At the end of April I attended a meditation retreat at Great Vow Zen Monastery in Clatskanie, Oregon. At the monastery there is a beautiful garden dedicated to Jizo, a Bodhisattva who is considered a protector of women, travelers, and children who have passed away. It's very moving to walk through the garden. Hundreds of people have donated Jizo statues in memory of lost children - children who have died from illness or injury, or children who have been killed in wars around the world. People also knit hats and sew garments for the statues, so they stay comfortable and warm as they brave the elements.
When I was there, I walked through the garden each day, quietly contemplating the grief and beauty present there. I enjoy photographing at meditation retreats, and often do. Meditation and photography are related in many ways, and the camera can be a wonderful tool for appreciating the simple beauty of the present moment. As the light shifted and changed throughout the week, I'd make little images in the Jizo garden. I wasn't quite sure what they'd become, but I just felt drawn to the place. This week, I finally spent some time with the images, and thought I'd present them as a small folio here.
On August 31st, Great Vow will host a Jizo ceremony for children, to help families process their grief. In silence, they will adorn new Jizo statues with clothing, toys, and photographs of lost children, and place them in the garden. For more information about Jizo and this special ceremony, visit Great Vow online.
Click the first image to open the slideshow.