Stress is hardly species specific. While it is not clear if amoebas suffer from anxiety, many experts claim that all living things react to stress. If it can think, feel or have any awareness, it is likely a target of the slings and arrows or misfortune–stress.
As early as the 3rd Century BC, Chinese scholars would retreat and seek refuge from their stressful and demanding jobs in government service. Twenty years ago, artisans arrived at Snug Harbor, Staten Island from Suzhou, China to construct a classic scholar’s garden. Every element, every door hinge, tile and wood beam were hand-crafted, every stone and boulder, shaped by wind and water, were collected and meticulously placed to be in harmony with this tiny universe of a garden—a world within itself.
Great designers, architects, artists and visionaries through the ages have carefully selected and borrowed ideas from other cultures spanning 35,000 years from early cave paintings to the organic sinuous buildings of the 21st Century. But this garden has its design roots in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). It is when the forces of the artisan, the Emperor’s interest, commitment and determination, and the vision of the architect/designer came together resulting in a perfect harmony of man and nature. For the gifted, wealthy and fortunate Chinese, it became the destination to de-stress.
Strict formulas for design elements, whether complicated carved wooden window treatments, unique floor tile patterns, the pitch of an upturned curved roof, the shape of a doorway, the placement of a scholar’s rock and always, the line of vision are just some of the components that were brought together to create a seamless harmony.
While the overall purpose of the Scholar’s Garden is to promote contemplation, thoughtfulness, an inner calmness and greater understanding of life, there are also surprises hidden it its quiet. The Moon Gate is a distinctive architectural feature in both Chinese and Japanese gardens. The very tiles from which it is constructed may have spiritual significance. Here, we look through and discover another world on the other side.
Walls are both obstacles to protect the scholar from the outside world but also serve as a focus to that world when a window is strategically cut out.
There is a curious uniting “oneness” in discovering that stress spans millennia and all cultures. Moreover, mankind has been devising ways to combat and treat the ill-effects of that scourge since its beginning. Just a few more photos on which to meditate until you visit the Scholar’s Garden in Snug Harbor.