Nitobe Garden

Most of Vancouver seems to be undergoing road construction at the moment, and the UBC campus is no different. Since we can’t actually get to the parking lot nearest the Museum of Anthropology, we park instead next to the rose garden.

UBC’s rose garden probably has the most scenic location of any rose garden in North America (yes, even better than the rose garden in Duluth, which overlooks Lake Superior), with its view of the islands floating in the distance.

The season’s first roses are in bloom and quite lovely, but apparently not lovely enough. Two rather snotty individuals are working their way through the garden, stashing fake red roses among the real multicolored roses. Apparently this is being done to spruce things up for a TV show that is being filmed there, but it is rather bizarre and makes for a rather chilly atmosphere.

Lane and I part ways at the rose garden, as he heads off to the museum and I start working my way through the beautifully landscaped campus to the Japanese garden.

Nitobe Memorial Garden is a Japanese Shinto-style stroll garden that includes an authentic Zen garden. I arrive shortly after the garden was to have opened to find the gate locked. So I wait. And wait.

I pace a bit and then wander through the lovely gardens surrounding the Japanese research center. No one seems to be around, except for an elderly gardener pruning azaleas and rhododendrons while listening to opera.

Back at the entrance to the garden, the gate is still shut tightly. Is the garden closed today?

Soon a student wanders over, seeming a little put-out when I inquire whether the garden will be open today. It quickly becomes clear that it is actually his job to open the garden. Apparently, he didn’t see any reason to arrive on time on such a dark and cloudy day and now he leisurely sets about opening up for the day.

Inside the garden, the outside world slips away as I step into a rich green tapestry of carefully controlled plantings. The water in the pond is so still it reflects the outline of every leaf. Even the two resident ducks seem lethargic, barely causing a ripple in the pond’s smooth surface.

I am mostly alone with the ducks in this still green world.

After awhile I notice another visitor has arrived. He sits near the pond meditating. Even at a distance I sense I am disturbing his peace and soon he is gone. I am again the only human intruder in this peaceful place.

As I prepare to leave, I realize I have company. A great blue heron sits behind me, roosting on a footbridge before moving into the water to fish near the pond’s edge.

He is a fine companion.

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