Monday 6 April 2009


Ploughed Fields

Late afternoon. Sun low in the sky. Driving from Daylesford to Ballarat via Dean. The light is magical. The grass glows with an intense viridian light. The fields look as if lit up from below.

Into one of the green hills a brown field is being drawn by a farmer with a stubby red pencil. His tractor. It labours up and down and slowly fills in the space with a wonderful deep cinnamon brown colour. The lines, left behind by the plough, follow the contours and undulations of the land and make for a fascinating texture and a beautiful strong drawing.

I watch this poetry in slow motion, and am reminded of the Zen gardens of Japan. The gardens of tranquility. Gardens to be contemplated like a painting. These gardens, designed in a setting of Shoin style architecture, led Zen adepts, through contemplation of their art and architecture, to enlightenment.

In creating these gardens the monks, with long wooden rakes, made patterns of strict stylised designs dictated by both the garden boundaries and the specific feeling they needed to obtain. These gardens were not designed for pleasure but as objects of contemplation to be viewed from fixed vantage points.

The Zen gardens, large rectangular shapes based on specific proportions, were framed by borders of cut stone and surrounded on three sides by a wall and, on the remaining side, by a wooden veranda. The viewing point. Large rocks, and rock arrangements, are placed in this rectangular space around which the sand, or very fine gravel, is raked. The whole appearing to be like water flowing around rocks.

We could liken this to sitting meditatively at the side of a creek, just watching the water flow. Good for one's well being. Or taking a break at the side of the road to watch the local farmers slowly rake their large gardens into the most beautiful patterns.

Here, as in the Japanese raked gardens, there are rocks, trees or old stone ruins set into the landscape which, to some extent, dictate the patterns which result. Here as in the consciously designed gardens of the Zen Buddhists the results are rewarding and could easily be contemplative.

I can imagine the farmer, at the end of his working day standing on his veranda and view his raked/ploughed garden, experience a great feeling of well being also. At times feeling he has achieved a masterpiece.

Here, quietly on the side of the road, I am also reminded of the Irish and American patchwork quilt traditions. Maybe carefully designed but always influenced by that which was available. Just like in this huge landscape the materials available, as in the form of the landscape and the tractor, set the tone for the resulting design.

"The power of limits."


  1. and here kangaroos are making zen patterns with their tails in the dust...

  2. you getting a tulip from India made me curious. I like it here but I'm drawn to Australian bloggers especially ,I believe.Teresa ( became a dear friend to me too.

    I'll be back