• Shona McCarthy

"Gofuku No Hi" and "Farewell To The Autumn" 2021

Updated: Jun 29

(Photos in this post taken by me, 30/5/2021. Part of the new Lotus Garden.) Gofuku No Hi fell on a day that was very close to the end of Autumn for me this year. And so, I decided I would spend the day dressed in some of the most Autumn kimono I had, eating the last of my Autumn-tide Japanese snacks and taking photos of beautiful trees in Springvale Botanical Cemetery. "A Cemetary?!" I hear you yelp. But be aware, Springvale Botanical Cemetery is no normal Graveyard. It is possibly one of the best maintained gardens in all of Australia. And if you're worried that I was being inappropriate, when I walked around I found a family punting a football near Song He Yuan, the Asian district of the Cemetery. The Song He Yuan part of the cemetery boasts Feng Shui inspired design and has some public restrooms close by. So, it is an area I often like to visit for photographs and to take some quite time for meditating. In the photograph above you can even see Di Zhuang Hang Temple in the distance. This is a true Buddhist temple complete with a large gold Buddha and receptacles for burning incense.

I was even able to find a lovely official video about the place on the website:

And yes, when I visit it, I am taken over my a strong sense of spirituality and wonder. Some of the graves and pagodas play soothing music and feature the distant sounds of chanting. And so I go there dressed nicely, usually with the intent to pray for the living and the dead, and to reflect upon my current life events in the broader context of history and mortality. Death, sooner or later, comes for us all. Somehow I feel that going to a place where death is so near and taking a moment to face it calmly makes it easier to accept. It makes many of the changes of life easier to accept.

Since it is largely a Buddhist place, and I know I am a Christian, I do take care to be reverent. I realise that I am somewhat of a tourist there rather than a true resident. And so, I want to be respectful and quiet. Also, cranes and various other species of water bird often visit the lake, and I prefer not to startle them. But it's worth noting that Gofuku No Hi 2021 actually happened during a lockdown in Melbourne, and so I couldn't simply go out and take photos with friends as I had originally planned. Instead, I had to go out alone, and try to claim my sojourn as exercise. This also meant that my father couldn't drive me to the place. I had to exercise to get there. "But how did you do that in kimono?!" I hear some people wonder.

The answer is that I did what many women did in the Edo Period of Japanese history. I wore leggings under my kimono and hiked up my skirt, tying it to me with a "shigoki obi". I also tied a scarf around me for added security. The kimono I wore that day was a pre-WW2 antique, so I really wanted to protect it from damage. As I peddled my bike to the Cemetery dressed this way with a backpack on my back and wearing a mask, both of which I had made myself, I did get some unusual looks. But no one was unkind, and I like to think that they were delighted rather than dismayed. I was very pleased that my walking shoes went with the outfit so well.

Once I arrived at my destination, I let my skirt down and put on a pair of nice silver zori I had hiding in my backpack. After all, I wanted to give due respect both to the kimono and the location.

I decided to take some photographs of myself and my outfit in a secluded area where I wouldn't disturb anyone, but where some of the beautiful nature of the place could be seen.

Then I picked out a pagoda for myself to sit in for a while and I ate some of the Autumn Look chocolate and Autumn Kit Kat I talked about in other posts. I tasted them slowly and carefully as I overlooked the gardens. I tried to let the flavours really spread in my mouth before I swallowed. I took water with me for my drink, so that if some spilled in my bag it wouldn't be so bad. But I imagine a thermos full of matcha would have better completed the scene.

Song He Yuan is not far from The Garden Of No Distant Place, which is a sort of proto-Asian style garden. It long predates Song He Yuan. But the trees, ponds and benches there create a lovely sensation in the Autumn. I felt the little bridge they had there took the Autumn leaves and made them into a gorgeous scene.

I felt my Autumn would somehow be incomplete if I didn't save a single leaf.

So I carefully chose one of the more scarlet leaves and placed it in my now empty Look chocolate box. I feel it made the perfect end to the perfect meditative outing. Perhaps when Autumn (or Fall as you may call it) comes to your town you can maybe create a similar experience for yourself.

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