Cambrian: Opinion

Students’ Zen garden channels healing through creativity

Ellie Kennedy, Zack Azevedo and Luke Fisher work on their rock garden projects.
Ellie Kennedy, Zack Azevedo and Luke Fisher work on their rock garden projects.

Intrinsic to our quest as humans is the desire to create meaning in the world around us. Art allows the process of translating our experiences into meaningful expression. This powerful process has, unfortunately, been utilized far too many times in the past few years to help our students and staff cope with pain, as we begin yet another school year with a tragic and premature loss. Art transcends culture, age and language, uniting us with a common voice and in this case a common sorrow.

In an attempt to help our community heal, I began rethinking my goals and objectives during the first few weeks of school. Creative expression can help when words, just don’t cut it, guiding us to find the vocabulary to articulate our emotions. It goes deeper than craft — fine art helps us find meaning through expression.

First thing this year, students learned about the history of a traditional Japanese Zen gardens.

Next, my students will take that lesson and create a contemporary version of a Zen garden in the small courtyard behind the art room. In class, each student chose a smooth beach rock that represents five people they deemed important in their lives, and assign them a color and symbol. They designed sketches to memorialize those people on their rocks using only color, shapes and lines, without any text. I asked that the design also include an area of the rock be left exposed. Each rock will include a line to connect them visually when we lay them down.

When we are all finished, our individual rocks will be placed in a circle, with the lines on the rocks connecting one to the next around a strawberry tree, representing unity of our individual parts into the whole of our installation.

We hope you will come and visit, meditate and feel the students’ artful expression of community, hope and love for those people who are still with us and for those who have left us too soon.

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