Monday, September 24, 2007
The clipped, yet lush Japanese islands at the botanical garden slowly disclose beautiful secrets. A perfectly proportioned island is revealed behind a gently curving turn of the path. Tiny landscapes of stone are tucked into ancient moss. Revelation and insight reside here by design. I try to concentrate on Mia’s stream of talk because the simplicity and intensity of the landscape is teaching me important lessons, if I only slow down, pay attention, pay close attention.
Mia holds a botany bingo card, placing stickers on the pictures of plants and landscape features we see, a Japanese lamp, a chipmunk, a tree.
“This is a map,” she says, holding up the bingo card for me to see. “The map says to cross the bridge before the alligator eats the bridge.”
Okay, maybe not everything she says is wise, but then I’m surprised by the next old words coming out of her little mouth: “The map says we have to cross the bridge to see something else.”
It’s like a little koan. It’s a plea to live. Don’t think about what’s below the bridge, Momma, don’t think about falling. There are still more wonderful things in this old world to see.
“The map says we have to see the treasure before something scary.”
In the Japanese tradition, bridges link worlds. The material world with the spiritual, the old world with the new. Paths control our understanding of the landscape we pass through – the rougher and more arduous the path, the more our attention is drawn to the details around us. The smoother the path, the more quickly we move through and past the beauty. Here is a wonderful gift for me, a metaphor for motherhood. If only I pay attention, pay close attention.