Friday, July 8, 2011

Between Lake and Mountain . . .

      . . . Lies True Meaning."  This is the "tag line" on the front of the current visitor's brochure for the Lan Su Chinese Gardens in Portland, OR.  The garden is the most authentic classical Chinese garden in the United States, built by artisans from Suzhou, China (one of Portland's sister cities).  Suzhou is renowned for its gardens-and I've visited several of them on a visit to China in the late '90's.  All of the materials (except for glass and plants) came from China to construct a full city-block version of Suzhou's landmarks.
      My family and I were there last Sunday towards the tail end of my vacation.  I had been to the garden at least once before, and I was struck again by its captivating beauty.  I was also struck by a sense of "slow-down" once we entered the garden.  That is, there was something about the place that almost required me to quit looking at my watch (even though we had a train to catch).  
     And then, there was that train trip.  Amtrak's "Coast Starlight" from Portland to Davis, CA.  A route down the Willamette Valley, and over the Cascade Range, and down that mountain range's east side.  Lakes and mountains (and trees) . . .  and no internet connection (and very sketchy cell phone coverage).  Again, almost a requirement to slow down.  Both at the garden and on the train I found myself wondering about my hurried pace of life, my semi-addiction to technology:  "What might happen without my input, or my knowing about it immediately?"  And what was I missing by NOT attending to that place "between lake and mountain"?
     Isn't that what a vacation is supposed to offer?  Something outside the normal, the seemingly pressing?  We speak of recreation, but do we connect it with re-creation?  A sabbath-time to rest from labors and ponder new vistas or vantage points.  A time simply to revel in relationships with loved ones.
     A few more weeks until it all starts up again in earnest around DU's campus.  LIttle time, then, to take stock, to wonder, to muse on the meaning between lake and mountain.  I'm going to try to make the most of the opportunities afforded by these days.


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