My Trip to San Francisco

I just returned from a trip to San Francisco.  In addition to getting some business done, I took advantage of many of the attractions that the area has to offer.

My first stop was at the Japanese Tea Garden in the Golden Gate Park.

Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park

Pagodas are Buddhist shrines which derive from the stupa of ancient India. Japanese pagodas were based on Chinese prototypes and were introduced into Japan in the 6th century. The first story in larger pagodas was generally furnished and contained an altar. The upper stories were plain and unfurnished.

bronze Buddha cast in 1790 in Japan

In my wanderings around the Gorden Gate Park, I came across this wonderful piece of Art Nouveau.  I offer this for all the Dionysians out there.

I also went to the Asian Art Museum, which is the largest of its kind in the West.  It had an incredible temporary exhibit of Indian and Asian religious art, most of which was statutes of deities.  The exhibit, Phantoms of Asia, ended Sept. 2, so I was very fortunate to catch it.  I wish I could share the entire collection here (I took pictures of about one third of it).  Here are a few of my favorites:

terra-cotta plaque of female “fertility” figure, 100 BCE to 100 CE, India

possibly the Jain mother goddess Ambika and child, 900-1000 CE, India

Buddha, teakwood, carved from a single tree trunk, 1100-1300 CE, Burma (formerly part of kingdom of Pagan). (There were dozens of depictions of the Buddha exhibited, with varied widely in appearance, but I thought this one was the most unique.)

stone head of unknown mythological figure, 1400-1500, Java (This figure made me think of Pan.)

Trantric deities

Buddha in cosmic form shown containing the world as well as heaven and hell, Tang dynasty (617-906 CE), China

Zao Gongen, Shinto deity (kami) dwelling in Mount Kimpu, 1800-1900, Japan

unknown Shinto goddess (kami), 1100-1200, Japan. These figures were not meant to be seen, but were kept hidden in cabinets in shrines. Shinto deities were not depicted in human form until the 9th century under the influence of Buddhist image making.

I then went to Chinatown and visited the Tin How Temple there.  Photographs were not allowed unfortunately.  But I did get to see the oracle telling the fortune of two Chinese women.

On a whim, I headed over to U.C. Berkley to see Sproul Plaza where the Free Speech Movement began in 1964.

My next stop was the Muir National Forest.  I went in the afternoon and the sunlight was slanting in through the redwoods.  There are signs asking people to speak quietly on part of the trail, which I appreciated greatly.  It is a holy place.

The origin myth of my religion of birth, Mormonism, begins with the First Vision which occurred in what is called by Mormons, the “Sacred Grove”, where Joseph Smith went to pray as a young man.  As I walked under the great trees in Muir, I realized that the connection between forests and the holy was made in my mind early in my life.

My visit to Muir followed a lengthy and particularly acrimonious deposition with another lawyer who was rather unpleasant.  I had not realized how much I needed healing from that experience (which is not uncommon in my profession) until I found myself alone on a trail in Muir.  Pagans often talk about an experience of “connection”.  It was not so much connection that I felt as an immersion.  I felt immersed in a great “presence” that was the blue and green and brown world around me, with the sound of wind blowing through the trees, the smell of the redwoods on the cool air, and my own heart beating.  The phrase “Praise for living” kept coming into my mind.

My last venture was to head down the coast on US 1 to Santa Cruz and then to Pebble Beach near Monterey.  I was particularly impressed by Seal Rock, which unfortunately I could not get close enough to to get good pictures of the seals, and then 2 mile winding walk along the coast which leads up to Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz.


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