There is a moment in the first episode of Orange is the New Black where Piper, the new inmate, gets a lesson in how to treat her time in prison. This lesson, told over by Yoga Jones (probably the best prison name a person could have) and later repeated in the third season finale, goes something like this — that her time in prison is something like a zen garden. A zen garden is a dry garden often composed of rocks and sand which can be raked and rearranged to make beautiful imagery — but the imagery can easily be wiped away in seconds by raking it all over.
Even though the garden is entirely temporary (as is Piper’s prison sentence) the experience can be a teaching one if we choose to learn from it. Lately another lesson of this — that some things are entirely temporary and that we should try to get what we can out of it — has been seemingly flaunted in my face enough times that I feel like I should mention it.
One morning I was on my way to the train station when I heard a beautiful whistling. It was a tiny little bird perched atop a street sign. I stood there and admired its song for a good minute or so and then thought that it would be delightful to share with my friends online. No sooner than I had out my phone, the bird flew away. The only thing I managed to capture was exactly one second of the bird escaping the frame.
This morning while walking to work I noticed from a distance a man sitting on one of the support beams of scaffolding and I was impressed — it was a thin metal beam, just about enough for a person to do a pull-up but not seemingly a particularly comfortable seat! Yet here he was, back on the pole, legs spread out in front of him and perfectly balanced. I wanted to take a photograph but didn’t want to be obvious about it and so I held the phone around waist high and took a picture as I passed. I got to the next intersection and looked at what I had taken — just as the picture was being taken, a van drove by and completely blocked the view of the man.
There are many experiences that are impossible to share and must be experienced to be understood. If you spend a month sleeping not so well at night, it is impossible to describe to someone exactly how it feels the first night you sleep well. You can use a hundred thousand words and never capture the unique taste of a sunny side up egg.
What are your “Zen Gardens?”