I have been enjoying a wonderful book called Japanese Zen Gardens, by Yoko Kawaguchi. I have also been thinking about creating a miniature Zen garden out of modelling clay, artificial grass and so on. This, the book tells me, is called bonseki – the art of creating miniature landscapes in a container. Nothing validates a silly little craft project like finding out it’s a ‘thing’, and there is even a Japanese name for it.
I had been considering various ideas for a design for my bonseki garden, when I came across this stream crossing on a walk. I stopped and admired it for a while, listening to the stream and the birds. It occurred to me that I would find it difficult to replicate this level of beauty, calm and serenity in my bonseki design. “Damn,” I thought, “nature has pipped me to the post again”.
It seems odd that a human being, with a lifespan of maybe 100 years, may attempt to replicate the wonder of a scene that occurs naturally; that is to say, a scene that has been created though the awesome power of physical laws acting on the vast complexity of the arrangement of energy and matter over billions of years. It is a wondrous thing about humanity that we could even conceive of such a thing.
It is important to remember that wonder, beauty and serenity are in fact something we as humans create for ourselves. The very nature of the concepts requires human perception. Without us, there is no wonder, no beauty, no serenity, and no meaning. As pointless and insignificant as we are as individuals, this is what we bring to the universe – we experience it.
Here is my finished 'bonseki' garden (it is 16x11cm):