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.”
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.
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 –
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.
Here is a live recording of a tune I first played at Stone Way Café’s Fremont Art Walk on April 1st, then recorded live at The Royal Room on April 13th with Koto Jazz accompaniment by Patrick Wilson on the SyntHorn –
Here’s an easy way to enjoy your morning. Build a chicken coup, feed the chicken every morning, then they’ll start feeding you fresh eggs ever morning. These are two Rhode Island Reds and two black sexlinks , all hens and entertaining to watch.
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:
Come join a celebration at the end of the Chinese New Year on March 6th, 6-8pm, Friday, Dragonfly Holistic Healing across from the Fremont bridge is having a “Chinese New Year” celebration open house, featuring koto jazz piano by Chris Kenji at Dragonfly Holistic Healing, 760 N. 34th Street, Seattle, WA 98103; Fremont neighborhood. Website: DragonflyHolisticHealing.com. Come join us for a Free Admission party. Gang Xi Fat Cai!
“Searching for the Rising Sun” is a memorial piece for my father who passed away at this time last year. As myself, dad spent his life seeking to share his understanding of Japan and East Asia with the west. He was an educator by trade. I’m a musician and sales person, but the end goal is the same.
The title of the tune is truly reflective of his aim — a search for the land of the Rising Sun, representing Japan.
“Aki No Hou”, which means toward the autumn season, is loosely derived by two traditional Japanese Koto pieces – “Midare” (off balance) and “Aki No Koto No Ha” (the sea in springtime). Some of the plucking styles used in “Midare” are used here.
While my tunes have similar patterns to the “Akin no Koto no Ha”, Aki no Hou takes on a life of its own. Ultimately my creation as the final product has little or no resemblance to these ancient Japanese original works. I wrote “Aki no Hou” in the fall of 2014, inspired by the changing seasons, the energetic dynamics of the autumn; the changing colors of trees and plants, the bustling of wildlife in preparation for winter, and the anticipation of settling into its moments of solitude.
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.
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.
I have some new songs I will play live at the events below in Seattle, Kirkland, and Cannon Beach, Oregon. Here are a sampling of the new recordings (note: the full versions are 4-6 minutes long. These are rough samples. Each song will be recorded live on a Steinway grand piano either at the November 30th or December 13th performances). Many of these are a departure from the koto jazz tunes themes (see Soundcloud for full version or links on the above “sample sounds” page):
•November 22nd & 23rd (Saturday & Sunday), “Koto Jazz Season Suite and Thanksgiving” songs, by Kenji at Primary Elements, 7-9pm, in Cannon Beach, Oregon; no cover charge. Address: Primary Elements Gallery is located at 172 N. Hemlock, Cannon Beach, OR 97110; Call or text: 206-200-2733;
•November 30th (Sunday), “An Evening of Thanksgiving”, by Kenji at the The Royal Room, Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood, 8:00 – 10:00pm; no cover charge. The first hour is “An Evening of Thanksgiving, featuring at least popular songs about thanksgiving (e.g., Peter Kater and George Winston). This is followed by “Koto Jazz- Season Suite” by Kenji. This piano series is preceded by wine tasting at 6pm. For directions and map, visit map to Royal Room, Seattle. Address: 5000 Rainier Avenue, Seattle, WA 98118; Call or text: 206-200-2733;
•December 13th (Saturday), “Warming up for the Holidays” with Instrumental New Age Jazz by Chris Kenji at Stage Seven Piano Studio, 7:30-9pm, in Kirkland, Washington; no cover charge. Address: Stage Seven is located at 511 6th Street South, Kirkland, WA 98033; Call or text: 206-200-2733;
•November 7th (Friday), “Season Suite”, by Kenji; Stormy Weather Arts Festival at Primary Elements, 6-8pm, in Cannon Beach, Oregon; no cover charge (includes wine and refreshments). Address: Primary Elements Gallery is located at 172 N. Hemlock, Cannon Beach, OR 97110; Call or text: 206-200-2733;
•NOVEMBER 8th (Saturday), “Koto Jazz Season Suite” album and New Age music by Kenji at the Brass Tacks, 7-9pm, in the Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle; no cover charge. For directions and map, visit Brass Tacks Georgetown map. Address: 6031 Airport Way, South, Seattle, WA 98108; Call or text: 206-200-2733;
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:]