Saturday, November 27, 2010

Winter Afternoon


       wind blows
       the last brown leaves
       clenched fingers

John and I spent the afternoon at the Portland Japanese Garden. After last week's storm, everything looked cold and barren. Yet, this is one of the most beautiful times of the year in a Japanese garden—when the 'bones' are in their glory. Sinuous lines of tree branches form natural sculptures against the pale backdrop of winter. We enjoyed being alone in the garden, strolling slowly, remembering it in other seasons. My thoughts returned to winters in Japan—sitting in a favorite temple in the mountains outside Kyoto, warming my hands over an iron hibachi and gazing at the garden.

       sunlight on tatami
       the old Buddhist temple
       smells of chrysanthemums

John and I ended our walk on the southeast side of the Japanese Garden pavilion with visit to the suikinkutsu (water harp). On the surface it looks like a water basin with water flowing from a bamboo spout. But buried beneath the ground is an upside down pot with a hole at the top. As water trickles through the pebbles at the base of the water basin it resonates through the underground chamber. The Japanese say it sounds like a koto, a thirteen-string zither, or a bell. To me, it sounds like pleasant splashing.

                             late November
                             even the water harp
                             is frozen silent

Haiku are from Grinding my ink, which received a Haiku Society of America Book Award. Visit for more information.


  1. hello from seattle japanese garden community blog! a fellow guide just have been to portland japanese garden and came without finding Suikinkutsu, so i was combing internet to solve the mystery of where it is, and came upon your wonderful blog - posted a url for her to see it, and now i will be reading your blog for a while:). thank you!
    p.s. our blog is here:

    1. Thanks, Aleks. The suikinkutsu water harp is on the southeast side of the pavilion at the Portland Japanese Garden, tucked in back near a water fountain. It's no longer functional as there were several thefts of the bamboo used to listen to the water gurgle beneath the stones.