The Gateway to Heaven

On my first morning in Kyoto I walked into an 800-year-old temple garden. When confronted by the precision of elegantly raked sand, vivid mounds of spring-green moss, and 400-year old windswept pines, I stood stock still, deeply touched, and unable to move forward. I’d found perfection. In this garden, man and nature merged to create a simple, absolute gift. This was one of those rare moments when thought utterly disappears and inexplicable joy takes its place.

Tears welled up and spilled down my face: “I’m home!” These were my first thoughts when the sweet shock of ecstasy faded and my thoughts returned. This experience was what I might imagine stepping through the gates of heaven would feel like.

The sensation of tears drying on my cheeks reminded me I was in a public
garden, so I moved through the next gate and stepped aside for a group of high
school kids taking photos of themselves, each other, and almost incidentally, the garden, with frenetic goodwill. They were sweet to watch and I enjoyed the replay of memories that surfaced from my teens. Having sensed another wave of home/heaven emotion coming my way, I scanned the garden for a spot to hide and let the beauty sink in.

I try but can’t understand the unbalanced balance of the Japanese aesthetic, the seemingly effortless perfection that took 700 years of constant attention to create. Nature, so carefully managed and controlled, became perfectly natural. My thoughts were again forgotten as a group of multicolored koi swam past me and under a small, arched, 600-year-old stone bridge, only to disappear quickly around a bend in the stream.


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Having journeyed to the Far East and Asia over 20 times in the past 20 years, I’ve been intrigued and inspired by the ingenuity, craftsmanship, balance and human spirit that have gone into the making of those works I have seen and collected.

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