Borrowed Inspiration by William Cook

Cherry "borrowed" view

Years ago when the garden was younger we had a clearer view of our neighbor's trees to the north of us. One in particular was a fancy flowering cherry that seemed to glow with captured sunshine as we viewed it through the accompanying Douglas fir trees.

It was such a welcomed sight as spring neared that in 1993 I decided I would do an oil painting of it in the style of Grant Wood. His style is one that simplifies form and texture, yet conveys all the spirit of the Nature he sets out to capture.

Painted in 1993

Today that same tree has tripled in size but now has many more trees (some of which we planted) that have grown up in front of it. Even with this veil of branches we can still see it when it is in bloom and it still brings that spot of brightness to the first days of spring, like cotton candy on a stick!

This is one reason why we appreciate that we live in a place that expresses all four seasons with notable distinction. The gardens of Kyoto proudly proclaim this same distinction. They are not alone or unique in this matter!

Springs Ahead by William Cook

White Star Magnolia

The first bright yellow crocus blossom pokes its head above ground with great anticipation. But it's still winter. Daffodils and hyacinth emerge and spread their scent across the garden. But it's still winter. Plum trees bloom with pink and white exuberance. But it's still winter. Now the white star magnolia forms plump buds and is opening with unfurled grace and fragrance. It may still be winter but here a turning point is signaled. Spring is very near.

Mt. Fuji Cherry

The progression of blossoms in the winter and spring gardens is one of the joys of Nature reawakening. Part of why the Japanese may celebrate the cherry blossoming moment or Sakura, is here the spring transition is complete and celebrated with great fanfare and ceremony. Spring has finally arrived. Momiji-ens genkan or entry garden “Mt. Fuji” cherry with its swollen buds is just waiting with the help of some sunshine to burst into a puffy cloud of white. Spring is only a few days away.

After a winter’s sleep, Nature awakens to spring and the verdant seasonal parade towards summer begins.

Follow the light by William Cook

Over the years I have discovered and marveled at two really good ways the garden light illustrates SEASONALITY at Momiji-en.


Our bedroom faces east and we wake up facing the rising sun. Watching the sun move from the southern extreme of the winter solstice (seen far right through the bedroom windows) to the northern extreme of the summer solstice, (seen far left through the bedroom windows) one keeps track of where it appears on the morning horizon. Its movement can be followed by noting the changing markers on the horizon (roofs, trees, etc.). I am always amazed at how quickly it moves, day by day!


The other seasonally triggered, light-revealing method is illustrated in the konsho hira niwa, or upper flat garden. The shadow of the house’s northern eaves falls parallel to the house across the garden, east to west. Winter solstice marks the furthest the shadow travels to the north and rests at the north edge of the bridge.


Equinox shadows (both spring and autumn) fall about eight feet closer to the house or mid-way to the engawa edge. Both shadows were photographed at mid-day.

At the summer solstice the shadow has receded completely off the garden and lines up neatly on the edge of the garden room engawa.

There’s always so much to learn from and be enlightened by Nature! But you must pay attention and recognize when the garden speaks!

BOOK: Oliver Sacks "On the Move" by William Cook

With the amount of rain we’ve had I can’t believe we are nearing at official spring! Moments in the garden have been few but productive, albeit limited to non-soggy areas! Can’t wait for it to dry out, the sliding amado doors of the tea house to shrink back so I can open them once again, the installation of beautiful granite slab walkways to keep feet out of the mud, and the daily good-health induced by the medicine the garden dispenses.

     An amazing man recounts his journey through life and science.


An amazing man recounts his journey through life and science.

But with the rain also comes opportunity. I have just finished the nearly 400 pages of “On The Move” and once again enjoyed the immersion into another life full of discovery and enlightenment (it was my 5th auto/biography since New Years).

Dr. Sacks was unique in his interests and search for answers. I particularly enjoyed the focus on the brain and all the aspects he studied relating to motor skills, sight, hearing, memory, emotion, pain, and the feeling of "self.” So much remains from his research to still unravel but I related to his path, much like the search for the source and acquisition of spirituality, life experienced in the moment, that I pursue in my work. Find “meaning!"