Field Trip

Lan Su Chinese Garden

This week’s New Year, New You challenge was to go someplace important to you and see what it has to tell you. Which, let me tell you, presents a difficult challenge to someone who moved only a few months ago and is still getting used to the city. There are places I like, sure, but there’s no place I have history with.

However, the other part of the assignment was to pay attention to omens or intuition, and a reminder that Chinese New Year is on Monday, and will be celebrated at the Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland, dropped in my lap late last week. Even though I hadn’t been there before Saturday, it seemed like a perfect place to go.

In the last city where I lived, there was no Chinatown but there was a Chinese Cultural Center. It had a Chinese-style garden that I loved, with moon gates and places to sit and a koi pond dedicated to Kuan Yin. I attended Chinese New Year celebrations there every year that I lived nearby. Since that was a place I loved going to, I thought that visiting the Lan Su Garden might be an appropriate substitute.

I visited the Portland Japanese Garden around Thanksgiving. It’s located in Washington Park, which is an enormous expanse of nature by urban standards, located on a hill that overlooks most of Portland. It’s beautiful and the view is breathtaking, but because of its location it feels very removed from the city. There’s nothing wrong with this.

But in contrast, the Lan Su Garden is located in Chinatown, just a few blocks from the MAX train stops and the river. You could go for ages without even realizing it’s there if you’re not looking for it, but it’s this perfect jewel hidden in the middle of the city. I was amazed how green and alive it is given the time of year.

There was a set of fortune telling sticks in one of the alcoves. You can’t get your omens much more obvious than that, can you? The fortune that I pulled said that I would find something valuable that I had lost. While it might be nice if that were literal, it seems unlikely when I am thousands of miles away from the physical places where I’ve lost things. It does, however, speak to one of my ongoing projects.

I lost touch with much of my person cosmology due to various groups and relationships, but I seek to regain it. I think this fortune suggests that I’m on the right track, and that this is someplace I should be consciously focusing my energy. Oftentimes I don’t even know what I’ve forgotten. Maybe there are more revelations waiting for me this year.

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