Solace and tyranny

It seems a lifetime ago now but recently I was lucky enough to wander through the Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon. In a trip replete with beauty, this ranked right near the top. Never have I been in a crowded public space that was so serene. That speaks volumes about the healing power of trees and plants and beautiful design. Enjoy the pictures.

That’s all – unless you’re interested in two memories.

One: It was my first year of law school. Constitutional Law. I raised my hand (something I didn’t do much) and asserted that I wished Roe v Wade was better decided. There might have been gasps. This was a Jesuit school after all and I had a reputation already — the Women’s Law Center, etc. But what I meant was simple. I didn’t like how vulnerable the holding was because it relied on the fundamental right to privacy under the Bill of Rights (particularly open to attack by strict constructionists like Kavanaugh). Furthermore (even then), the holding was on a collision course with medical science, as interventions continued to push the date of viability earlier and earlier in pregnancy.

Two. It’s a panel with Ram Dass and Marilyn Ferguson. He: a Buddhist, she: a radical Christian. I think the topic was climate change. She offered her passionate hope that we get it together in time. He said, why should it matter to me that humans continue?

Or words to that affect. Omega Institute.

I’m not laying aside my rage or activism (such as it is), but here we are — entering what by all counts appears to be a period of misogynistic tyranny.

Taking Ferguson’s position, I say: we will need strategy, devious adaptation, and each other.

Taking Ram Dass’s position: get used to it. This is how it is now. (Different from non-attachment, I know– but also miles from the passionate hope for social justice and sensible government).

15 thoughts on “Solace and tyranny

  1. snicklefritzin43

    The Japanese Gardens in Portland have been a treasured visit for ever so many years. My mother was born in Portland and so was I, with oodles of family there the opportunity to just “be” in that amazing place has been a gift to me in my life’s journey. Wonderful photos.

    1. deemallon

      You know exactly what I’m talking about then. The pictures don’t really show, but there were A LOT of people there. And yet no one hurried. No one crowded. It was so extraordinarily peaceful.

      Nice to know where you were born, Kristen.

  2. ravenandsparrow

    I have never been to the Japanese Garden in Portland, which I have heard is exceptional, but I have visited the one in Seattle many times. The serenity that pervades a Japanese garden shows what can result from a long tradition of taking aesthetics seriously as a spiritual practice. Their fully formed yet humble beauty shows true connection to life.
    I’m not sure how to respond to the recent news. The issues are way larger than I know how to address. Patriarchy and white privilege are under attack at long last (yay), but their struggle to survive may bring down the institutions that I identify with as an American. As a person alive in this time of upheaval I do feel the need to act, but the scope of the problems is daunting. Perhaps detachment in feeling, if not in action is the only way to keep going.

    1. deemallon

      I’ve read this several times now as it is so full. “Aesthetics as a spiritual practice” — yes. We thought abt all the grooming that was required and I thought: “I’ll bet they don’t use leaf blowers” and sure enough as we were leaving we saw a woman with a basket on her hip picking fallen leaves off moss.

      Being detached while still acting — this was probably the point of the two points of view. AND there’s global warming — the news I woke to this morning. Daunting, indeed. If I didn’t have children I would care a lot less about it all.

  3. Nancy

    Thank you for sharing the calm…we sure could use that. What beautiful calm it is too.
    As far as the times…I’ve got nothing

  4. Tina

    Having lived in Hawaii I am lucky to have visited some amazing Japanese gardens. Just recently got to see a quilt show showcasing award winning Japanese quilt artists. Like their garden the quilts were stunning.

    1. deemallon

      I have never been to Hawaii. Or Japan. And may never. So it is wonderful to have places closer by to visit. The Japanese philosophy and design has always held enormous appeal for me.

        1. deemallon

          Just ordered. Half the comments I read said it was a difficult read. Because of how she skips around.

  5. Cheryl

    Thank you so much for posting your photos of Portland’s Japanese Gardens. I spent a great deal of time in Portland on business in the 80’s, and that garden was my favorite retreat. I’d walk up the hill there in early mornings, and an elder Japanese man would often let me in a side gate to meditate and watch him rhythmically sweep and rake the “waves” into the sand around the huge stones, erasing his footprints as he worked. Your pictures triggered that peaceful, “all is right with the world” feeling those mornings brought me.


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