In 1994 we wrote that to appreciate and nourish the soul of a place is a spiritual practice of great importance. We often take for granted the place where we live, love, and work. We forget that the ground we walk upon is sacred. To get to know the place again, or perhaps for the first time, requires consecration and an act of imagination.
Judith Clancy is a good mentor for this way of appreciating a place. She has lived in Kyoto, Japan, for more than 40 years during which time she has been writing and teaching about this famous city and its abundant riches of gardens, temples, and shrines. Her website is www.kyotoscapes.com. The city, according to the author, is wrapped in "a hazy mist that promotes luxuriant floral growth and carpets the land in moss, fern and bamboo grasses."
We learn that at Nijo Castle Garden a single pine tree requires a whole day's attention by a gardener. Clancy calls Heian Jingu Shrine Garden "the most inviting place on earth." During cherry blossom season, "the world becomes a diaphanous realm of pinks." The blossoms' yearly spring rituals bring beauty and enchantment to all who are lucky enough to witness their ephemeral glory.
At Kennin-Ji Temple Garden, one of the gardens contains a perfect circle of raked gravel. Ryoan-Ji Zen Garden is dry and nearly barren with only a few globs of star moss; it is considered a Zen garden in its purest form. Clancy comments on interesting details that can be traced back to the founder of each garden's original intentions. She covers 30 gardens from all parts of Kyoto. The gorgeous photographs by Ben Simmons are in synch with the edifying commentaries.