At six years old, the boy, sitting with his mother underneath the flowering cherry in their garden, decided the blossoms were the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. The delicate tight buds had developed into pale pink flowers, which he wanted to draw and paint, but he couldn’t reproduce their beauty.

By the age of sixty he had tried for many years but still wasn’t satisfied with his efforts. He was a talented artist by then, making successful paintings and wood block prints of all the other subjects he saw around Japan, except of course the flowering cherry.

He had tried to paint the blossom he found in front of a waterfall, and a tea plantation and near the bridge over the Tsutaya river. Once again he failed, but got some lovely landscape views of the scenes behind the cherry tree instead, and had made a good living.

Those trees look good in front of mountains, he thought. He had a go at a woodblock print of Mount Fuji. Thirty six attempts later he still wasn’t satisfied, but made a real name for himself anyway depicting the fishermen, peasant farmers and bricklayers that plied their trade beneath the mountain.

Surely the coast at Kenagawa be a good setting for the cherry. Unfortunately, a huge wave came into view, and he ended up just drawing that. The wave went viral, so at least he became very famous.

The artist was a perfectionist, and went round telling everyone he wouldn’t produce his best work until he was 110, but then at 73 he admitted he had finally begun to grasp the way plants grow. When he saw a bullfinch on a beautiful drooping branch of cherry blossom, that was his chance. This time, instead of the stylised patches of pink he had produced previously, he was able to represent the delicate detail of the flowers, standing out against the background. The branch curved round, framing the scene, and leaving just enough room for him to put in the Japanese lettering of a haiku, just like the one that inspired this ZenGarden story.

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2 years ago

A skillful rendering of art within this story. The final cherry blossom image emerges playfully. An original idea well executed. 

Eric Radcliffe
Eric Radcliffe(@eric-radcliffe)
2 years ago

Lovely thoughts Susan, give lovely stories. And this is one you can read, and read.

2 years ago

Ah Susan, you never disappoint! I thought it was very fitting that your story came at the end of the alphabet, and therefore was the last one listed in the shortlist page. Like Hokusai’s woodblock print, your story was also worth waiting for. I am fairly familiar with the woodblock you described, but I never knew what the haiku in the picture said. Today, I finally found a translation: “one single bird,… Read more »

Christer Norrlof
Christer Norrlof(@christer-norrlof)
Reply to  Fuji
2 years ago

Thank you, Fuji, for your comment. It helped me to find out more about the artist in Susan’s story. It’s amusing that the pen name you are using is coming up in this way, being very central in Hokusai’s production.

Susan Giles
Susan Giles(@susan-giles)
2 years ago

Susan, your writing never fails to please. I sometimes have to check a fact here and there on other writings, but never yours. I know your research is faultless. I could visualize each work of art through your words. Thanks for sharing your talents with us.

Christer Norrlof
Christer Norrlof(@christer-norrlof)
2 years ago

Once again, with these stories, I have learned something new and interesting (something I probably already ought to know). I am sure that I have seen prints of this Japanese artist many times, but I didn’t know anything about him.
The text is very well written, instructive and sensitive. Fuji’s comment was also very informative to read.

Sandra James
Sandra James(@sandra-james)
2 years ago

Reading your story I was reminded of the importance of the journey rather than the destination. If he had achieved his wish and reproduced the blossom early on, perhaps he wouldn’t have painted all the other works of art. A great story arousing my curiosity and, thank you, to Fuji for providing answers. Well done.

Dipayan Chakrabarti
Dipayan Chakrabarti(@dipayan-chakrabarti)
2 years ago

The ‘branch of cherry blossom’ in your story guides the artist to blossom and develop good, attractive, and successful qualities. Wonderful Susan!

Carrie OLeary
Carrie OLeary(@carrie-oleary)
2 years ago

Great story Susan. I know just how he feels; I still haven’t perfected my writing in five decades, so maybe there’s hope for me yet! Nicely done.

Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
2 years ago

You are an amazing writer, Susan. You always make me fall in love with writing and reading stories. You have a great title with very artistic content.

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