More on the Japanese. I know I've already posted photos of the Japanese Tea Garden below, but it's just SO GREAT, it deserves its own separate post. Did I tell you how much I love the tea garden? Yes, there are Japanese tea gardens in many cities, but the one in Golden Gate Park is the best (outside of Japan, anyway). I don't pretend to know much about Japan, or its culture or people, but what I do know, I like, and being in the tea garden makes me feel happy and peaceful. I want to live there.
When had tea in the tea house, sitting at a long wooden table overlooking the pond. I remember visiting as a child and marveling at the funny tea cups, the almond cookies, and the spicy crackers that burned my tongue. The menu seems greatly expanded now, but it's still simple, and I could eat from it every day: miso soup, little rice balls and bean curd cakes, the spicy crackers, mochi, cookies, jasmine tea. Perfect! And as you eat your simple meal, you can gaze out at the trees swaying in the breeze, the clouds passing by overhead, the squirrels scurrying across the grass, the light rain rippling the surface of the pond. Again, so peaceful. I think I need to spend more time in places like this to calm my troubled mind.
After tea, we wandered around the garden. It's not very large, but the paths twist and turn -- taking you through intimate glades, over delicate bridges, past colorful pagodas, around gleaming waterways -- so it has the illusion of being much more expansive than it is. And it's wonderful in any kind of weather. There are plenty of areas to shelter from either the warm sun, or a light rain. The play of light on the hedges, ponds, and rock gardens is different in every season, every time of day, every nuance of sun, rain, and in between.
You can enjoy the garden alone. It's a perfect place for solitary reflection. Or you can visit with friends or family, and walk through the gardens together in quiet conversation. You can catch glimpses of the city and hills beyond the garden from certain areas, but mostly it enfolds you in its illusion of peaceful isolation.
It's one of my favorite spots on earth. I'd like to go there right now! Maybe I can adopt it as my personal happy place in my mind. When I'm feeling stressed or upset, I can visit the tea garden in my mind any time I like!