Mushrooms After Drought

Last summer it rained nearly every day. That resulted in a rather spectacular crop of mushrooms in Menotomy Rocks Park and I had a great deal of fun capturing their forms and colors using my super macro camera.

After a very dry summer this year, fall rains have started again. The reliable orange and yellow bracket fungi, Chicken of the woods, did not disappoint. I noticed a few other mushrooms, mostly in shades of white, tan and brown. Perhaps the mushroom season is just getting a late start. If so, I may add additional mushroom closeups below.





















Chicken of the Woods: A Remarkable Mushroom

Besides tasting like lemony chicken with a great deal of protein, chicken of the woods has many health and medicinal benefits. It is both hard to miss and relatively easy to identify but as with all mushrooms growing in the wild, it is best to seek expert guidance and to prepare them carefully.

With so little rain this year, I did not expect to find the variety of amazing mushrooms that sprung up all over the place in Menotomy Rocks Park last fall. But I was able to capture photos of several emerging clusters of chicken of the woods mushrooms before they were taken by foragers.












The last photos below follow a new protrusion as it evolved over the course of several days. Someone cut off its front edge before it became quite dry.







Leaf Patterns

It has been dry where I live. That means there may be a particularly colorful fall. But these days it seems impossible to predict what will happen. After all the rain last summer, colorful mushrooms sprung up everywhere.

In 2010, bright leaf colors sometimes created stained glass patterns where the light shown through overlapping leaves. We can be thankful such glory is still here to marvel at even as things become more unpredictable.

Empty and Full

I liked this plate for its design. But its Heart Sutra calligraphy was what called out to me. I left a comment on a modern chanted version of this sutra, “Like emptiness, there is no limit on how to chant the heart sutra. The discordant chord at the end speaks to the unity of seeming opposites”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=958qchBNs60&t=56s.

This Sutra is central to the Mahayana Buddhist tradition that still flourishes in Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Tibet, Mongolia, Bhutan and China as well as parts of India and Nepal. Mahayana Buddhism has also spread to the Americas and Europe.

In the West, the concept of “emptiness,” can imply having run out of something and therefore lack. But this sutra’s “emptiness” seems more like transcendent fullness to me. Commentaries suggest the Sutra’s wisdom fosters compassion, and harmony, that it can make fear drop away. So while I could put whatever I like on that plate, with the Heart Sutra there, it already seems quite full:

Heart Sutra Translation by the Kuan Um School of Zen.

Source: https://www.dharmanet.org/HeartSutra

Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva
when practicing deeply the Prajna Paramita
perceives that all five skandhas are empty
and is saved from all suffering and distress.

Shariputra,
form does not differ from emptiness,
emptiness does not differ from form.
That which is form is emptiness,
that which is emptiness form.

The same is true of feelings,
perceptions, impulses, consciousness.

Shariputra,
all dharmas are marked with emptiness;
they do not appear or disappear,
are not tainted or pure,
do not increase or decrease.

Therefore, in emptiness no form, no feelings,
perceptions, impulses, consciousness.

No eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind;
no color, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch,
no object of mind;
no realm of eyes
and so forth until no realm of mind consciousness.

No ignorance and also no extinction of it,
and so forth until no old age and death
and also no extinction of them.

No suffering, no origination,
no stopping, no path, no cognition,
also no attainment with nothing to attain.

The Bodhisattva depends on Prajna Paramita
and the mind is no hindrance;
without any hindrance no fears exist.
Far apart from every perverted view one dwells in Nirvana.

In the three worlds
all Buddhas depend on Prajna Paramita
and attain Anuttara Samyak Sambodhi.

Therefore know that Prajna Paramita
is the great transcendent mantra,
is the great bright mantra,
is the utmost mantra,
is the supreme mantra
which is able to relieve all suffering
and is true, not false.
So proclaim the Prajna Paramita mantra,
proclaim the mantra which says:

gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha
gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha
gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha

Communing with Surfaces

I first met Ken Matsuzaki on a trip to Japan. The first photo is of his pottery on display when I visited in 1997. After I returned, I was delighted to see Ken again, as well as examples of his latest work in Boston at the Pucker Gallery, which continues their long-term relationship with the master potter.

Entranced by the exuberant surfaces of the works on display in 2010, I asked and was granted permission to take closeups. I hope the photos below convey some sense for the joyful adventure of looking closely at their remarkable diversity.











Summer Tea Garden

The Japanese tea garden or roji may appear to be a natural woodland path, but it is actually a designed transition to the tranquil world of Japanese tea ceremony. Tea gardens induce a spirit of openness by bringing the tea ceremony values of harmony, respect, purity and tranquility to nature’s asymmetrical design.

To tend even a very small tea garden is to place oneself into nature’s rhythms. That provides a certain solace even in this summer of unusual heat. I water the moss, and watch it puff up and turn a deeper green. That feels as if I were the one becoming fuller and deeper.

I remember how, after I cleaned and filled the water basin and sprinkled water on the stepping stones as a sign of welcome, the cicadas began their evening song, as if they too, wanted to welcome my guests.






Jasper Dreams

As you look in closer and closer at a slab of Morrisonite jasper, the dream images are still detailed and fascinating. The closeups below provide an idea of the wide range of patterns in this colorful jasper from a single location in Eastern Oregon – an area that is spectacularly beautiful in its own right.

I can get lost looking for good sections to enlarge. Three of these photos show the source, an image taken from its center and how that section looks enlarged and hung on a wall. Morrisonite provides endless options for that kind of treatment as well as for framing beautiful small sections as cabochon art.

Rock Arrangements

Arlington Heights, Massachusetts, USA where I live, like Boulder Colorado, and a number of other places, has rocks in all sizes. In fact, a major reason I bought the house where I live is because the turtle-shaped top of a large glacier-scraped granite outcrop was visible through the kitchen window.

Once I found the courage to climb to the top of an outcrop in Menotomy Rocks Park, looking down I could see Hills pond through the trees. The contours of this secluded high up spot, with blueberry bushes and natural rock arrangements scattered here and there made it feel quite magical.

Any number of these rock arrangements could be the highlight of a Japanese garden, or for that matter, arranged in a bowl of sand for indoor viewing.



Longing for Ripples and Reflections

The ducks and turtles did not seem to mind the algae (first photo below), but I missed what the light could do playing on the pond’s once clear waters (lower photos). When I wrote about trouble at Menotomy Rocks Park a year ago, I felt sure my town would invest in maintaining the health of Hills pond. But the green scum kept spreading, and I began to worry.

This morning as I walked around the pond, I noticed a sign stating the pond had been treated. When I looked to see if the waters were indeed clearing, a bullfrog croaked as if in confirmation.


An Exchange of Haiku

When I first met Giselle, she suggested I come by for a free Japanese tea ceremony lesson to see if I liked it. I took her up on that offer. After many years of lessons at her house, I added a tea hut (below) to my yard. We kept in touch after she moved to France.

In addition to teaching the traditional Japanese art of tea ceremony, Giselle makes beautiful tea bowls and is a published poet. I was honored when she suggested we work together on a sequence sharing haiku impressions on the subject of MADO (‘window’ in Japanese), as winter turned to spring this Tiger year. MADO is the poetic word given by Japan’s Emperor for 2022.

M A D O  
Kathleen Fink, Arlington, Massachusetts, US &  
Giselle Maya, St. Martin de Castillon, France

gazing out the window
all is stillness in the garden
what does my cat see

way up there 
a flock of birds migrate
across my open window

no one looking in
snow on the tea hut window
no one looking out

fox on his way 
to a morning tea gathering
Sen Sotan invited*

reading by the window
pattering snow whispers

all morning long

sun-warmed nap
Shiki-cat watching goldfinches
mountain’s spring melt

brand new leaves 
capturing raindrops 
one by one

beginning of May
swallows have returned
time to choose a summer tea bowl  

walking this dewy path
a window flashes gold
as dusk descends  

perched
in the olive tree
Tora-cat moon gazing  

* Sen Sotan is the grandson of Sen no Rikyu, the great tea master. Sen Sotan was deeply interested in the Chado tradition and many tea people welcomed him to attend their chakai – sometimes he appeared in the form of a fox.