About a month ago my husband and I spent an afternoon at the Hammond Museum and Japanese Garden in North Salem, N.Y. It's a small garden, but we lingered for a couple of hours and the effects stayed with me long after we'd eaten our lunch and left. Whenever I think about the garden now, a sense of calm washes over me and I want to seek out similar places, or better yet, visit Japan!
I thought about how much reading a good book was like taking a stroll through a Japanese garden - something new and interesting is revealed around every bend. The writer, like the gardener, picks, cultivates and engages the senses. The visual beauty of the plantings feels alive like the characters in a good book. The water, the sound of the crunching pebbles under your feet, the serenity of a still pond, the textures, all envelope you to the exclusion of the rest of the world. A book can do this too. A few pages in and you're captured. Just as the arrangement of the garden encourages reflection, a special moment in a story too, will make you stop and think. You don't want the experience to end - you could stay there all day lingering in that garden or caught up in that book. When you're done you know you have experienced something special. There is that sense of having been engaged and rewarded.
When I find a book that does this I add it to my favorites. Last week I read Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton for at least the fifth time and loved it just as much as I did when I first picked it up. It's a slim little volume that mesmerizes from page one. Like a Japanese garden, it is an intriguing and composed excursion into a deeper meaning of life. It was one of the inspirations for my book, The Bachelor Farmers ... the dark wintry scenes, the snow, the cold, the farmhouse ... the love story.
So I highly recommend checking out a Japanese garden if you've never been. It's worth the time and effort just like it's worth searching for and sitting down with a good book. Both are things of beauty, both are worth your time!