BY JAN HAAG
O Devayani, you didn't spend much time in
It was hard to get around with only English.
The Japanese were
more formal than the Chinese
from whose land you had come,
they laughed if you wanted to climb
their stone camels, and gave you
to strike their great gongs.
But a few things, O Devayani,
you had heard of.
A few things you needed to see. A moss
someone took you to a moss garden. You had never
dreamed of such
green, such shades, such softness --
velvet elegance in the dappled
of afternoon, the mysteries of the muffled
Stillness. The shadows
of music in the light, the paths,
the paths of
silence through the dark.
But you, O Devayani, you had heard of
-- most famous garden in the world,
for peace, for
You took a bus, noisy, crowded. It was hard to
where you were going. No one seemed to care,
spoke your language. On a fairly
ordinary street -- if there is such a
thing as an
ordinary street in the exotica of foreign countries --
someone said to get down from the bus,
pointed or nodded, you have
forgotten, O Devayani,
what the manners are there. The entrance was
on a crowded street,
well proprotioned, a wall, a doorway,
nine hundred school children,
all dressed in blue
jumpers and white blouses,
blue knickers and white shirts,
well behaved, for the most part,
as Japanese children are, but nine
children whispering, talking, smiling, giggling --
come to meditate. Ryoanji is a rock garden:
gravel, rocks, a little moss, a wall,
trees -- cedar, pine and cherry -- beyond.
Hopelessness entered your heart.
You would have to come again
for the silence, for the
off your shoes, you put on the slippers,
you filed with all the hundreds
out onto the veranda, the polished corridors of cypress,
steps -- on which one walked or sat -- gleamingly clean.
disturbed by the restlessness of God's newer
creatures, so you didn't
walk far. You sat on the top step
near a porch
pillar, glanced at
the rocks, the raked gravel,
the bits of moss on the rocks, the rocks so
the gravel so reverently raked, the one group of
and the other. The wall. And there was stillness.
Devayani, your heart went heavy with the deep
breath of meditation.
Silence descended on you like a mantle of moss,
weighty, your breath deep, your heart thudding slow,
rocks so carefully placed
the lion and her cubs -- the white gravel, the white
embellished only with age.
How long had Ryoanji been there?
You must have asked --
but there is no remembrance, just the
and the gravel and the wall
and the very great
rootedness of deep meditation,
the weight of the rocks and the trees of
as if their roots grew right down through your
stapling you to the earth, as if when you rose --
if you could,
O Devayani, with the weight of the rocks, rise
would slip from
your folded arms,
the richness of the compost from which we
would cling to the tentacles of the strong young roots, intricate as
soft as moss, dangling.
Copyright © 2000 Jan Haag
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Jan Haag may be reached via e-mail: email@example.com
BY JAN HAAG