It’s not so much raining as it’s just the feeling of wetness. The fall here feels that way. Some days it will rain and some days are grey and wet but you can’t really say it rained for sure, the water just somehow appears, clinging to your skin and clothes, wetting the street enough to be slick. It was wet as we made our way to the entrance. My glasses became blurry, the world looked distorted, the way it does in a dream you can’t quite remember.
The place was closing. The garden was shutting down for the night. I pulled out my member card and we strolled through. The light was grey, matching the sky. The place was muted, the vibrant greens and reds toned down as if changing colors for the change of seasons. Vahid wandered to a structure and we sat and watched the pond, the flowers, talked about the persimmons growing.
The pond grew alive as the rain started. The water falling from the sky was musical, some hitting the lily pads, most hitting the water, the sound of it falling on rocks mixed in. We sat and watched and after a few minutes when it had calmed to a drizzle we meandered some more.
Earlier that month I got an email. It was the last Members’ Night of the year, the last Monday of September. There would be wine and food and the garden would be open, along with the Tea House, an extra two hours for members only.
Vahid and I made an evening of it. We had sushi for dinner before and made our way to the Lan Su Chinese Garden for their last Members’ Night.
We ended up in the Tea House. We always end up at the Tea House eventually. I tried the licorice tea, it was earthy and a little sweet and perfect for the wet weather outside. We shared a mooncake and chatted a while about different things.
It was interesting being there with only other members. The atmosphere feels different, more respectful, more appreciative. Whenever I go, it never fails that at least one person who has never been there before, maybe they’ve never been anywhere other than Applebees, makes faces about the teas, the food, thinks everything smells weird.
The sun sets earlier now, between 7:30 and 8:00 most nights, and the grey skies helped it feel later, darker. The lanterns were lit along the paths, something I don’t think I’ve seen before. Water glistened everywhere in the dim light. The place was aglow, a soft light floating everywhere and nowhere all at once.
I always say I don’t think I’ll ever tire of visiting the chinese garden and I think it’s true. Seeing the place at night it felt like visiting it for the first time again. Everything looked different, felt different. I remembered why I love the place so much.
We both lamented not bringing our actual cameras as we tried to take pictures. I couldn’t capture the feeling of the garden at night with my phone. I don’t know if I could have with my camera but I would have been more successful. I leaned out over the bridge trying to angle my phone just right and looked down to see water beneath me. I reeled myself back in and gave up trying to capture the picture I wanted. Instead I just enjoyed being there and told myself I don’t need the perfect picture every time I go. I don’t need a picture at all. I still took a couple though.
As we made our way home I could help but be struck by how wonderfully different my life is now. I enjoy so much more now than I did when I lived at home. I’m spoiled by a city with wonderful food, beautiful places to visit, and scenery that still makes my jaw drop.
It was a simple visit to the garden, yet it was so much more than that.