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"A Peaceful View"

Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA

I believe we are all drawn to various places and landscapes because they make us feel and experience different emotions. Mountain, seaside, desert, forest, small town, big city, backyard garden, historical interior... some provide renewal of spirit, others heart pounding excitement. Some make us feel empowered others powerless. Each has a time and a place in our lives and some are visited over and over again each visit renewing a conversation with an old friend. The Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park is one of my old friends. Moving to San Francisco from a small rural town in southern Iowa at the age of seven meant that most everything in my environment changed. Mid-west farmhouse to San Francisco Victorian; white bread to sourdough baguette. One of the most fascinating places introduced to me was the tea garden. Living in the Haight/Ashbury neighborhood, and later the Richmond District of San Francisco, my family spent many Sunday afternoons in the park. A picnic in a favorite meadow, or visits to the De Young Museum, Steinhart Aquarium, Conservatory of Flowers and Japanese Tea Garden. Admission was free to residents in those days, and the price of tea and cookies was about 35 cents. The tea garden with manicured shrubs, trees forced into twisted shapes, winding paths, and bridges over colorful koi fish ponds was, on my first visit, the most exotic place I had ever been. (Up until then exotic to me meant the dancing waters sideshow at the county fair each summer.) This was a place which inspired behavioral changes. There was no playful running and screaming in the tea garden...there was calm meditative walking and pausing to absorb each different view. And of course the mandatory photo at the top of the moon bridge.

The images (left to right):

Bamboo Fence Detail


Red Gate

Stone Lantern with Azaleas

Moon Bridge

Front Gate

Tulip Tree

Stone Trough

Y Path Bridge

Red Gate and Sky

Blue Door

Tea House

Inside the Front Gate

Behind the Red Pagoda

Outside the Rear Gate

As a teen the tea garden became a destination for after school walks with my best friend and heart-to-heart conversations sharing secrets, hopes and fears over cups of jasmine tea. Forty years later this small piece of gated land holds the same mystery and reward for me. It changes dramatically with the seasons. Exploding with pink tissue cherry blossoms in spring and allowing the dramatically denuded trees of winter to push the temples, shrines and statuary toward center stage. I have been returning to San Francisco regularly and always take a day to visit and photograph this old friend of mine. This particular group of photographs was taken with Time Zero film and a Polaroid SX-70 camera then manipulated with a stylus to soften and push the edges. An exotic, meditative process allowing me to work and rework the image; at each step reliving the visit and honoring the work and dedication of the gardeners and craftsmen who created these peaceful views.To purchase an image contact the artist: Or visit my Etsy Shop.




copyright 2008
all rights reserved
Donna Fay Allen
Updated 6-3-2008