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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Some Light Relief—The Haunted Zen Garden of Apple

I've always made a point of exploring new and unfamiliar places, particularly when I'm trying a new shortcut and forgot to bring the map with me. My colleague Lefty is just the opposite. Lefty (who I taught to count on his fingers in binary—you can count up to 1023 that way) likes to stick to paths so well beaten they are practically pulverized.

Lefty and I were on the Apple Computer campus in Cupertino, California. If you know the area, we were in the Bandley 3 building, and late for a meeting in nearby De Anza 7. You can almost see these two buildings from each other, so I was practically sure that if we jogged through the parking lots as the crow flies, we'd get to De Anza 7 in the shortest amount of time.

"I hope you're not trying one of your shortcuts," accused Lefty as he sprinted behind me, vaulting over fences and bushes. "Don't be ridiculous!" I retorted. We would have arrived almost on time too, if my shortcut hadn't taken us through a small and mysterious grove of trees at the side of the De Anza 7 parking lot. Lefty ran into the grove, then straight into a large waist-high stone.

06fig02.jpgFigure 6-2 The Haunted Zen Garden of Apple (De Anza 7 in background)

The big southpaw went down with a curse that would curl the hair of a software architect. While he threshed on the ground, mouthing incoherent criticism of me and shortcuts, I examined the stone with interest. It appeared to be a tombstone covered in Japanese writing.

I tried to redirect his attention to the mysterious stone "Check this out Lefty," I noted, "It's just like that slab on Jupiter in 2001!". His reply cannot be printed in a text that family members may read. Looking around more widely, I was very surprised to see that the grove was an abandoned Zen garden. My first thought was to wonder if the tombstone meant the Zen garden was haunted, cursed, or at least full of bugs.

A mystery like this needs a solution. Even if it doesn't, it's going to get one. The first theory was that the haunted Zen garden had been created by an Apple executive who'd fallen prey to the "Japan does everything better" management fad of the month. But nobody at Apple wanted to confess to knowing anything about that.

To cut a long story short, the true story became clear when I got the stone inscription translated. It reads:

"This place has been cultivated by Ernest and Lillian Wanaka as part of the Cupertino Nursery since 1947. The Wanakas have dreamed of creating an elegant Japanese Garden at this tranquil land that can be viewed from their residence. At last they decided to start working on the dream. The completed garden was opened in 1954 as a place of contemplation for Cupertino citizens."

The rest of the story soon emerged. The property all around was formerly owned by the Japanese Wanaka family of Cupertino, who lived on it and tended it as a nursery. When Apple bought the land from them, a clause in the contract stipulated that the Zen garden had to be left in place in perpetuity. (Lefty gasped at this bit, and pointed out that Apple could park another 15 cars in the space the garden occupied. Lefty is a very practical person.) The abandoned Zen garden is more than 50 years old, and predates the Macintosh, Apple, and Silicon Valley itself.

The abandoned Zen garden remains there today, at the corner of De Anza 7. That building was at one time the hub of executive power at Apple. As some used to joke, De Anza 7 was "where the rubber meets the air". The stone that tripped Lefty wasn't a tombstone on unhallowed ground; it was a dedication in a garden. If that land is haunted, it is only by the spirits of past Apple executives like Sculley, Spindler, Yocom, Graziano, Sullivan, Stead, and Eisenstat.

"Why doesn't Apple pay a gardening service to keep up the garden?" Lefty asked.

I thought about how you can't pay someone to maintain a Zen garden for you. That would be karma-lama-ding-dong. The point of a Zen garden is that you maintain it yourself and rake the sand around the rocks according to your meditations of the day. Today all the Zen is in the Apple products, not in the parking lots.

"There are no shortcuts to Zen, Lefty" I loftily replied.

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