A Japanese Garden

On our last day in Oregon, we visited the Japanese Garden in Portland's Washington Park. With its manicured landscape, sand sculptures and reflection pools, it is an attractive and peaceful place. But, after a week of climbing rocky slopes, hiking through damp forests, trudging across sand dunes and taking in the sights, sounds and smells of Oregon's foggy coast, we recognized that this garden is a very unnatural place.

Nature, while representing an intricate interdependence of countless life forms, deplores uniformity, rigidity and control. In contrast to this Japanese Garden, she is messy, turbulent, unconfined and unpredictable. Nature yields to human intervention reluctantly and temporarily; if humans do not remain highly vigilant, their unnatural handiwork (homes, lawns, bridges, gardens) will soon succumb to her forces.

A Japanese garden places emphasis on tranquility and reflection but also celebrates the human impulse to control and mold our natural surroundings. Most naturalists believe that we can enjoy the former without resorting to the latter.