“Crater Lake”; W 5″ x D 4 1/4″ x H 3″; Eel River Stone with walnut base
Many years ago my mother and I took a road trip around Northern California and Oregon. We started out going north on Highway 101 from San Francisco, in order to visit the redwood forests of California’s North Coast. These are wet, mysterious places where trees soar to incredible heights; their carcasses lie on the forest floor rotting slowly in the moist air. In both life and death the trees offer sustenance to all the life around them.
After joining the Pacific coast, the highway hugs the shoreline through Oregon and beyond to the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State. The coast of Oregon is a wild and beautiful place, with great rocks battered by the sea. We stopped in Gold’s Beach to enjoy a short raft trip on the Rogue River, which pours down out of the Klamath mountains, and then continued up the coast of Oregon until we decided to turn inland. We wanted to go see Crater Lake.
In the short 100 miles from the coast to Crater lake you pass through many different environments. Leaving the seashore behind, you go over lush coastal mountains full of Douglas Fir and Port Orford Cedar, interspersed with picturesque dairy farms. From there you drive through the rich, fertile farmland of the Willamette Valley and start the climb into the high country of the Cascade mountains.
Crater Lake was formed in the caldera left behind after an ancient volcano, Mt. Mazama, collapsed more than 7500 years ago. The rim is at an elevation of about 7000 ft, and is 1000 feet above the surface of the lake. (At its deepest point, the lake itself is nearly 2000 feet deep.) Since the collapse of Mt. Mazama, small eruptions inside the caldera have formed some cinder cone islands. Crater Lake is an amazing, mystical place and it is no wonder that it continues to be a sacred site for the local Native American Klamath Tribe.
Crater Lake; Photo by Mas Nakajima; July 2, 2005
Not too long after this trip I went with some friends for tanseki to the Eel River. I remember climbing down the long steep rock wall to the river below. Just as we were about to leave I found this tamari (water pool stone) lying face up on the ground, seemingly waiting for me to find it.
It’s a very hard stone, made of a deep beautiful black mineral – perhaps jasper. It looks a bit like an egg that has broken open. The wide snow-dusted rim around the deep lake, with the island near the shore, makes it the image of Crater Lake.
When Mas first visited my house he immediately spotted this stone outside on the bonsai bench. He says that for him the stone shows the beauty of simplicity and purity, which is the essence of suiseki. He made the daiza as one of his first gifts to me. Mas says that for Japanese people a tamari does not just represent a water pool, but also brings good fortune for your life.
Whenever I look at this stone I remember the day on the river with my friends, I think about the trip I shared with my mother, and I feel the richness of my life.