Tortoise, Buddha, and Pagoda
I have a large back yard—or garden—(although to use that word is stretching it a bit), and in addition to only two plants (a large Prickly Pear cactus and an even larger spidery thing whose name I do not know), and many rocks (since we apparently love those in the desert), there are three objects d’art: a Tortoise, a Buddha, and a Pagoda.
This title sounds like either the beginning of a fantasy tale (like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe), or the first line in a bad joke: “A tortoise, Buddha and a pagoda walk into a bar…” (I did say bad joke!), but in fact, it’s only a backyard anomaly. (Now that sounds like a song: “It was only a Backyard Anomaly…”—Oh dear. It’s one of those days.)
I recently gazed out into the back garden, and noticed I often do so when tired, or needing a break; grumpy, or just wanting some mental refreshment. Of course the major attraction of gazing outwards from my particular vantage point is the dramatic view of the Santa Catalina Mountains, which my neighbor told me was “worth $50,000 right there!”. I don’t know about that in these times, and I’d never been inclined to put a price tag on a public mountain, but I do know that those mountains bring peace to my soul, and were a large part of the reason I wanted to move into this particular house.
Largely because the mountains had seemed “enough”, I didn’t want to clutter up the backyard with a lot of landscaping, or concrete walkways or, gorsh help us, a pool. (Not that I have anything against swimming pools, but I’m a low-maintenance kind of person.) So, the only things I added to the garden, as the plants and rocks were already there when I moved in, were the aforementioned objects. I didn’t get them all at once, nor were they the result of any planning or design.
First came the Buddha. I’ve always enjoyed the sight of a Buddha in a garden. He reminds me to meditate, to be as serene as I can, and hopefully to convince me and anyone who may see him that the reason I don’t have more stuff back there is because I’m going for a minimalist, Zen-like simplicity. Besides, I like the guy.
The pagoda came next. One of my favorite “escapes” during my childhood was the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. No matter how I was feeling, I felt better when I went there. I’ve toured many Asian-style gardens since, and, again, the feeling of serenity comes to mind. The pagoda has its own corner, and appears to act as an anti-chaos device.
Finally, there’s the tortoise. There is simply no explanation for her. I attended a Home Show, as I do once or twice a year, and there was a vendor outside it, selling cast concrete garden art, and this reptile came to my attention (by “reptile” I mean the concrete tortoise, not the vendor). Unlike with the Buddha and the pagoda, I don’t have a particular spiritual affinity with the tortoise. As far as I know, she is not my “totem animal” or “shamanic power animal”, but somehow she and I knew she belonged in my yard. The pagoda is of cast resin and is very lightweight. The Buddha is cast metal, and hollow inside. (Is there some spiritual significance to this?) The concrete tortoise, on the other hand, is enormously heavy! I could barely carry it to my car, and had to stop three times on the way. In a parking lot!
After wrestling the reptile out of my car, and into place in the yard, it became apparent she was not where she should be. (It had taken me three weeks to get the other two objects “just right”.) “I will move you one more time only,” I told her, “so you’d better find me the right spot!” She did.
At first Buddha was wary of her. I didn’t think the two would get along. I had the feeling I’d challenged Buddha’s spiritual equanimity, but he, as he does, eventually became “at-one” with the tortoise. As for Tortoise; she feels fortunate to have escaped the world of cliché: “Slow and steady wins the race”—[Yeah? and Time waits for no Turtle!] and into the land of koan: “Without anxious thought, doing comes from being.” -Gautama, the Buddha.
While the mountains speak to me, I enjoy the teachings of the Tortoise, and of the Buddha, and the Pagoda.