Having just post onThe Book of Tea, I need to laugh at this event which happened in a park known as Deep Cut Park today. Those of you who happen to reside in the eastern half of Monmouth County, New Jersey have likely paid it a visit. On a prior day, I brought The Book of Tea with me to the park, and the similarity of the park’s structure to a tea house and its environs struck me. Consider the parking lot as the ante chamber. From there, we begin to walk on a path which leads us to a small pond containing several large orange and white koi and many smaller fish. After the sight of these fish bores us, we move farther along the path. The abundance of trees obscures the parking lot from us as we descend a gently sloping staircase. On each side, we have dense, wide-spanning trees lining the way with purple and white flower bushes adding splashes of color against a dark green background. Eventually, a vista opens up with a garden and a gazebo at the path’s end. The flowers among this garden’s shrubbery have yet to bloom, but it’s still a very pleasing walk. Like the roji before your traditional sukiya (the Japanese word for a tea house/cottage, lit. “house of fancy”), this does a marvelous job separating us from the cares of the outside world.
Today, I selected a bench overlooking the gazebo from which to write. As I wrote, a large procession consisting of a pair of newly weds and their eighty or so guests arrived. I suppose the best way to ensure that the roji does not separate one from the world is to bring the world with one! How greatly this defeats the purpose! Though these people are also coming here to enjoy the environs, how well can they while surrounded by people as they mill about the gazebo? They almost might as well have chosen a mall.
Then, I noticed a gray catbird hopping about under the bush next to where I sat. Seeing that he had an admirer, he hopped onto the bench beside mine and looked me straight in the eye. Never have I seen a catbird so used to the presence of a human being! I sat petrified, scared that the slightest movement should frighten him. As it presented its somberly beautiful gray and black plumage to me, it seemed to say: “Enjoy my beauty, dear visitor. I’m invisible to the rest.” Then, having entertained its sole guest, he flew away.