When spring shades into summer and the students go home for break, the campus is oddly empty for the best weather it ever sees. The empty dorms feel a bit like the result of a very tidy zombie apocalypse.
In the past, I’ve photographed several Japanese gardens, and even St. Lawrence University’s own North Country Japanese Garden, but I’ve never been able to capture it like this before. From my quadcopter’s vantage point, I captured the geometry of Sykes Hall and the North Country Japanese Garden in the grids of streets and campus paths.
Aki is a tiny Japanese restaurant just north of the University of California’s campus, and it was my regular Friday lunch spot with my Decaseconds co-author, Brendan. That corner booth in the back (the one drenched in noontime sunshine) was the very place that the idea and name for Decaseconds were born. Over a steaming dish of katsudon, we hashed out the idea. When I began photography, I captured moments very much in the present, but in looking back to this image (and giving it a processing tweak here and there), I’m exploring my new ability to travel back through time to places and experiences past. That warm corner is one of contemplative nostalgia.
A photograph should “work,” should have meaning, in isolation. I suppose that really means that it should work without any context other than shared culture. Without my words, you can know that this is a Japanese Garden (though perhaps not in Oregon), know that it’s an artificial simulacrum of some elegant natural setting—but can the sense of calm in being in that place be conveyed by the image? (I suspect that this aspect might be the easiest to convey.)
I photographed a zen garden in the Northeast, and now I’ve photographed this one in the Northwest, as well. The Portland Japanese Garden and its spectrum of gold-through-green-to-blue conveys its own “calm drama” in a way much separated from the North Country equivalent.
In the quiet of Nitobe Memorial Garden, I was struck by the craftsmanship of this teahouse. Even the roof had such gorgeous structure, with the wood lit by ambient light reflected from the water and the foliage.
While I’m on the trend of remembering summers past (and mourning the end of our own summer), I’m also going to reminisce about our trip to the University of British Columbia’s Nitobe Memorial Garden last summer. Look at that lushness. Foliage everywhere. And, as I like to joking call it, the “enormous bonsai tree” framing the soft scene.
In the already quiet and calming Nitobe Memorial Garden, this particular corner is the quietest and most calming of them all. At the back of the garden, where few other visitors go, is this tiny fenced-off area. Though this yard is actually adjacent to the ceremonial tea house, I much prefer imagining that an elderly couple lives here, and will be out to tend the garden shortly.
If you have never visited the Nitobe Memorial Garden on UBC’s campus you are really missing out. It is an authentic Japanese garden which is painstakingly maintained. Strolling through you get the feeling that not a single rock is out of place, and that ever leaf is placed precisely where it ought to be. It’s really the kind of place you could spend an entire afternoon walking through and enjoying.
Pictured here is one of the bridges, the so-called 77 Log Bridge. I fee like this shot really captures the tranquility of the garden, reflected in the stillness of the water.