|What Is This Garden?
My garden is a Japanese bonsai garden. Its formal elements follow the practice of Japanese gardens.
However, it deviates in that it includes bonsai trees in the ground, which adds another layer of
complexity to a garden tradition that is ancient, intricate, and subtle.
Bonsai means "tree in a pot." My justification for the apparent oxymoron of "bonsai in the
ground" is that the bonsai trees in the garden were all in pots at some time in their lives. The
practice of bonsai was imported to Japan some 1200 years ago from China, where it was part of a
craft that went back earlier than 1000 BCE. For me, having bonsai in the garden is an expression
of the ambiguity that is primary among the garden's aesthetic
properties. Ambiguity reflects the way we are in the world, and all serious art is steeped in it.
Other kinds of ambiguity embodied by the garden are two- and three- dimensionality, vanishing-point
and reverse perspective, blurred or moving borders, illusion and reality, and the reflexive and the referential.
As the garden continues to grow and change, its artistic nature is tied as much to the hand that
maintains it as to the hand that made it. Unlike artworks that bestow quasi-immortality on their
maker, particularly in Western thinking, the garden is likely to die with me. In its transience
it is more like a musical performance than a plastic, compositional, or literary work. Its transience
and fragility bear out the Japanese aesthetic concepts of wabi and sabi, which connote
rusticity, simplicity, and a surrender to natural devolution. Other elements of Japanese aesthetics
expressed in the garden are asymmetry and non-linearity.