Saturday, July 24, 2004


Yesterday afternoon Echo and I crossed the big bridge to the eastern shore of the Lake and threaded some back roads north through quiet villages that are so much older and wiser in many ways than the upstart cities, more deeply inventive in their history, as for example in the case of a certain little garden of ancient renown, called Ohmi Myoren Koen.

Local history records that some 40 generations ago a local gentleman by the name of Tanaka received (likely from a Japanese monk returning from Buddhist studies in China--the Lake was a highway for such travelers) a piece of the root of a very special variety of lotus known as Myoren.

Tanaka was so successful in propagating it that his country village endeavor was mentioned in the Nihonshoki, and has attracted visitors for well over a thousand years since. And there it is today, right where he started it (his descendants still live in the vicinity), an unprepossessing turn from a narrow road into a narrower one, then on a bit, another turn and right there in what is unmistakably a neighborhood, between some houses, is the lotus garden.

Some of the blossoms were just beginning to open when we visited; it seems that this variety carries so many petals all the way to its core (some 5-6 thousand) it doesn't produce a seed pod at the flower center, as 'standard' lotuses do, so it doesn't reproduce from seeds, only from roots.

I liked the buds best, in all their phases and geometries, from tiny pale-green flame to just-about-to-burst crystal of white and blood red-- and the leaves, initially rolled up tight at their edges like the curled rice-straw hats worn during the grueling Sennichi-kaiho-gyo, the full leaves in their open cosmic simplicity doing their tasks in thorough and ancient familiarity with all the elements, the way they nodded and chatted in the wind while carrying on showing me a thing or two about the humbling art of blossoming. A few hours of an afternoon among lotuses in their dance with the air and the light, it's easy to see why Buddha was such a big fan.


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