Hello Lovely Reader, Autumn already.. I can hardly believe that I’ve been in LA for nearly five months now after living for 9 year in the Hawaiian Islands. This isn’t my first foray into urban life. Before Maui came 11 years in Melbourne, Australia, where I helped to create The Judith Wright Prize for Poetry and launched The Ibis Foundation- Australia’s first non-profit celebrating, Art, Nature and the Human Spirit.
It was there, in what at first seemed to be an overwhelmingly noisy city, that “Engaging the Senses” first became a glimmer in my eye. It was conceived out of necessity and I’ve been practicing, refining and expanding its breadth ever since. Finding ways to mindfully engage with Beauty on a daily basis through the power and intelligence of my senses! Maybe it is because my mother repeatedly read me “The Country Mouse and the City Mouse”? Or because I spent the first five years of my life in the heart of NYC where We lived in the East Village and I attended City and Country in West Village with the children of other bohemian parents before we moved to a house in the Mountains above Estoril,Portugal where I got what I hadn’t even known my senses and soul longed for- a backyard with a real tree.
Not the scrawny, pale-grey spindles I was used to as a city kid, but a large hearty oak with heart-shaped emerald-green leaves and strong branches perfect for climbing and swinging on when I wasn’t riding horses or at the beach swimming topless and racing the sun to eat my chocolate shell covered vanilla ice-cream on a stick before it melted onto the sand.
So whilst I am a green tree luvin, big-sky-country girl at heart, I also enjoy and need the liveliness, art and culture that comes with living in a metropolis. Country Mouse, City Mouse-I am that I am. City living, like living itself, comes with special benefits and challenges. Especially for the senses which can easily get so overstimulated and distracted that we end up feeling ‘all over the place’ and out of touch. Noise is a big issue. So is light pollution. And if you’re not careful, it is easy to go from one artificial cooled or heated interior to another without so much as a breeze or a ray of sunshine touching your skin. (We need a minimum of 20 minutes of natural light a day for good health.)
Luckily the remedy is simple- engaging the senses in Beauty of the natural variety. Because as wonderful and nourishing as seeing Monet’s waterlilies, and garden paintings in a gallery or online are,there are times when only real living, breathing, water lilies will or weeping willows will do!
When I lived in Melbourne the Royal Botanical Garden in St Kilda was my salvation and I tried to go there every week at least once and walk around the lake with its exotic black swans and visit the cactus garden when I felt nostalgic or homesick for the southwest. Here in SoCal almost every neighborhood is bursting with charming front yards from the modest cottage garden to the grand estates visible behind mansion gates, and these offer the passerby’s senses some much needed light refreshment and nourishment. But sometimes a bigger “meal” is required. This is when it is time to seek out the parks and gardens created especially to offer solace and sanctuary to the city dweller’s singed senses.
Thank Goddess for Gardens. Big and small. Urban and suburban, public and private. Last week in need of some sensory soul food my friend and talented photographer, David Stodder (who took most of the gorgeous pix on this page), and I visited The Japanese Garden in Van Nuys. Ahhhh. What a pleasure this little known gem in the middle of the often hot and dry San Fernando Valley is! Created by the late, renowned landscape architect,and renaissance man, Dr Koichi Kawana, all of the Garden’s water is supplied and “recycled” by the adjoining Tillman waste water facility!
Until this century, gardens like these were built by the ruling elite to create in their surroundings a mood proper to worship and contemplation and were seldom opened to the public. Shugaku-in, was built for a retired emperor so that he might spend his remaining years in tranquility. The garden of the Silver Pavilion, also in Kyoto, was created for the Shogun Ashihaga Yashimasa so that he might escape the maddening conflicts and violence taking place in the capital nearby. So the next time you are feeling a bit battle worn, find your way to the nearest Garden, Japanese or not. Once you are there, turn off your phone and lay down the swords of your busy mind (just for a little while or for as long as you like you can always pick them up again on your way out), and give your Self over to the sights, sounds, and smells of Beauty as you practice ‘being the Beauty you love’ and need!. If you do, I know that you will find yourself better able to face the inevitable ‘battles’ of ordinary life again. Engagingly yours, xoxoxoxSabrina