A Bonsai Encounter

Bonsai, Seattle Washington

Bonsai, Seattle Washington

They are small trees. It is an art form. We find small adorable. Understandable. It gives us control.

I am an artist. I create. I often start with a seed–a piece of art, writing, a color made by someone else. Not unlike a bonsai artist. God made the tree and the artist makes it to their own by placing it in a pot and pruning it.

Facing those trees.

My mind flashed to the movie Flicka. I was the horse thrashing to get out of the trailer.

cage-like displays

cage-like displays

The first tree on display was, or rather has been a bonsai since 1970. Forty years as a piece of art.

The displays list 2 dates. The date of origin, then the date the tree became a bonsai. These trees, they lived and grew before being pruned or possessed.

Each of these unique creations had a version of an artist’s statement on a plaque below the tree.

The first one I noticed had been captive, had been a form of art for 43 years. Some had dates spanning more than a hundred years. One claimed to have an origin date in Japan before Europeans were said to have traveled to Seattle.

I see two sides. Creating is an expression of God in us. We were made with such desires to shape, to color, to leave a mark.

I also see bound feet, birds in cages and power struggles.

112 Sierra Juniper juniperus occidentalis

Known also as “Western Juniper”, this Sierra juniper was collected by the artist in 1975, about 40 miles south of Tahoe, California. It has been trained into a double trunk, informal upright style.

An important feature of the tree is the prominent area of dead wood at the front. In nature, this often appears as a result of sun scald or desiccation of the foliage on sunny winter days when the roots are frozen and cannot supply moisture. This dead wood gives the tree a very aged and natural appearance. Live tissue at the rear of the tree support the entire crown.

Usually what offends us is truth poking our sore spots. Being contained and pruned both stood up and said ouch during my outing at the Bonsai Gardens. The shock came from the timing.

Three years ago, I could have voiced the pain of containment. Being contained, trying to remain contained, was my life for better or worse.

Two years ago, pruning was my story.

215 Korean Hornbeam Carpinus turczaninovii

Korean hornbeam is native to both Korea and Japan; it is known as a “Korean hornbeam” because it has traditionally been a popular export tree for Korean commercial growers. It is a highly regarded bonsai subject because of its fine, dense branching, chalky white bark, and blazing orange autumn leaf color.

Imported to the United States in 1985, this tree was grown in the ground prior to pot cultivation to develop a strong base and thick trunk. A common technique for enlarging the base is to allow numerous “sucker” shoots to develop from near the soil line. The large scars that sometimes result when the shoots are removed add a sense of age and character to the trunk.

heart break in tree form

heart break in tree form

Not all healing comes with memory loss, or a once and for all.

***One month from today, Saturday May 11 is World Bonsai Day. Quoted (indented and italicized) text taken directly from displays at the Weyerhaeuser Bonsai Gardens.***


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