Cultivating Zen

We have a special treat for you today ladies and gentlemen of the audience, that’s right, it’s a post from your favourite and mine, Himself! Give him a round of applause! *claps* And remember, if you treat him very nicely we may be able to convince him to come back for future posts too! *continues clapping* Take it away Himself!!!

Something I’ve wanted for a long time now, is a zen garden of my very own. Something I’ve not yet had, however, are the resources for a full-sized one – and now that we live in an apartment in Amsterdam, it’s going to be a while before we have the real-estate on which to build one of those.

Chance favouring the prepared mind and all that, I’ve mulled over the idea of a desktop version, because this is feasible here and now, and it’s a nicely low-commitment way to try out the idea. The web is a great source of inspiring pictures, so the trap was all set to spring when we wandered around the Osdorp Tuincentrum. Among the Christmas decorations, trains and ski-gondola rides, they just happened to have a bin of wooden trays about the right size and texture. Previous visits had just happened to draw our attention to the various types and colours of ground-mica decorative fillings, so I seized upon both. No zen garden is complete without a major feature of some kind, and your esteemed blog-host was resourceful enough to direct me to the aquarium section. The result was this: my very own improvised starter-kit.

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The next thing to do, obviously, is combine them and then reveal just how limited my creative streak really is!

So now we have a micro-garden with a pre-mossified miniature ruin. The truly lazy might argue that it’s now a virtual paragon of minimalism, but I think the tabula is just a little too rasa as it stands:

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First up, let’s just swirl a pointed instrument through the sand and make patterns:

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Hmm. It’s… there, but not really taking me anywhere. Let’s dig into my box of sentimental little things that I’ve accumulated but that aren’t on display right now, starting with this reminder stone. Had I the sense of a goose, it would have been lit so that you can see the word “serenity” carved into the surface; then I could make clever in-jokes that only Australians would get. However, I don’t, and didn’t, and therefore can’t, so we’ll just work with it and move along.

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The feline content of this household may not have entirely escaped your attention. So what could be more apt than… a kitty in a sandbox? Hmm. Perhaps only rudimentary geometric shapes can save us now.

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Next inspiration: it’s a rock garden, of a sort. Let’s put a sort of rocker in it:

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Fun, but doesn’t quite strike the right chord in a place that calls for a meditative tone.

Clearly, a little time was needed to get into the spirit of things, and contemplate the essence of what I was doing, as the sun sank in the sky. As I mulled things over, Edgar tried his paw at the art of spontaneous arrangement.

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…or not. The wildlife angle did have its appeal, though. Perhaps a monster mash-up?

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Now we’re cooking with gas! Just the right blend of traditional garden-sculpture and modern creature-feature awesome – what could possibly outdo a sand-shark… except a sand-shark being threatened by a pteranodon?

Success! Now it’s established itself as the springboard for all sorts of ideas. Time to clean up the workspace, and move the garden to its rightful place at the edge of my desk.

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Now it’s a focus for contemplation, an inexhaustible doodle-pad, a convenient show-piece for all those little things that I think are cool but don’t quite fit in the china cabinet, and a sure-fire conversation-starter for those awkward quiet moments. That is, as long as those quiet moments aren’t a response to the arrangement du jour itself, and we can all agree that conversations can legitimately begin with “why on Earth do you have a prehistoric creature perched on a ruined temple?”

Now that we’ve seen just how far my own creative impulses stretch, clearly the bar is low enough that nobody need feel intimidated. Except maybe me, when we answer the obvious next question: what nifty things have you improvised to improve your working space?

2 thoughts on “Cultivating Zen

  1. Not knowing a thing about assembling a zen garden, I found this was very informative and entertaining. Will be curious to see how your garden evolves and whether it continues to be a source of contemplation. Also, will be interested to hear whether the cats generally leave it alone or attempt to run off with the pteranodon!

    Since you ask, I will sheepishly admit that my workspaces require a great deal of improvement, improvised or otherwise. The first improvement of my home workspace would consist of clearing things so the surface of said workspace is visible. Once that is managed, perhaps I will aspire to something more lofty and creative.

    1. I’m glad you found it informative – just please don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s in any way authoritative. There are bound to be rules and principles that I’ve casually violated here.
      The kitties have already explored it, so an enclosure of some kind may yet be needed.

      Clearing space on the desk was a challenge for me, too, though it helped that I suddenly _needed_ the space.

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