Portland, Oregon Japanese Garden – The Water

This is one of those recycled posts I felt stands on its own. I was utterly captivated by this gorgeous garden – so much so that I produced 3 other posts relative to it in September and October of 2009.

The Portland Japanese Garden, very much like its Chinese garden, which I helped construct, provides one of the most beautiful Japanese Gardens in the world. It is very highly-rated as these things go and one can certainly see why once we tour it. So much unfolds there in front of us, it is far larger and more interesting than one had any right to believe.

This is a World Class garden.

(click pictures to enlarge……..for some…..a lot!)

This trip was a revelation to me. In spite of the fact that I have lived here on and off for 6 years, I am truly ashamed to say I had never visited this gorgeous garden. Wow! is all I can say. I am dumb. This garden is one of the most highly-ranked Japanese Gardens in the entire world and, without doubt, deservedly so. I have actually been to Japanese Gardens in Japan – Kyoto, in fact – so my failure to take this one in deserves a special sock in the chops for missing it. It was quite a revelation.

Fortunately, it was a warm and sunlit day here in late September – almost too warm in fact. We had some eastern winds (our version of Santa Ana’s) which brought the heat of the desert in and made my huge walk just a bit more challenging than I had figured it would. I put in about 5-6 miles before even landing at the Garden, I so enjoyed Washington park, inside which is this Garden, along with the Rose Garden across the street. But the peaceful serenity and the amazing eye candy upon entering was the perfect salve for the tired legs and flagging spirit I encountered briefly, before entering. My camera was very busy!

The simple fact is that there is literally so much to appreciate here, it dazzles the senses. As someone who had always appreciated the gorgeous and simple lines inherent in most Japanese Gardens. I was blown away with any number of things. For one thing, there is some sort of water just everywhere. Running creeks, some good sized lakes – there is more water in this particular garden than in any it has been my good fortune to see. Small waterfalls of a most placid sound and sight, leading to still ponds full of Koi.

Since I am dealing only with the aspect of water in the garden in this episode, I must pay my deepest respects to one of the single most beautiful waterfalls I have literally ever seen. This materializes out of the woods, as it were, in an extremely logical place, supposedly draining the mountainous hillside to its rear.

I took pictures from a few different angles, to try and capture not only its fairly impressive size, but also the utterly organic sense it provides, coming as it does off the nearby mountainside. Nor does the sound of it even matter – somehow it is not oppressive nor overwhelming in any way. I guess it is distant enough to stop all that. It seems to blend so well, it actually just seems – aurally – just another organic piece in a bigger puzzle. It does not stand out in any way but visually. But man, for this waterfall maven, it knocked my socks off. I absolutely love it in every way.

Seen here (above) we see the falls in the distance from the top of a nearby hill. Vantage points for these falls are everywhere, seen between the trees and the stupa sculpture below, complete with real, authentic tourists like me:

And that’s not all the gorgeous and settling water around this Garden. Here are a few other looks at more intimate settings, all of which grant a peaceful flow to this gorgeous park.

From the smallest and seemingly insignificant dripping effects of a bamboo water tube:

To a far more natural and extremely unique feast for the eyes:

The water features and the placements in general of flora and natural features represents the very best in the art of Japanese Gardens. I will close today with these pictures, focusing on water and those who live in it:

Some Nearly Final Words On Boulders

Not all boulders are alike.

The Asian Section

Some even have titles of their own – “Shibumi Rocks” dot Japanese landscapes like these impressive doyens of timelessness who corner the market on Time itself. Many times, these gorgeous billions-of-years-old guys actually are the landscaping. These are the understated attention-getters who supply some peaceful perspective on those who pass and which abide in their Eternal reliability. Unless they fall over, of course. 😉

(click any image to enlarge)


Other ‘rocks’ also fill this bill but in a far more bio-morphic – almost human way. Maybe even more to the point – in somewhat monstrous and unusual ways. The Chinese have perfected the art of placing boulders which are amazingly evocative. These things gather impressions for the more active parts of our imaginations as we get riveted by their near supernatural shapes. They probably most resemble those wild forms in the clouds we so often imagine resemble something we relate to. One can see shapes and guises for all sorts of imagined creatures and things in these amazing stones. That they fit so well into landscapes makes it even weirder somehow. The picture below is a “softened effect” as we see where the balance of plant and rock makes a fine compromise.


Somewhere else inside the Portland Chinese Garden, we get a different take or two. These suckers are plain bizarre:


These incredible stones and their distinctly unusual messages come naturally for them. There are formations which feature these sorts of stones and which occur in Nature there. The Chinese who send for these are the exporters for very specific and limited environments like these gardens which they themselves construct.


I could look at these all day:


But that is China and Japan. In both cases, they are able to work with what they have in their natural geologic environment. I recall, having worked on this garden, the stockpiles of these stones as they arrived and as they were put into storage. I was eager to see how they expected to use them in the garden. I now think their placement was perfect.

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Through a hole they look sweet – not the first hole, either!:



The North American Section

Over here, we deal with a range of rocks and boulders which are really every bit as diverse, if not quite as weird in the same ways. We do have remarkable Shales and Limestones in the Eastern US which give us innumerable creative outlets. The stratified nature of limestone lends it to stacking and to flat planes. These are particularly impressive when used for water features, as these pictures from the corporate headquarters of Papa John’s Pizza illustrates – one of our favorite local Louisville walks.

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Stacked, they make wonderful rockeries and informal walls for the surrounding foliage to fill out magnificently:

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Here is a fabulous example of tasteful placement:

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I’ve always loved this perspective of the sets of waterfalls at Papa Johns’:

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Moving towards Jeruselum………………….we encounter another perspective………as the sounds of thousands of gallons of water plummet over rocks and fall……

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Until we come to that place where we see what the ruccus is all about:

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It’s way well worth the walk:

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I’ll have to dedicate an entire post to this place soon.

Meanwhile…………..this guy is trouble with a Capital T:

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Hopefully, it will be a while until he gets the key to my boat:

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My brother Tom would be mad:   😉

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The Washington D.C. National Cherry Blossom Festival- A Guest Post


I recently got an email which gave me a start. It was addressed from the National Museum of Crime and Punishment. Hey – It’s really not that funny. I thought to myself – “Oh, boy, it’s that mattress tag I ripped off!!!!  They finally caught up with me!!” 😉  With a slight trepidation, I peered inside the mail, wondering if I should give “Three Fingers” Yarmi a call from my speed dial.

Instead, to my ultimate surprise and satisfaction, it was a very gracious guy, Erik, who asked me more than kindly to perhaps host a guest post right here on my very own blog, dedicated to the Cherry Blossom Festival, with some special attention paid to this excellent and fascinating Museum.

Just the same, as I read the following: “The museum displays excellent depictions of historically famous crime scenes along detailed information concerning past wars, forensics, organized crime, and more. Currently, we’re promoting 98 years of tradition with the annual D.C. Cherry blossom festival, which remembers the long lasting friendship between Japan and the U.S.”, I have to admit, I was still on the nervous end of the crime pole. (Maybe it was the Santa I lifted at Santa Claus Land, Indiana as an 11 year old?). Nevertheless, I held off calling “Slats” Hennepin in Chicago or my West Coast Buddy, “No Nose de la Vega” for some extra work and just acted as if it were a normal letter – which it was. In the end, I was flattered. I said “Yes, I would be delighted.”

Below is the guest post, written by Erik:


“Springtime, perfect for having picnics, wearing shorts and admiring the Cherry Blossom in DC. The National Cherry Blossom Festival is an two-week, yearly event that celebrates springtime in Washington, DC as well as the 1912 gift of the cherry blossom trees and the enduring friendship between the people of the United States and Japan.

DC Attractions include multiple festivals, museums, monuments, and more. The National Cherry Blossom Festival, Inc., is a 501(c)(3) organization that coordinates, produces, and supports creative and diverse activities promoting traditional and contemporary arts and culture, natural beauty and the environment, and community spirit and youth education. It’s also begins peak season for an influx of tourists to Washington, also brought in by the thousands of historical landmarks, museums, and other buildings, The National Museum of Crime & Punishment, located in Washington, D.C. is one of those such buildings, with excellent depictions of historically famous crime scenes along detailed information concerning past wars, forensics, organized crime, and more.”


I have found out that the National Cherry Blossom Festival is actually the biggest annual event in the Nation’s Capital, Washington, D.C. It takes place every year to celebrate the beginning of spring and has grown into one of America’s premier celebrations of the springtime season. It is honestly pretty cool, with eye candy to absolutely die for.

The Festival commemorates the March 27, 1912 event where the nation of Japan gifted the United States with 3,000 cherry trees. On that day Tokyo mayor Yukio Ozaki donated the trees for the purpose of enhancing the budding friendship between his nation and America. Today, nearly 100 years later, the leaders of the world’s two largest economies use the Festival as a way of recognizing the continued spirit of friendship between the U.S. and Japan.


The Cherry Blossoms tend to bloom between March 28 – April 12. Every April along the Tidal Basin that nearly surrounds the Jefferson Memorial, millions of people from around the world walk along a pathway that glows with an unmistakable pink hue. The sea of pink is a photographer’s paradise and best of all its COMPLETELY FREE. (Yayy!!) The festival, which lasts two weeks, is opened with a ceremony that is usually attended by the First Lady of the United States and the Japanese Ambassador to the United States.


Approximately 3,750 cherry trees are on the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC. Thousands of trees are located around the region as well.


That’s a lot of Cherry Blossoms, man!


“No Nose” gave me a call just as I was writing this. I suggest you all make sure and go and especially drop into the Museum of Crime and Punishment. “No Nose” has gotten into gardening recently, with an eye towards pruning. He says if you turn down this glorious Springtime opportunity, he might just have to prune your Cherry into something resembling this one:

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Thinkaboudit.  😉

Portland’s Chinese Garden in Winter – My February Visit

You would think those seemingly ubiquitous huge buildings surrounding this Chinese Garden would affect your travels inside it. From the pictures here and elsewhere, it is so hard to ignore the substantial urban effects of the neighboring towers. Yet, until you have seen it yourself, take it from me that one of the true marvels of this place is how what is outside the walls of this incredibly intimate and sensuous garden has so little – if any – effect on its interior.

(click on all pictures to enlarge)

When you see the buildings in pictures later, you go “Oh yeah, buildings.”

This is a still-involving masterpiece of design, concept and installation. I happen to have a special attachment to the “installation” part owing to the fact that I was involved during its construction. I remember every support under all that dirt and I recall boring holes in the concrete framework under every one of those buildings and walls. I recall the digging of the trees that populate it now. I even recall finding those elusive and perfect trees in some of the weirdest places – from the highways to nursery “back 40’s”. I post about that, in fact, in this blog right here – where I give more detail on some of the construction aspects. But today is about the garden, not me.

From its unprepossessing facade outside on the street –

To it’s entryway and gate –

One is not quite prepared for the marvelous enchantment once one passes these portals and goes inside –

The floor of the first “room” alone assaults the senses with its spectacular complexity. It’s hard to look up. Maybe it’s just me, but I could look at this paving for literal hours – wait – it is just me. Nevertheless, walking surfaces such as this are repeated throughout the entire project, none of them repetitive in pattern, all with a different inlay, including differing stones themselves. We’ll see more as we walk together.

Looking up, we behold the most amazing sort of aperture, set as it is as a feast for the eye in a remarkable, deep and stunning depiction of the meaning of “Feng Shui” itself. Carried by design, we stumble into yet another wonder, led by our senses alone to the next unfolding of some of the genius in Chinese Garden design.

“Qi rides the wind and scatters, but is retained when encountering water.”

Across the stone patio, we see this hole in the wall inviting exploration. There are many places like this in the garden. Some are major vistas within the garden itself, offering hidden promise for the explorer –

Others are these wild and crazy small apertures, leading the mind to yet another utterly involving destination – close but still distant – like the promise of hope, or love – cradled by mankind’s most heartfelt perspectives – cut in simple yet supple, sensuous shapes and seemingly sculpted for no apparent reason – right into the walls themselves. It’s like a gift.

Oh there is something on the other side – but what is it? How large? How meaningful? Honestly, I don’t think I have ever encountered a more pleasant mystery.

And not all apertures are alike. Some are just windows –

But interesting windows. Fascinating windows, made for humans to enjoy not only Nature but his own artifice –

This is a very cool garden. Obviously, waxing as poetic as I am, I adore it. Next post, we’ll discover what all this “Qi” thing and the water alludes to. Maybe see some plants. I’m pretty big on Mahonia.

Yeah, that’s the ticket. Like it?