twenty-sixteen

In twenty-sixteen, I:  Gazed in WONDER at the Renwick.  Traipsed around the City of Brotherly Love, ate Philly cheese steaks, and admired the Mural Arts decorating the city’s walls and parking lots. Inspected the crack in the Liberty Bell and imagined our forefathers in Independence Hall.  Toasted to Mike’s 62nd birthday. Worried about our youngest son’s lack of direction.  Partially de-cluttered our house, using The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up (the Kon-Mari method), successfully weeding out clothing, accessories, kitchen appliances and books.

Flew to Dallas, Texas and then drove to Oklahoma City to attend a friend’s second wedding.  Walked on the grassy knoll and along the route where JFK was assassinated.  Stood beside larger-than-life statues of George W. Bush and his dad at the George W. Bush Presidential Library & Museum.  Walked among tulips and sat with Benjamin Franklin at the Dallas Arboretum.  Stood under a rearing horse and saw a fake rodeo at the Cowboy Museum.  Grieved near a field of empty chairs for the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing.

Stood by as contractors demolished our deck, laundry room and kitchen and then slowly built them again, in much nicer form.

Attended my first husband’s book talk in April at Politics and Prose in D.C., where he discussed his newly published book, Mathews Men.  Celebrated our daughter Sarah’s graduation, with a B.A. in English, from Virginia Commonwealth University in May.  Enjoyed a spread of bagels at Sarah’s house, and later dinner and dirty martinis at Lucy’s, with both families in attendance. 🙂

Wandered through tulips and sunflowers at Burnside Gardens in Virginia.  Visited four gardens around Philadelphia for my second trip to that city this year.  Imbibed in Cabernets and Pinot Grigios at several Virginia wineries.  Let our son’s lease in Richmond expire and watched with trepidation to see what he’d do next; fretted because we didn’t know where he would go or what he’d do.  Felt relieved when we found he took off for a Tribal Design retreat in Vancouver and finally went Hawaii, where he is now leading tours for a hostel in Maui.

Drove around the Ring Road in Iceland over a breathtaking 11 days (in search of a thousand cafés).  Climbed around, behind, and to the tops of waterfalls. Admired sweeping vistas from our Polo VW rental.  Hiked to the edge of ashy glaciers.  Poked around inside turf-roofed houses. Ate cod, cod and more cod, as well as langoustine, lamb and gas-station hot dogs.  Drove over 2700 km and walked 166,100 steps, or 70.4 miles.  Returned home with walking pneumonia, from which it took three weeks to recover.

Laughed at the “Kurios” of Cirque de Soleil.  Had a family reunion at our renovated house for my dad’s 86th birthday in September, where everyone except Adam attended.  Enjoyed sushi and sake with my sister Stephanie, who came from California.  Drove along the Skyline Drive amidst flame-colored leaves to West Virginia in early November to celebrate my 61st birthday and our 28th anniversary.  Enjoyed delicious pizza and craft beer at Pies & Pints. Strolled through the eerie ghost towns of Thurmond and Nuttallburg.  Hiked along the Endless Wall.

Barely survived our contentious election and felt heartbroken over the results.  Boycotted Facebook for a month and a half.  Realized I have nothing in common with 62 million Americans.

Read/listened to 35 books/audiobooks (meeting my Goodreads goal!), my favorites being All the Light We Cannot See, State of Wonder, Circling the Sun, The Ambassador’s Wife, and The Glass Castle.  Saw 39 movies in the theater, especially loving Joy, Eye in the Sky, A Hologram for the King, The Man Who Knew Infinity, The Music of Strangers, Dheepan, Hell or High Water, The Light Between Oceans, Sully, Girl on the Train, A Man Called Ove, Manchester by the Sea, and Lion.  Dined on Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Mexican, French, Japanese and Italian food.

Weighed 5 pounds more at year-end than at the end of 2015, despite continual attempts to lose weight.  Took Pilates and dropped out because of utter boredom.  Walked nearly 251 hours during 276 @3-mile workouts, or about 813 miles of dedicated workouts.

Passed the Virginia Real Estate Licensing Exam but never signed with a broker. Sent my novel to 23 agents to no avail.  Applied for 32 jobs, 23 abroad and 9 stateside.  Came up empty-handed on the book publishing and the job front.  Got discouraged.  Completed a Memoir class and wrote seven chapters of a memoir.  Dreamed about how my future might look.

Celebrated Thanksgiving with Alex and Sarah, and Christmas with only Alex (Adam was in Hawaii through the holidays, jumping off waterfalls, body surfing and leading tours). Felt dismayed at our shrinking family gatherings.

Returned to Philadelphia (third time’s a charm!) to see “Paint the Revolution” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Admired the Gates of Hell and Crouching Woman at the Rodin Museum.  Wandered through the Magic Gardens of mirrors and mosaics and found objects.  Walked and walked through the outdoor gallery of Mural Arts to shake 2016 out of our psyches. Drove home through Amish country in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, amidst the clip-clop of horse-drawn buggies and faded laundry flapping on clotheslines.

Cleared our heads in preparation for 2017, when we are hoping for love, peace, healing, direction, confidence, boldness and endless adventure. 🙂

philadelphia gardens: shofuso japanese house and garden

Thursday, June 9:  I have been wanting to visit some of the well-known gardens around Philadelphia before spring is over, so I take the opportunity today to drive up for an overnight trip.  My goal is to see four gardens: Shofuso Japanese House and Garden, Morris Arboretum, Chanticleer, and Winterthur.  It turns out I don’t see THOSE four gardens, but I do see four gardens (minus Morris Arboretum, plus Longwood Gardens).

It’s always a challenge to outsmart Washington area traffic, especially when you have to go around the Beltway, which I must do to get to Philly.  I decide I’ll leave at 10:00 a.m., when rush hour should be over.  Lately, it seems that rush hour is NEVER over, and today is no exception.  It takes me longer than I expect to get to my first garden, Shofuso, arriving around 2:00!  Shofuso closes at 4:00, and so does Morris Arboretum, which I also plan to see today, so I must hurry if I want to see them both.

Shofuso Japanese House and Garden is a traditional-style Japanese house and nationally-ranked garden in Philadelphia’s West Fairmount Park that reflects the history of Japanese culture in Philadelphia from 1876 to the present day.   It was built in Japan in 1953 using historic techniques and time-honored materials.  The house was exhibited in the courtyard at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and then moved to Philadelphia in 1958 to the site of several previous Japanese structures dating to the 1876 Centennial Exposition (from Shofuso’s brochure).

I end up by accident at the Fairmount Horticultural Center, but there is no one selling tickets and I don’t see another soul around.  I figure this must not actually be Shofuso, so I hop in my car and drive further along the road.

Inside the Fairmont Horticultural Center
Inside the Fairmont Horticultural Center

On my way to my car, I find this sculpture titled “The Wrestlers,” artist unknown, from 3rd century B.C. (cast in 1885).  These men are engaged in the Greek sport pankration, a blend of wrestling and boxing.  This sculpture is based on the 3rd century B.C. Greek original, which was lost in antiquity.  First century B.C. Romans made a marble copy, which was restored in 1853 and later displayed at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.  This cast was made from the Italian marble copy.

The Wrestlers
The Wrestlers

I drive down the quiet road and finally come upon the actual Shofuso.  After buying my ticket, I’m told to remove my shoes and put on paper socks to walk through the tea house.

According to the garden’s website: “Shofuso is a 1.2 acre Japanese garden listed as the third best Japanese garden in North America by Sukiya Living, and named the “Best Hidden Tourist Attraction” by Philadelphia Magazine.” It was named to the Philadelphia Historic Register in June 2013.

Welcome to Shofuso
Welcome to Shofuso

In Japanese tradition, architectural spaces designed to be used for tea ceremony gatherings are known as chashitsu.  Typical features include tatami mat floors, shoji (translucent paper screens reinforced with lattice), a tokonama (decorative alcove) and a ro (sunken hearth).  The ro is covered with plain tatami and is not visible in the warm months.

Tea ceremony is at once an art form, a spiritual discipline, a way to socialize, and a window on Japanese culture.

Japanese Tea House
Japanese Tea House

“Waterfall Painting” by artist Hiroshi Senju (b. 1958) was installed in 2007. He is known for his large-scale waterfall paintings, primarily working in the nihonga style.  Nihonga is used to describe paintings that have been made in accordance with traditional Japanese artistic conventions, techniques and materials.  While based on traditions over a thousand years old, the term was coined in the Meiji period (1868-1912) of Imperial Japan, to distinguish such works from Western-style paintings.  Nihonga typically combines pigments derived from natural materials (e.g. minerals, seashells, corals) in a medium of animal glue, which is then applied to washi (Japanese-style paper) (from a plaque at Shofuso).

The Waterfall
The Waterfall
Japanese Tea House
Japanese Tea House

Tea houses such as this have two rooms: the main room where the hosts and guests gather and tea is served, and a mizuya, or water room, where the host prepares the sweets and equipment.

Inside the Japanese Tea House
Inside the Japanese Tea House

Once I leave the tea house, I’m allowed to put my shoes back on to walk around the garden.  The pond is lush and serene.  I find one young man meditating on the shore and I try not to disturb him.

Japanese pond
Japanese pond

 

Bonsai tree on the island
Bonsai tree on the island

In front of the tea house are colorful boxes of incense and some fish-shaped wind socks.

incense for sale
incense for sale
fish windsocks
fish wind socks
hostas
hostas

I find some small-scale pagodas in the garden.

pagoda
pagoda
bridge to the island
bridge to the island

In a bamboo grove, I meet Jizo, one of the most loved of all Japanese divinities.  Traditionally, he is seen as the guardian of children, in particular those who died before their parents.

Jizo, one of the best loved of Japanese divinities
Jizo, one of the best loved of Japanese divinities
pagoda and pond
pagoda and pond
Japanese garden
Japanese garden
maple trees and the tea house
maple trees and the tea house

A frequent sight in Japanese gardens, the granite tsukabai, or basin, is a testament to the Japanese ideal of purity.  Washing hands before entering the tea house was customary as a purification ritual.

Tsukubai or basin
Tsukubai or basin
Shofuso
Shofuso
Japanese Garden
Japanese Garden
The tea house at Shofuso
The tea house at Shofuso
bamboo corner
bamboo corner

I didn’t mention that one of the reasons I chose these two days to visit the Philadelphia gardens is that the weather forecast was perfect, with blue skies and temperatures in the low 70s.  It couldn’t be a more perfect day to walk around outside.

gorgeous trees
gorgeous trees
Shofuso
Shofuso
Shofuso
Shofuso
the pond's edge
the pond’s edge
mini pagodas
mini pagodas

It’s lucky that Shofuso is so small; I’m finished walking around by 2:40.  On my MapQuest, it looks like it takes some 25 minutes to get to Morris Arboretum, so off I go.

Goodbye to Shofuso
Goodbye to Shofuso

When I get to the gate at Morris Arboretum a little after 3:00, I’m told it will cost me $17 for less than an hour (as they close at 4:00).  I tell the woman at the gate I will try to come back tomorrow, as it seems quite a steep price to pay for less than an hour.  After doing a U-turn and heading back to the road, I put Chanticleer into the MapQuest after reading that they’re open until 5:00.  I zoom to that garden, arriving at 4:00.  I still only have an hour, but it only costs $10.  Somehow that doesn’t seem so painful a price to pay.

Chanticleer ends up being my favorite garden of the four I see.  I’ll definitely have to come back when I can take a long lingering stroll.