How the Tea Garden Got More Sun

Sometimes even dramatic events don’t change things much. There were some local wind bursts in the area, the kind that can down trees. I was home working in my upstairs office when I heard a loud cracking sound. Large branches passed by my window on their way down followed by a thump. Going out to investigate, I found that the tops of two large trees had come down landing plunk in my small tea garden, fortunately missing both the house and the tea hut only a few feet away.

The tree company that came out early the next morning used a large red “spider” machine to get up safety to where they could saw off heavy sections of hanging trunk and branches. These were secured with ropes and lowered to the ground after which they were taken to a chipper and the chips loaded into a truck to be hauled away. There was not much space to maneuver and the spider with its small feet seemed perfectly designed to do minimal damage to the ground where it stood.

After all of the noise and drama, and removal of misplaced greenery, there was surprisingly little damage – both the tea hut and my house were spared other than an easily fixed bent corner gutter. The crushed ground cover would recover nicely I knew. So would the moss if I watered it more frequently for a while so it could adjust to receiving more sun. After that, the fall colors were brighter in my garden. In fact, two plants, in particular, put on a spectacular show as if to say, it’s about time someone noticed that we like more sun.



Fall Colors in the Rain

Many appreciate how sunlight can light up the colorful leaves in New England at this time of year. But wise photographers know that wonderful things can happen in all kinds of weather conditions.

A cloudy sky can make the colors pop. Rain can highlight the patterns in a single leaf, or add jeweled beads. Dreamy scenes enveloped by fog can provide a moment of respite in this troubled world. Mystery can catch us by surprise.



















Mushrooms & Lichens 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.

After a very dry summer, 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. As the mushroom season is not yet over, I may add more closeups below.


































Chicken of the Woods: A Remarkable Mushroom

I am told that besides tasting rather like lemony chicken with a great deal of protein, chicken of the woods also has many health and medicinal benefits. Although it is both hard to miss and relatively easy to identify, 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 past summer, I did not expect to find the amazing mushrooms that sprung up in Menotomy Rocks Park last fall. But my timing was good to capture a number of images of these colorful mushrooms before they were taken by eager foragers.










The series below follows the central protrusion as it evolved before someone cut parts of it and what remained deteriorated.







Fall 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 sprang 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.






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.






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.   

Horizon Gazing

One of the more accessible mindfulness practices is “horizon gazing.” You simply sit comfortably in a place where you can see the horizon. Then you bring a soft, wide mindfulness and a gentle gaze to what is in front of you.

Nearby Robins Farm Park, with its grassy slope seemed ideal. But where you do this practice is far less important than just taking it in. At any time of day, and in all weather conditions, the sky is there for us. While these photos do not provide the full sensory experience, they do hint, I think, at the wonder, peace and even awe that horizon gazing can provide.