By Karen Maezen Miller
New World Library, $15.95, 192 pages
In 1997, Zen priest and author Karen Maezen Miller and her husband took a leap of faith and purchased Southern California’s oldest private Japanese garden. Dating back to 1916, the garden needed significant attention. Over the next sixteen years, the garden fostered Miller’s growth as much as she did the garden’s.
In Paradise in Plain Sight, Miller writes eighteen chapters addressing aspects of the garden such as the curb, the path, rocks, bamboo, weeds, song, and silence. For Miller, each aspect has a lesson to impart; the sun is an invitation to really see, pines demonstrate our capacity to endure, and flowers exemplify loving without expectation of return. However, these few words oversimplify and fail to do Paradise in Plain Sight justice. Miller’s writing meanders back and forth between the garden, her personal history, and Buddhist teaching, providing indirect glimpse as truth, like a koan.
Just as Miller takes almost two decades to discover some of what her garden has to teach, Paradise in Plain Sight is meant to be savored and pondered. For those seeking an Under the Tuscan Sun written from a Buddhist perspective, Paradise in Plain Sight is not be missed.
Reviewed by Annie Peters
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