In Japan, a garden can comprise as little as rocks and gravel stones. Simple as these elements are, they are powerfully figurative in their frugal plainness and sculptural simplicity and often abstractly depict allegories based in Zen Buddhism. One of Japan’s most famous gardens – at the Ryoan-ji Temple in Kyoto – is a garden of this type and reflects the strong influence of Zen in Japan from the 13th through the 16th century.
The large stones in our garden are arranged in asymmetric groupings that form rough triangles. Each grouping represents an island, and the stones are set in the surrounding gravel to rise as real islands do from the sea. Much of the gravel is raked in parallel lines to suggest calm water, but at the base of the stones you find concentric circles. This pattern brings to mind waves eddying at the foot of rocky cliffs.
The stones in the garden are from the foothills of the Santa Catalina mountains north of Tucson and are an example of the adaptation of Japanese garden design to the local materials of the Southwest.