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The Autumn Moon Reflected


What is it about the full moon in autumn? The harvest may have been good, but the hard truth is that summer is almost gone and winter is close at hand. It’s time to take time. Time that heals all things. Time to sit and watch a silent moon rise high in the sky and remind us that life is a cycle, and everything will be all right.

Calligraphy teacher, Kihachiro Nishiura, visited Portland briefly during the month of August. Having heard of the chaos in our streets, he was worried until he came and saw for himself that life goes on here in spite of everything. He returned to Tokyo with the thought that in time Portland will heal.

He sent his students this Zen message to practice writing and to contemplate under the full moon:


Mizu kyuuni shite tsuki wo nagasazu

The river moves swiftly, but the moon reflected on the water does not flow away with it.

He says, “It means that even amid changes in circumstances, our own mind does not waiver. There is also a hidden meaning—the moon reflected on the water might be blurred by the river’s rapid flow, but the real moon in the sky is clear and peaceful.  Thus, even if the phenomenon surrounding us may be confused, our real mind—the real moon—is stable and proud.  It is better for us to be ourselves. Based on this meaning, I chose two styles of calligraphy to express the flow of water and the steady moon itself.”


The style on the left is Reisho, an ancient clerical style to express the peace and silence of the moon beyond the flow of a river.

The style on the right is Sosho, a cursive style to express the flow of water existing with the peaceful moon there.

In honor of the autumn moon, Nishiura created an ikebana arrangement with wildflowers picked by the roadside in an ancient roman glass vase dating from the 1st BCE to the 4th CE. He says, “I felt that the texture of the vase fit the flowers. They are ‘victory carpet’ wildflowers with a sprig of wild legumes, both of which are often seen at the side of the road. The light movement of the vine of the legumes plant seems to fit the glass, and the victory carpet plant flowers look like round “Konpeito” candies, which create a fairy tale mood for me. Mediterranean winds blew through Israel 2000 years ago and the movements of flowers at the side of the road in present-day Tokyo harmonize into an interesting melody. It might be said a far-away meeting beyond time and space.”

Moonviewing in autumn has always been a magical time at Portland Japanese Garden, and whether or not we are able to gather on the Overlook to see it this year, perhaps more than ever, taking a moment to appreciate the quiet beauty of the full moon—wherever you are—is a needed balm to soothe the soul.

Turn out the lights, find the moon above you, even if it’s hidden in the clouds, and let us hope that we will all be able to gather next year once again in peace. The moon—and the reassurance it brings us—may appear to be out of our grasp this year, but hopefully, both will be back again soon.