kananka is Japanese, but you won’t find it in a Japanese dictionary.  It’s a speech fragment that’s used a lot, one that most native speakers would regard as air, and take for granted.

Certainly I did. Never gave it a thought.  I’d have to give credit to Diane and Marianne, my housemates in Tokyo where I went and lived for six years after college. My housemates, a Tasmanian and Scot, picked up on the speech, and they started to attach kananka’s to the end of their sentences like they would hear out and about.  Or just use it by itself, between the two of them clacking away.  “Kananka?” “oh, yes, domo thank you, kananka, hai kananka.”

The best translation I can give to kananka is “something like that.”  It follows usually a choice of something, such as tea, and it’s used in an invitation to the other person.  But the use of the term makes the invite essentially polite and nonbinding and allows for a polite alternative — in case you hate tea and will have only espresso, but wouldn’t want to say that so as not to offend your host … or something like that.  That’s my socio- psycho- linguistic take on it anyways.

So that’s what kananka is about, and it’s quintessentially me, I figure, a jumble of this and that.  I do like tea, but there are days when I crave a latte and why not, if that is what I like?



This is what I do…


here are some reactions when people ask, and I tell them I’m a landscape architect:


a) oh, how wonderful that you get to work outdoors all the time planting trees – and, by the way, can you tell me why my roses aren’t blooming?


b) (the arborists) hmmm, interesting… (and inwardly they think: oh-oh, another one of those idiots who know nothing about trees but they’re always trying to push their stupid planting plans with fancy design talk)


c) (the engineer) I did my calcs and graded the bioswale so why do we need a la-la landscape architect?


… and then, there are the folks who continue to insist that I’m an architect, although I have not a clue about building structures, unless it’s an arbor, deck or trash enclosure.


I can’t blame them much though. It took me a long time and some roundabout paths before I understood that spaces are deliberately planned and created; especially the ones that you think are so natural and take for granted.


I’ve been fortunate in my employment in that I get to work in shaping neighborhood parks, playgrounds, trails and open space. sometimes it can become overwhelming, especially when all the different caps I don collide above my head, resulting in a bad hair day. it’s confusing when you’re doing a little bit of a lot of things: from concept design, to planning and environmental permitting, to contract administration and all the way to construction management and closing out a project.


the private gardening part I keep strictly for my pleasing. for this, I get to follow no plan, and I have found that I am a very forgiving client to myself.   lately though, it seems the home-grown compost has taken the lead in dictating what will volunteer and take over the planter space.


this just reminds me of Jack, one of the old-timer volunteers at the Huntington Gardens in San Marino, where I toiled for a season as a cactus and succulent propagator about 18 years ago.   retired, and a cactus collector in his own right, Jack took great pride in “running” the place, and he’d always give me that wink on the side and boast that ha! (management) couldn’t get rid of him: he’s a volunteer!

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