Draw a line in the sand.
Therein lies the allure of the most unique Christmas gift I received this year. The before/after photos above depict a modern-age spin on a Zen garden, only the “gardening” is done automatically; almost magically. Place the ball where you feel the magnetic pull, spin a couple of dials underneath, and sit back and watch. The ball is pulled invisibly around the sand, creating beautiful designs like the one in the second photo. My “Sandscript” (which can be found here if you want one of your own) reminds me of “Spirograph”, the geometric drawing toy I had as a kid. But my Zen garden is so much more than cool drawings. It’s about finding calm within the daily chaos, or perhaps just a different way of looking at things.
Here’s what’s really Zen about my Sandscript. First, you determine when the drawing is done by turning off the dials – the ball doesn’t just come to a stop on its own. Second, the line drawings are random, and rarely symmetrical. That’s my own brand of Zen right there. I like things a little too neat and organized, so anything never really finished or never really perfect is my kind of therapy.
I always thought Zen gardens – one of countless cultural contributions from the Chinese and Japanese – were a little out there. Authentic Zen gardens are the size of basketball courts and have you shuffling around the gravel and rocks, raking and rearranging as you seek your higher self. Several years ago we bought my mother-in-law a tabletop Zen garden and I found myself drawn to the “gardening”, not really understanding why. There is an undeniable calming effect when you draw lines in the sand.
The same can be said for mazes. I loved mazes as a kid, especially the books you could draw in or the tabletop box where you turn the dials and tilt the maze to get the ball from start to finish. Mazes are purported to have the same calming affect as Zen gardens. I always thought mazes were limited to the hedge or cornfield variety but there are all sorts, including a chain of amusement parks throughout America. We have a maze right here in our neighborhood, fashioned from painted lines on the asphalt surface of a cul-de-sac. I’ve walked a few mazes in my lifetime but I’m still in search of the Zen in the experience. I think I’m too preoccupied with finding my way out to discover any calming effect.
Zen is a great word, by the way. There’s something about the sound of the “Z”. Zen. Or maybe I just like words starting with “Z” because they’re not used all that often. Quick, name ten words off the top of your head starting with “Z”. I gave myself sixty seconds and could only come up with seven.
If you don’t think Zen goes hand-in-hand with American culture, check out the following photo from a visit to a local retailer:
My posts on Life In A Word will continue to run the gamut of topics, including personal experiences and humor for added zest (ha). As you read you may find unexpected comfort in my words. That’s not by chance – it’s probably just me playing with my Zen sandbox before I sat down to the keyboard.