Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Japanese Garden in Autumn


Last week I treated myself to what Julia Cameron calls an Artist's Date, time spent by yourself in an interesting location to replenish the soul and gather images for the creative mind. I cleared my schedule, rented a car, packed a bag with camera, extra lens, water bottle and road atlas, printed out mapquest directions and headed northwest of Chicago to the city of Rockford. Destination: The Anderson Gardens, a large Japanese garden, a park really, that a friend had told me about and that since then had been on my list of places I'd like to visit.

South Gate - a carved stone marker next to it reads Furo mon, or
"Ageless Gate," a reminder to stay young in spirit

Anderson Gardens close on November 3 and don't reopen until spring, so if I wanted to visit I had to get going. It was below 50F that day, with a nippy wind, and at the beginning of my walk through the gardens my fingers froze as I fiddled with the camera. It was also overcast most of the time, and the gardens were bathed in a grey haze. All that, however, had the benefit that I had this beautiful park virtually to myself except for a few gardeners who were tidying up for winter.

Running water is such a big part of this garden that a drinking faucet awaits the visitor right outside the visitor center. That little set up was so welcoming!

Walking through the South Gate I happened upon this little bridge without a railing. I love bridges without railings, little walkways across streams, because the Kurgarten in Wiesbaden where I used to go with my grandmother featured just such a giant slab across a little canal, off in the far reaches of the park, where few people ventured. As a little girl I always felt so brave walking across that bridge!


Waterfalls are an important feature of Japanese gardens, and often they have a stepping stone walkway right in front of them. A little farther on from the rail less bridge, I stood on stones carefully arranged in a stream (everything is carefully arranged in a Japanese garden) and took this video to capture that soothing sound of gurgling water.

The gurgling brook was followed by the louder rush of this bigger waterfall.

All the while, as I walked along, I noticed geometric shapes, slabs of stone positioned to create a pattern or a focal point.

The Viewing House by the pond, where the water is quiet, provides a place to sit and reflect, ...

... and a place to notice details.

The Viewing House from the other side of the pond.

This half-moon bridge leads to Turtle Island in the pond.
SmartPhones are good for selfies, here on Turtle Island.
Whimsy is a big part in this garden; the Deer Chaser path first leads through a thicket to a landing with this funny sculpture of a raccoon, and then on to the guest house:
A view of the guest house's veranda, and a close up of a rain ladder on its porch.
A raked gravel garden is so participatory, isn't it? I just wanted to get in there and rake, or draw patterns with my fingers.
In another part of the gardens, a tall waterfall thundered behind this moss covered half dome rock. I couldn't get enough of it, but this, I think, is the best photo I took of it.
I left this haven of carefully arranged nature with my lungs full of autumn air, my heart charmed by little discoveries, and my mind full of serene imagery.


  1. I enjoyed this pictorial tour of Anderson Gardens so very much. We lived in Rockford from 1993-97 before we moved back to Kansas. And of course, we have toured Anderson Gardens more than once. You must go back in mid to late spring to see the gorgeous blossoms. Serene, tranquil, peacefilled--all these words describe this place. Many of us plan to make a visit to this place or that, then never get around to it. But you, Annette, do it. It's only one of the many things I admire about you. And thank you for sharing what you see on these visits with others.

    1. Wow, Nancy! I didn't know you used to live in Rockford. What a gift it must have been to visit this place throughout the seasons. You've given me a great hint - I shall definitely try to make it up there again in spring. And thank you for your compliment, I really appreciate it. I do try to seize the day once in a while!

  2. Looks like a beautiful place to walk through, Annette!

    I've seen raked gravel in a Japanese zen garden before...

    1. Thanks, William. Anderson Gardens is almost like a giant Japanese zen garden, if you will.

  3. As usual, Annette, I'm impressed with your photography skills. Many of these shots are frame-worthy. I especially love the half-moon bridge and the close-up of the gate/window.

    1. Jennifer, thank you so much, and especially for pointing out which pictures particularly resonated with you.

  4. So beautiful, Annette! Thanks for the inspiration.

    1. Irene, you are so welcome. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!