London is filled to the brim with public parks and they may well be its greatest asset. In a chaotic city in which hustle and bustle are to be found in abundance, one finds that no matter where you are there is always a secret garden available to provide a much needed reprieve. The Kyoto garden is a particular favourite of mine, a tiny patch of tranquil Japan that can be found at the centre of Holland Park.
The last week has been blooming mental. In the middle of it I found myself experiencing crippling fear in the face of complete life overload. I was chained to the oar of my work, running on empty, as the slave drum beat out an incessant rhythm of drudgery. Occasionally I looked out to the wider world in search of hope, only to find constant and irritating reminders that the world is absolutely insane.
Suddenly remembering that I’m a wistful imaginative fellow with a penchant for the overly dramatic, it crossed my mind that I might be blowing everything out of proportion. Surely not I said to myself. Thankfully I gave it a second thought and quickly realized that all I needed was a break. Thus I hopped on the tube and was whisked away for a brief change of scene. In an instant I was experiencing a resplendent autumns day in a serene environment that came complete with dazzling fish and majestic peacocks.
A great deal calmer and just getting over the fact that life had once again shown me to be the bigger banana head. I made my first few walks around this small perfectly formed gem with my camera in hand. In no time at all I got myself into a full blown tourist frenzy taking photos of everything. The Kyoto garden has so many hidden perspectives to find and many of them are spellbinding in their beauty.
Many would criticize the modern day tendency to instantly grab a camera when beholding something wonderful. Such people undoubtedly have a point but I think they miss something as well. In my photo frenzy, it is true that I was in a mind-set that was both narrow in its focus and at a distance from its environment. Nevertheless there was something meditative about this intense search for an interesting perspective, the attempt to capture a moment and find something special and unrepeatable within it. In short the activity has a singular nature to it that in its own way was harmonizing.
Of course I eventually put my camera aside and spent a full hour just taking it all in. It was here that a different form of harmonizing magic took place. The kind where the very structure of an environment somehow starts to anchor your state of mind and with nothing impeding it a silent joy just creeps in. The Germans have a wonderful word waldeinsamkeit, which has no equivalent in English, but refers to a state of deep solitude in the woods where you nonetheless feel deeply connected to nature. In its own way, the Kyoto Garden gave me a brief glimmer of this. I returned to the great hustle and bustle of the city with renewed vigour.
I really hope I’ve inspired you to visit this beautiful park. It is best to go very early before it fills up with London’s very own Tibetan singing bowls, aka screaming babies in prams. Finally I wish to thank Marry at Still a Runner for inspiring this post, be sure to check out her article and blog here.