Danseki (13x 7x3.5 cm)

Danseki (13x 7x3.5 cm)

We were at a bonsai show in either Sacramento or Petaluma, CA, we can’t recall which and saw this stone.  Upon looking at the stone, the current owner who was selling the stone, began to extoll on the virtues of how this was a good Japanese stone.  So much so, because he wasn’t sure if we would understand its appeal because the steps are so small.

When we explained we enjoyed the not only the quality of the stone but its simplicity it was as if he sighed with internal relief that someone actually “got this” stone.  His reaction must have been important because to this day I haven’t forgotten his almost visceral reaction to our understanding this was a good stone to us.

As we thought about what to post today, and wanting to keep the post straight forward, read simple to do, this stone immediately came to mind.

This stone evokes the feeling of quietness or perhaps solitude.  Are you having a hard time seeing that from the photograph above?  Let’s see if we can help.

Close-up of the plain and steps.

Close-up of the plain and steps. (Click the image to see a larger version)

Does this help at all? Take a few moments and click this photo and then just let your eye take in this scene.  At this viewpoint, one could make the case that this stone is perhaps a doha if one viewed the rise in the back left of the stone to be a small distant mountain or hill.  But let’s stay with the classification of a danseki for now; this is how we personally classify this stone.

When you see this stone – what do you see? What does it evoke?  We see a vast plain reaching for miles and miles. Have you ever driven across I-80 in Nevada. There is one point that you reach where you can just see for miles and miles as you just start to descend on a gradual slope.

Nevada on I-80

Nevada on I-80

This is what our imagination sees – a large vista with a step down in this plain.  Can you see buffalo, deer or cattle grazing?

If you don’t then we are going to guess that you are in just too much of a hurry.  Too many things to think about, schedules to meet, or simply not exercising your mind’s eye to see what potential this stone holds.

So back to the dealer, I think he had seen this in the stone when he purchased it.  His reaction told me he was pleased someone else was seeing it too without him having to point it out.

What this also tells me is that we in the U.S. are much to quick to view, categorize, and subjectively critique stones.  A friend in Japan, thank you Wil, has been kind enough to sell us a few suiseki books from the 1960s when the stone boom in Japan was in full swing. The one thing we learned when reviewing those books over the weekend is how much we can see in stones if we take the time. The “Suiseki” book published in 1967 had both Japanese and English text accompanying each photograph. It was nice to read what the writer thought about each of these stones.  So rather than just rushing through the book we began an exercise.

We would look at the photo. Read the English description of the stone.  Next we would attempt to see what the owner of the stone saw and then we would attempt to use our own imagination to see what our “mind’s eye” would see.

It was opening a door that we had previously only peered through. It began to reveal the nature of these stones, what they could reveal if we only took the time to pause and reflect. So back to our story.

So we asked the price of the stone and purchased it.  Not sure if the dealer was more pleased that we purchased it or that we understood the stone.  Likely both but perhaps favoring the later just a bit more.

This stone has stood the test of time.  We enjoy looking at it. The more I study it the more I see.  Did you notice the small valley on the left side of the stone? What a drop-off that would be. Wouldn’t you just love to see what is hidden just below that drop-off?

Well, we hope that today’s post gives you pause to consider taking more time to study the stones you find or are contemplating purchasing. We believe it will increase your overall satisfaction and understanding of suiseki immeasurably.