off beat eclectic innovator, the SyntHorn is an amazing, fun and crazy instrument. One of my neighbors and friends Patrick Wilson in Seattle created a digital instrument he calls The SyntHorn (short for synthesizer horn). The horn itself produces an unique, distant echoing cavernous sound effect. The SyntHorn includes the horn, a mini- digital keyboard, Oscillator, Chaoscillator, Monotron delay unit, two Internal Horn speakers, and one external speaker. Since the the features and function completely run on rechargeable batteries, it can played anywhere at any time. A carrying strap fits over the shoulder. All this resides in one unit.

Here is a sampling of Patrick live on the SyntHorn –

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Join me in my next performances at C&P Coffee, Columbia City’s Royal Room, and Stone Way Café to hear our progressive electronic jazz. Patrick, a former DJ at a local college radio station, will join me in jazzing up my koto jazz tunes and offer up a few of his own originals with my accompaniment on the keyboard.

It makes sounds and rhythms you’ve never heard before.

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11 Beautiful Untranslatable Japanese Words

My favorite, Yuugen – “awareness of the universe that triggers emotional responses”, and Shinrinyoku – “bathing in a deep forest”, http://theodysseyonline.com/le-moyne/11-beautiful-untranslatable-japanese-words/221351

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Marie Bolla and Chris Kenji on Stage @ Royal Room, October 27th

Marie Bolla will sing beautiful classic folk/ contemporary jazz songs with Chris at the keyboards. Marie has played piano and sang nearly her entire life, and has received local awards for her performances. She has played with the popular Seattle area bands. The first half of the show will feature Chris Kenji’s new piano instrumental tunes for his second CD “Sounds from the Coast”, to be followed by Marie Bolla and Chris Kenji in a keyboard duet with Marie singing solo.

Come join us OCTOBER 27th, 7:30-9:30pm (Tuesday),“Sounds from the Coast”, by Chris Kenji and Marie Bolla at the The Royal Room, Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood ; no cover charge. “Koto Jazz- Sounds from the Coast” by Chris Kenji and Marie Bolla. For directions and map, visit map to Royal Room, Seattle. Address: 5000 Rainier Avenue, Seattle, WA 98118; Call or text: 206-200-2733.

Wildlife and Nature Pictures – A True Respite from the Daily Grind

I find refuge and inspiration of the photos of the “Wildlife and Nature Pictures” website on Facebook. As a pretty new member of Facebook, I highly recommend this site for viewing all the beauty of nature that the world has to offer. Here is a picture of a corridor of blooming pink Cherry blossom trees in Japan:

The Relevance of China Xi Jinping’s Visit & Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur sends a powerful message of forgiveness, service and charity that I hope some day will be the touchstone of our nation, at least as much as other holidays. It is a time of relevance- when “the stone the builders rejected becomes the cornerstone.” It is a time of making relevant what should be relevant – the visit to the Seattle area of China President Xi Jinping; the visit of the first Jesuit Pope to the states. All of this is relevant to today’s modern puzzle. I’ve seen mockeries of the contrast between the two – the Chinese President’s message of business and trade versus the Popes message of love? People calling it a joke at the expense of the Chinese President? Do not forget he comes from a regime that helped take hundreds of millions of people (pushing 600 million people) out of poverty in China. It’s not perfect. Do you know of any political or non-political regime in human history to have done so much? Does it have to be a comparison between the two?

It’s historic they are both here to bring world attention to important matters. That said, I would take away their visits in exchange for a nation who celebrates the Jewish New Year every year, sets down its work on the sacred day of rest on Yom Kippur (this last Tuesday-Wednesday) and contemplates and prays for the power of atonement in our lives. I know I need it desperately in my life. Most Americans don’t know what Yom Kippur means. Don’t forget – this Christian nation – your church’s founder, the good Jew from Nazareth? He not only celebrated Yom Kippur, he lived it.