Zen and Ikebana
By Joan D. Stamm
In 2020, I planned to spend the month of April researching a flower temple pilgrimage in Kyoto and Nara, Japan where the Buddhist abbots refer to flowers as “little Buddhas.” Instead of my Japan adventure, I spent the year exploring my own garden as the encroaching COVID-19 pandemic kept everyone homebound.
Sequestered like a hermit on a mountain on Orcas Island, I focused on my Buddhist studies, creating ikebana and writing a book that would eventually be called The Language of Flowers in the Time of COVID: Finding Solace in Zen, Nature and Ikebana. My Zen practice, coupled with my “flower practice,” led me deeper into Kado: The Way of Flowers, a path that encompasses impermanence, interdependence and the internalization of nature’s peacefulness as one surrenders to seasonal changes, the humble beauty of flowers and their eventual demise.
Again and again, my Zen practice and my flower practice restored my sanity as the many other challenges of 2020 unfolded: riots and demonstrations over racial injustice, unprecedented wildfires and hurricanes, days and days of suffocating smoke-filled air, and an attempted coup d’état at our nation’s capital. Through it all, the seasons continued to produce beauty and abundance as buds formed, blossomed, withered and died, only to be reborn again. Like the magical enso of our lives, nature presents birth and death in a myriad of dazzling forms.
The Language of Flowers in the Time of COVID, published and released in June of this year, tells something of the 2020 story that unfolded for me while researching flower lore, tending my garden, and practicing ikebana and Zen. The book includes thirteen black and white ikebana photos. Included here are two of those photos in color. You can see more on my website: