Wednesday, August 20, 2008
It was foggy and misty and cloudy and very, very humid this morning; about 70 degrees. Altogether, a great morning for a walk.
I decided to go to Golden Gate Park, where there's free admission to the Japanese Tea Garden on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays between 9:00 and 10:00 in the morning, like I usually do. I like to check in with the Buddha a couple times a week.
I first went there and saw him in, I think, about 1965. He hasn't changed much since then. He's still about three times life size, and made of bronze. He was cast in Japan in 1790 and brought to his present location in 1949, where he's sat with his back to the goldfish pond, facing a bamboo grove ever since. Through wars, presidents, booms and depressions he's sat there with his unchanging expression.
The tea garden was already old in 1949, when the Buddha sat down in it. It was laid out in 1894, and a Japanese family called Hagiwara was brought over to tend it. Besides taking care of the garden, They lived in it until 1942, when they were sent to a concentration camp, never to return to the tranquil spot they called home for almost 50 years.
The Buddha sits in the garden with his enigmatic half smile and his eyelids almost, but not quite closed. His big face is serene, mirroring the tranquility of the place. His left hand appears to be making the barest hint of a gesture we interpret as obscene. Maybe that's for what we did to the Hagiwaras.