Sunday, May 03, 2009

Ninja Bonsai

(photo by Poe ♪)

I have a bonsai which I've lovingly tended for a few years now. It's a Chinese Elm, about 80 years old. It lives outside all year and even though it is deciduous, it never sheds its leaves.

I find it marvellously therapeutic to take my bonsai scissors and snip away trying to maintain a cloud formation like in the picture above. It's one of those little tasks I do whenever I have a spare moment. It requires total concentration and mindfulness. Nothing else intrudes.

In the last year as things went somewhat awry for me, I neglected the bonsai. I couldn't get into the right frame of mind. As Pirsig said in Zen and the Art of Motorcyle Maintenance, the first requirement is peace of mind. I didn't have it.

The bonsai showed me the state of our affairs by dropping its leaves and growing straggly. I couldn't look at it without feeling guilty. Why am I taking it out on you? It's not your fault. No answer. Then we had one of the coldest winters in England and I left my bonsai outside. No protection. Was I cruel? Probably. But I couldn't bring myself to tend to it.

In the last few weeks Spring is making the garden inviting and I want to sit in it. But I could not sit easily as the bonsai was unhappy--loss of form, loss of leaves, loss of dignity. No, I couldn't let it go on.

I found my secateurs and started cutting: hard. I've been ruthless. I cut outside and then went inside taking out the dead wood. I've scraped off the scale insects. For two weeks now I have been cutting. It is both painful and fulfilling.

I have opened up the bonsai and I can see lots of buds ready to open up with leaves. The shape is still indistinct. I found my bonsai scissors which allow a much finer, surgical cut than secateurs. I'm trying to cut for shape. But I think I will have to leave it for a couple of weeks to produce more leaves so I can see what I have to work with.

We are part of each other's lives now. I sit in the garden, read, drink a glass of wine or cup of coffee. I gaze over at the bonsai and I feel it is bringing me back into life. We are both feeling happier and I'm looking forward to seeing my bonsai in full leaf floating on its clouds, doing what it does best.

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3 comments:

Charon QC said...

Fantastic - literally. I'm fascinated with Bonsai - and can relate to your decsription.

I may have to get another one. Been a few years since my last. Still going strong - gave it to a friend.

Excellent.

John Flood said...

Nice comment from friend: "Your email went straight to junk but I'm glad I managed to retrieve it, this is a warm heart renderingly beautiful story, which brought I tear to my eye."

SDJ said...

I love this.