Last week I got to spend the day with Cousins Jasper and Kestrel. I picked them up at their house, which is the apartment above Auntie Katie’s bookshop, Books with Pictures. Having their house and business in the same place is sure handy!
After I got everyone breakfast, we caught the number 2 bus. It was perfect for this trip, because it goes from just outside their door to one block from the Lan Su Chinese Garden. This garden is a whole city block of beauty and serenity surrounded by a wall. It was created in 2000 by a group of volunteers.
We entered right behind a tour group, which had a lady explaining things about the garden. We sat very still and learned about “Scholar Stones”, also called Lake Tai stones because that is where, in China, they are found. They are limestone, and their irregular shapes are caused by carbonated water that bubbles up from the bottom of the lake.
We learned that they symbolize the wisdom and special beauty that come with age because of their rough exteriors, that the holes in them allow them to ‘listen’ to the wind as it blows through, and that they are always perched with their heavier end UP, to symbolize mind winning out over matter. As an old, irregularly shaped wind-listener, I felt very proud to have these stones represent me.
We spent a lot of time watching the beautiful koi who live in the pond. Their golden, silver, white and steel grey colors play delightfully with the dark water and reflections.
Snacks and a quiet sit down in the Tea House are an important part of any day in the Lan Su. The steamed vegetable buns, puffed rice bars and red bean “moon” cakes were delicate but filling, and Kestrel washed hers down with a pink rose tea. The view of the garden and sky through the carved wooden window frames was as pretty as a picture.
Just outside the Tea House, a lady was helping keep the garden pretty. Wearing waders, she was walking in the pong among the waterlilies, pulling off spent blossoms and stems that were wilted. She told us that if the rotten stems stay in the water, they rot and make the koi sick. She likes her job because it is fun and important.
After a while, we needed to leave the garden so Jasper could have some “train sushi”. He meant Sushi Ichiban, a modest sushi restaurant in Chinatown where the small dishes of sushi come around, you guessed it, on a toy train!
It was interesting, watching the locomotive and cars go by, guessing which plates would be acceptable to Kestrel, who is a very picky eater. Jasper enjoyed the California Roll he chose, and some other dishes that Kestrel chose but wouldn’t eat. I had cast offs from everyone, including a surprisingly yummy fried halibut cheek.
When the restaurant closed, we headed back to Lan Su for a little more time in Chinese serenity. The new docent encouraged us to take off our shoes and experience the different pavings with our bare feet!
This was such an unexpected, wonderful treat! The bumpy pebbles, sharper cut stones and smooth floors of the pavilions gave us a whole new appreciation of the thought and skill that went into every inch of this garden.Eventually we all realized it was time to catch the bus and head home. What a lovely day!