Portland’s Chinese Garden – Part 1

It’s been a while – 2008 – since I began this series on Portland’s Chinese Garden. In the meantime, as is the case with any garden, much has occurred. A very few plants failed, a few were relocated, some overly ripe stuff was replaced based purely on taste. For a notable period, a leak was found in the water feature part of the garden, chased down and then repaired – a relatively constant plague or at least a danger, for almost any water feature, anywhere.

Generally, however, little has changed overall. Eventually, the huge Weeping Willow will become problematic with its invasive root systems and the softer wood becoming perhaps snow – or ice – laden during some Winter storm and affecting its shape. But all in all, it has matured very gracefully into a focal point destination inside a gorgeous city.

I have revised some of these older posts, tinkering around with pictures and script, but altogether I am very happy with these posts. I hope they give as much pleasure as I got from writing them and from helping construct this masterpiece. This series deals with some of the tales of its emergence out of the city block-wide big hole where it began.

The Portland Chinese Garden was a combined effort between a company from Portland, Oregon’s sister city, the incredible Sou Zhou, and, well basically, the Mayor of Portland. It was at various points a hot political potato with mounting criticisms from all the usual political-type sources (which usually means an opposing party, naturally) in an era of average or worse resources, following the ‘Dot Com” bust which negatively impacted Portland having long since gone “all in” on high tech. However, Portland was even then showing the strength of a reasonably well-planned expansion, complete with very innovative and successful local corporations, such as Intel, Nike and a million smart subsidiary businesses to Microsoft just up the road in Seattle.

We spent an interesting meeting once, in the Mayor’s office once, proposing an idea that she accepted with joy and hopefulness – naming various trees and baubles for the largest donors. For a price, of course. 😉  Well, it worked. But my favorite interactions were always with the Chinese who also worked hard ion this lovely project. Constant smiles, elaborate bows and exclamations, tons of laughter and the joy of sharing and cooperation made it entirely special to me.

I’m going to recirculate an entire series of Chinese Garden construction factoids and tales from its construction, which I was integral to. It was easily the neatest gig I was ever a part of and I was fairly high up in the work and liaison stream, then working for Teufel’s Nurseries, a $40 million a year business in early 1996.

Enjoy a ride through some of the highlights of this project.

Oh – by the way – Portlanders are inordinately proud of this Garden. It gets heavy traffic 12 months a year.

Set solidly right in the very depths of downtown Portland, Oregon, the Chinese Garden is serene and mind-boggling at the same time. The fact that the locals understand it is basically placed smack in the middle of the Chinese District, it has a congruity in the city itself. Leaving the Garden, you can go shop at stores specializing in Chinese items or eat at any number of bordering restaurants.

But of course, that is not the entire story, and especially as it relates to this blog. That the Garden is a gorgeous feast for the eyes and senses is pretty much a no brainer. I will address that pictorially. How it relates here is my own small involvement with it and it may take a post or two to finish.

At the time, I was living in Portland and working for Teufel’s Landscaping, a very large and successful nursery and landscaping firm who counted their clients among those they have worked for or supplied for over 100 years. Among their clients were the Nike and Microsoft Campuses, golf courses, Intel’s booming Portland base and countless others. In residential landscaping, I have myself worked for some notable people. When the mayor of Portland decided she wanted this Garden in conjunction with Portland’s sister city, they tried and eventually found the approximately $12 million it took to make it work. I salute Vera Katz here and now for her wonderful addition to the city and her bulldog-like tenacity in seeing it come to pass. You da gal, Vera.

Well, Teufel’s got a contract to do a number of things under the project. Once again, my good friend John Stone was instrumental in all this and was my supervisor. John’s rather bizarre mandate was to provide the local landscaping expertise dealing with irrigating the grounds, locating all of the plant materials, installing the soils and planting the plants for a project no one wanted to look “brand new”. Naturally, what this meant was that fully mature plants were to be supplied which matched the specifications and artistic needs supplied by the Chinese portion of the engineering and landscape architect class who basically designed it. It implied some stuff you just couldn’t make up, it was so far fetched. For one example, I accompanied John in an expedition down to a plant who specialized in fabricating chains. Why? Because as we found and excavated the trees, we began seeing some intimidating issues with their weight. The root balls on some of these behemoths were in the tens of tons. We already knew we would be using a 180 ton crane for placement – at the time the largest vehicle made for street travel.

Passages – A Marriage I Was Actually Involved In

Make no mistake, this post – more than perhaps any I have ever posted in this blog – is strictly personal. But it is also highly celebratory – another avenue to express my hopes and deepest love for a newly-embarked mission of Love into their very own and undoubtedly unique family and on into Infinity as a new constellation made up of so-willing participants……..Hey – my family expanded last weekend.

The metaphor of Mark Twain’s where he mentioned “I spent the coldest Winter of my life one summer in San Francisco” has always seemed the best-abbreviated single statement about a complex situation in my personal reading history. Well, I think I might have my own answer to that, after this last week:

“I had the most meaningful experience of my life celebrating someone else’s marriage last weekend”. 😉

In this case, of course, I am referring to giving away my very own daughter, Alena, to her very agreeable choice of a man who I actually both like and admire. I spent an entire visit to San Diego in an emotional oven which I would not have traded for anything in this entire known world.

This picture pretty much says it all……………

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After 19 full months of my life’s very first medical challenges including literally learning to walk – twice! – the timing of the wedding of Alena and Greg fit so perfectly into the “What I most need now” category, it had to be designed by a physical and spiritual therapist.

My most recent road to here has been winding and full of stops and starts, punctuated unfortunately mostly by “stops”. To say ‘I had a bad experience’ is an understatement of rare dimension. As I mentioned in my Father of the Bride Speech at the reception, I first met my daughter’s husband over Skype on my computer at home. Stuck as they are all the way out in San Diego, 2,500 miles from Dad, it was the only method of actually seeing people while completely unable to walk 100 feet without a cane. Make that 10 feet, actually. That’s how bad it was.

I remember that call as if it were yesterday……. Alena and I had planned it and it finally unfolded as I sat here in my social media cockpit, completely reluctant and nervous about putting my face on the screen. I weighted about 130 pounds at the time (“Like I had taken a taxi straight from Auschwitz”, is how I framed in in my speech, lol)  but what we were celebrating at my end was the relative fixing which had finally occurred following a mistake in a surgical procedure for me. It had cost me – plenty.

(I may as well confess also that it was the lowest ebb of my entire life…………bar none)

So I answer her call and I see them and I punch up the camera on my computer linking us and I get this monster smile out of them both as my mug appeared to them. It was the first time I had met Greg, although I had had conversations about him with Alena. She was pretty in love, lol. Hey – works for me!! 😉

The long and short is how impressed I was with Greg. We dominated the conversation as Alena could tell I was pushing and prodding, lol, in my predictable protective fashion. We were able to laugh as a crowd and I couldn’t help but notice his jokes were completely as lame and dreadful as my own. We have a winner!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh Lord, still my thrice-beating heart!!

“Dayem, Cletus, I dunno but something in me says I shore hope she keeps this feller!!” 😉

We laughed and cajoled our way through this initial conversation – and later ones as well, but hardly as refreshing or as noteworthy as my first meeting with Greg – which went for at least an hour of leisurely pace and relaxed exchanges. Note too, this was long before he popped the Big Question. (And which question, it very much bears noting, he called me privately later to seek my approval…………a moment I will treasure forever and ever……….(LOL, as I also said in my little speech – “The truth is, you had me at the ringtone!”, lol)

At the time, I was just enjoying my daughter’s boyfriend and delighted to see he embodied many of the values I also admire, such as hard work, a tendency to sacrifice and a way human urge to help others as a fireman, EMT and now Safety Supervisor for the largest electrical contractor in America, Par Electric. That he was a nut very much like me was just a bonus and probably predictable, for all you deep personality scientists out there. 😉

Here is Greg now, sporting his marrying socks and a pose for the Ages:

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And this is what he thinks of my daughter:

(That would be me fiddling with my cam on the right and hooting a little with the rest of us, lol.)
13061921_10208069113378312_960597819837344805_nThe bottom line in all this is the remarkable restorative power of Alena and Greg’s so obvious love for one another and its effects on me and my strictly personal health. It was a shot in the arm like a tsunami of enforced Loving. I have been suffused with love – just drunk as hell on it – and I don’t plan on forgetting it in all of the time remaining in my days of abusing the Earth.

The social ritual of marriage is such a cleansing, hopeful and refreshing moment. We welcome each into the wider world as they form a small nucleus of their own bright new planet. Our hopes cling to them now going forward as they inhale all of our best angels on a daily basis. We have, as a group who are so willing to love them until the end of time, ushered them most supportively into their next phase as adults – the phase of forming their own family as free adults. As a rite of passage, marriage is easily the very most hopeful. The delicacy of life and love could not have a more splendid send-off than what occurred on that magical weekend in San Diego. It was muscular.

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There are moments in life which build a prior momentum of their own and which we recognize only when they unfold before our doubting eyes. These moments are the Treasury of our existences. Their preciousness has no competition – they are galaxies which extend our souls into those of others – in delirious Joy! – as we experience the common human mutuality of all of our collective emotions, hopes and fears – in this case, invested in the fallible and starkly hopeful persons who we try to influence in the very best of ways. This precious couple embody everything that matters in this world of ours. Our Idealism is never more clear than when we participate in the rite of marriage. This was never made more clear than 6 days ago. I was stunned by its impact and I still am.

Back to the theme of selfish entertainment……… 😉  Did it make me healthier?

Ha ha, that one is easy. How about this?:  “I never felt better in my life!!” 😉

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(You can tell, lol) 😉

So it has gone from this…………….

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To this:

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And now this old fart is crying again, lol. 😉

Y’all know I wouldn’t trade it for anything in this world. Absolutely nothing. It may well have been the very best day of my entire life. Already and gratefully rich in friends, I am now richer in family. How does it get better?

Brick Pavers – More Exotic

This is another of those posts I went and added onto substantially, having originally produced it in 2010.

As everyone should understand by now, I am a huge fan of brick paver surfaces. I have found nothing – nothing at all – comes close to their durability. The other inherent quality brick pavers offer is simply their beauty. Well designed surfaces gain immense visual power by being coordinated by color and even texture in a landscape. And since this rather new field opened up rapidly, it has been a chore to try and keep up with all the innovations, colors, types and styles of interlocking bricks. But what a pleasant chore it is. In this post, we examine the future, taking a peek around the corner at what seems destined to emerge. At the same time, we’ll investigate what we have available at this time. I believe it is of a surprising range.

What is the future, then, of brick pavers?  Have all creative avenues been blocked owing to their new popularity or are there people out there discovering new ways of experiencing the art of driveway and Piazza construction? The answer to that touches on our personal and community expectations regarding our outdoor environments.  I am more than pleased to say that the future is very bright indeed, as can be seen in this tiny sampling relating to the possibilities inherent in the paving art.

Brick pavers have evolved to such an extent that pictures such as the one above now represent a possibility that never existed before in a non-modular form.  The freeing up of ideas based on modularity and small sectioned pieces represents amazing possibilities for the enterprising designer.

Here are some other examples of what could happen and has: The first one below was designed on a computer using musical references in a mathematical formula….”resonances”, I believe the architect mentioned. It is a visual second in time of music as it would appear on an oscilloscope. It is from a Toronto, Canada plaza outside a facility that features music. I can only imagine the contractor scratching his head over the placement of the pavers, lol. Like many architects, they design, we install.  “Figure it out and make it work.” is a common enough statement.  Just the same, it is a fascinating bit of work, beyond doubt.

Here’s your standard average serenidpitous piece of driveway reckoning, a little on the whimsical side and surely not for everyone.  I just enjoy the fantastic sort of element of it all, myself and, yes, I would use it.

Look out!  This one is a mind blower, lol, all pavers.

Aside from the whimsical, however, are other sizes and style of pavers a bit more standard, yet still interesting, allowing many different possibilities as well. These are your larger compressed concrete pavers that are also seeing wide usage any more.

This example hails from a project we undertook in Portland, Oregon at a very successful Christmas Tree farm. The owner has just successfully re-commissioned his entire home as a sun-catcher…….he drew so much solar power that he literally offered his own power up to the grid and was compensated by the local power company. He had a small outbuilding which was completely filled with marine batteries. Really interesting guy.

Never one to let any potential sun get away – especially in often-dreary Portland – we erected a small pond out front for purposes of fire protection as well as for the reflection from the Eastern and Southern Sun to bounce off the water onto his living room ceiling where he had more collectors. 😉

Now this one is just pretty, lol. I liked the mixed colors. The view out the back is awesome ….this home straddled a ridge top, offering expansive views in all directions.

As hinted in the original picture above, people such as my hero in atristic nuttery like Isamu Noguchi were long ahead of the game. That plaza at Chase Manhatten Bank in NYC is among my 7 wonders of the hardscaping world.

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But Noguchi’s work in stone may be his very best. This is from his museum in Costa Mesa, Califonria.

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An overview:

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Back to the “somewhat normal”, lol, we have this, from a man who specializes in Labyrinths, of all things. http://labyrinthsinstone.com/ is his website and it is well worth a gander.

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This could go on. 😉 A lot of creative minds have been on this project of modernizing and making art out of the surfaces we walk on. This also occurred for thousands of years before now, dating back to Greek and Roan ruins where the gorgeous tiles and paintings drawn centuries ago last until this very day.

This ancient Greek floor below was discovered recently in Turkey, proving that humans have lavished beauty and much thought into what they walk on.

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A Serious Post Involving Nature And Food

A recent picture-taking jag dating back to my visit to the warm climes of San Diego as it rained in tropical Monsoon-style back in Louisville – where it was also warmer, lol – lets me catch up with events of a very modest and most natural nature.

We’ll begin with something serious.

(Know also that left clicking on pictures can enlarge them. Clicking twice on some of these makes it even cooler) 😉

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Moving right along, what follows is more or less random. For everyone’s Peace of Mind, having said that, I think it might be best to begin with at least one other picture of San Diego flora before we launch into the natural homeliness of a Kentucky Winter……a season I have found fascinating this year for some reason or another……..

The brilliance of succulents in general but of the understandably common Ice Plants in particular, have always completely grabbed my attention. Mixed into this picture is a rather ungainly Yucca/Aloe specimen which somehow manages to make the grade owing to its brilliant blooms. A nasty creature with amazingly sharp little pricks on the succulent-like leaves, I could be an ideal addition to a garden which someone spent too much time in. Just backing into could be the lesson of a lifetime. 😉

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Moving along now and recalling the downpour I described “back in Kentucky” during my coastal doings, in my return, I took a trip up the road a very small piece to visit one of my favorite Louisville parks – Beckley Creek Park. A part of a greater park system of recently constructed vintage, this park shines as an outstanding example of the new movement of city parks everywhere going “natural”.

Here is the Beckley Creek Portion, complete with its own website:
http://www.theparklands.org/Parks/Beckley-Creek-Park 

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This fascinating, $120 Million park system has become a deep and quantitatively huge geographical investment as an urban feature. Complete with walking and biking trails which will eventually comprise a 100 mile circle around Louisville, the islands of concentrated activity mix a delightfully-landscaped and architecturally pleasing bunch of elements together with a cleaned-up and only-somewhat-groomed natural environment.

Where the absurd richness of the Spring, Summer and Autumn’s deciduous glories abound in Kentucky, I was also pleased to see the contrast of Minimalist Landscaping Designs around the buildings of the park. Used for many purposes – from weddings and parties to your standard average dog park to conventions and educational experiences drawing Nature Lovers, the park answers the bell with resounding merits.

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From the other side of this building, we see the “Real” reason for its location, while this side of it expresses some genuine art for design freaks such as myself. Considering the dull gray skies and apparent skeletons of trees so common in a Kentucky Winter landscape, the dried old grasses, the solitary limestone boulder and the now-barren and ruined bed of perennial flowers and scrawny shrubs in the foreground still manage to gather the eye in a most-rewarding way.

Here, then, is the other side of the same building:

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And here is a better look at the creek it sits beside, now still somewhat swollen from the aforementioned rains. Yes, that is a working farm and barn in the distance.

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The creek I found totally fascinating. There are roughly a billion and one ways to view the creek itself, all within walking distance from parking spots along the road coursing through the park. As an historical presence, Beckley Creek has lots of historical stories, from Revolutionary times onward.

Closer to the Shelbyville Road entrance is my favorite perspective. A short walk from the car leads you though a path into an entire world of creekness. Huge Sycamore, Hickory and Walnut trees abound, as well, in summer, as a near-impenetrable set of bushes and shrubs, many of whom flower at different times of the warmer year, some of which are an allergy sufferer’s nightmare, such as Goldenrod in profuse quantities.

But it is this past Winter we are dealing with now. Here is a deceptively passive-looking creek view back upriver under so many now-barren deciduous trees……..

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What seems rather placid from this particular angle is really not so much. The higher water is typically brown like this from the collection of silts alongside the water frm rain runoff. What it can provide is a somewhat amazing sensuality as this liquid mass gets yet another angle:

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The storm’s after effects are vivid:

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Those collected leafs, caught in the spines of naked shrubbery testify to the incredible force brought to bear in the rushing floodwaters of that week.The height is completely telling – it was high!

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Alongside the trail down to this area, I noticed other damage.

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A completed cycle of growth and death stand right in front of us as we see the demise of a once-strapping young buck of a tree toppled over by the erosion at its base. It’s neighbor, already ancient beside it, stands drunkenly alongside a new aspirant, completing what was for me at the time a very moving tableau – a story of raw nature, cycles, time and the surprises in store for us all, tree or no tree. While there seems to be ugliness galore in the plain and uninteresting colors shown at this time of the year – and at such odds with the more outrageously vivid beauty and fullness for the other 3 seasons – the mind gets stricken by thoughts of passages in this gloom. This is merely one of the lessons available at this gorgeously abundant park.

Well, as luck would have it, then I came home to this rewarding scene:

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And there was another treat in store as well. Tom;s daughter Meagan and her man Jeff had sent an Amaryllis plant to us for Christmas. Not only that, but a Chocolate cake that was so rich, only I could handle it!! 😉 Which I did, for the record, like that would fool anyone who knows me.

I had a tough time getting pictures of the Amaryllis exactly right, but I managed a few as it began blooming, the first one recognizable as shot with a flash at night……..:

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Later, now ensconced safely and semi-permanently on Mother’s desk, daylight helped show off its color and textural softness:

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Obviously, I really like the plant, as do the rest of us.

OK. Here’s a random Stork at the Portland, Oregon Chinese Garden. I’m a Stork fan. 😉

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And this here is a look upward inside Gaudi’s massive 120 year old construction project of a catherdral in Barcelona. I thought they did that well, personally.

This picture is especially interesting when enlarged. I am sure Antonio intended this. 😉

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