A Japanese Garden

Several years ago we began a regular practice of walking in Griggs Reservoir Park which occupies a portion of the eastern shore of a reservoir by the same name. The park isn’t far from our home in Upper Arlington so being able to walk to a beautiful spot, without necessarily using a car, was a real plus.

Griggs Reservoir from the Park

A view of Griggs Reservoir from the park.


At first it was just a walk, but it wasn’t long before we started to notice a variety of plants and wildlife. We were surprised by what we saw. What made it even more special was that it was all happening right within the city limits of Columbus. So with that realization a small pair of binoculars and a camera started to accompany us on our outings. The rest of this story is documented in many of my blog entries so I’ll move on to the “garden”.

Mink along Griggs Reservoir

Mink along Griggs Reservoir


For the most part the things seen included; flowers, insects, snakes, birds, and fossils. However, along with the good stuff there were, beverage containers, cigarette butts, fast food packaging, fishing line, and the ever present plastic shopping bags, just to name a few of the less offensive items. As we walked along the shore litter seemed to be just about everywhere. On one of our first outings, we saw a Great Blue Heron and then noticed several beer cans right next to it. I instantly felt anger which was soon followed by a feeling of helplessness. I thought about making an effort to pick the “stuff” up, but it would always be there and it would never stop. An area cleaned up would only stay that way for a few hours or maybe a day.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Blue Jay

Blue Jay in the brush at Griggs Park


Perhaps I was more angry about the feeling of helpless than anything else, so directing that energy into something positive, with trash bag in hand, I started to pick up the trash. At first just a little bit at a time as with camera and binoculars in hand as there were always other things to look at. Soon my wife, realizing my incurable condition, chimed in. While so occupied, we were often encouraged by the thought that trash begets trash so maybe if it was picked it up there wouldn’t be as much next time. Slowly, as time passed, it didn’t feel so much like work, or an imposition on our time, because we were often rewarded by the sight of an Osprey or Wood Duck soon after a beer can was liberated from a tangle of brush. And who knows, while picking up a pile of cigarette butts, the contents of someone’s car ashtray, we might notice a Devonian fossil in a nearby rock. Feelings of apathy, helplessness, and anger started to gave way to a feeling of empowerment and satisfaction. We were at least leaving it better than we found it.

Stump, Griggs Park

Stump, Griggs Park


Once I mentioned to my wife that strangely I felt closer to “God” on these walks. Picking up the cans, bottles, and whatever else, was becoming a form of prayer, a way of giving thanks for all that was good. At first I don’t think she was real sure about my “epiphany”. So several years later we are still picking up trash. It’s always there. Recently we haven’t noticed quite as much. It might be that other’s, perhaps having seen us, have also started picking it up.

Griggs Park Path

Griggs Reservoir Park Path

Reflections on the reservoir

Reflections on Griggs Reservoir.


The wonder of it all isn’t just that we are now more likely to see a bird than a bottle. It’s that through our intention and action, we experience a greater connection with the place and value it more. It has become very special, perhaps sacred, a part of us. Sharing this thought with a friend recently, he responded that our actions reminded him of a Japanese Garden. Thinking for a moment, I realized that what he said had merit and understood a little more why someone might feel led to tend a garden. Through it all we have gotten so much more than we’ve given. This place, located in the middle of the city, passed by thousands each day on their daily commute, scrunched between the road and the water, and seemingly placed there almost as an afterthought, has become our Japanese Garden.



Water's edge

Water’s edge


Thanks for stopping by.

10 Comments on “A Japanese Garden

  1. Your description about the way in which your relationship with the park has developed has made me feel quite emotional because I can relate to the feelings that you are expressing and I also greatly admire your efforts to clear up the rubbish that others have thoughtlessly discarded.

    • Iappreciate your thoughts. I don’t think the hidden benefits were ever anticipatedwhen we first started picking the stuff uppurely out of frustration.

  2. This totally gave me shivers. I often pick up trash (a lot of plastic stuff) along our beaches. We even have organized beach cleanup days out here and there’s a woman who makes art out of the plastic bits to raise awareness. http://www.washedashore.org/
    I can sympathize with your feeling of helplessness, but you’ve done your bit and helped spread the attitude of reverence for this earth we live on. It may not feel like much, but I do believe it grows. Kudos to you, my friend.

  3. I found your Blog via a comment you left on Kathy’s post about “should”, “would” and “could”.

    What a wonderful win-win scenario. An external and an internal “clearing”. Like tending a Japanese garden it was a meditative, calming experience that rightfully brings you closer to God.

    Thank you for tending “God’s garden”.

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