On the vagaries of late career changes
I apologize for beginning these ramblings with a personal note, but a little history is in order.
Although I had planned, long ago, to expand my work in bonsai continuingly, fate decided otherwise. Family business, and a host of other responsibilities, caused me to have to end all but the most rudimentary of bonsai activities.
That was over twenty years ago. My collection has suffered, though I tried to hang on to some. But having to leave much of the tending to others caused many a slip. For example, I have a large trident maple ( 3 1/2 feet tall, 12″ diameter base and root spread beyond that) which I collected in 1972, with a wonderful set of roots, a powerful muscled and tapered trunk, and good branching and which, for many years I considered the centerpiece of my collection. I displayed it in the Florida Nurserymen and Growers Association annual trade show back in 1985 and was offered $20,000 for it then, as well as its winning the “best plant in show” award, though I don’t hold much credence with judges’ commendations.
It and pot weigh over 250 pounds and I am able (barely) to lift it, but one hefty other and I can move it without too much stress. However a crew of 4, even with direction, can put the hurt on the lightest load. Apparently two of them didn’t know their right from their left. The quartet parted company, as did pieces of the pot as it hit the ground. There went a Tokoname pot worth $800 wholesale when bought in 1975.
Later, a horticulturally trained (though not in bonsai) worker made another mistake with it. When it developed a mistletoe infection, I asked her to paint Roundup on the mistletoe leaves (when done carefully, I’ve found it works). In a spirit of generosity and completeness, she painted the whole branch. Other bonsai had similar fates.
Now I’m finally beginning the trident’s resurrection. It will be going into a grow ring and a new top will be inarched. Eventually, perhaps, it will be worth being a centerpiece again, but the job of trying to fix it is a gentling experience and worthwhile task in its own right.
In the meantime, I’ve been growing a lot of root pruned, in-ground material: more tridents, crape myrtles, podocarpus, hornbeams, zelkovas, boxwoods, junipers, sageretia, pyracantha, etc., so there is plenty of good material to play with and of those some will find their way into my personal area.
Now I’ve begun to offer plants to the public again, as well as workshops and other hopefully interesting activities. And five acres of plants will expand to at least ten eventually.
In the ensuing years, much has changed in the bonsai world. Where before the professionals whom I would have said were at the state of the art level in this country were a few handsful, now there are many to guide the enthusiast with more or less accurate aim. That can’t help but expand bonsai numbers and activities, and make it more fun for all.
I come back to a larger family, but just as friendly. Nice.
The mind hasn’t been inactive in all this time, either, and I’ve discovered more tricks of the trade, as it were. Having bonsai in the back of my mind has helped keep me mentally healthy, though some might argue the point.
Still it’s nice to know I haven’t lost the mindset and to discover that bonsai skills are a lot like riding a bicycle. Once one knows how, one never loses it, though one may be a bit rusty the first few times back in the saddle.
Today I see it as a way to make friends: gentle, mindful friends. That’s an opportunity that we all might want, and to that end I plan to make this tiny corner of the world a place where all can come to jaw, share ideas, and get help with whatever problems they might have.
Helping, after all, is what everyone wants to do when fear hormones stop.
The study and practice of bonsai seems to be a particularly efficient way of ending them.
…and a delicious way of finding more beauty in the world.
In these ramblings I’ll try to keep to a point about bonsai and/or the natural world of which bonsai is, of course, a representation.
To help others – and ourselves – in experiencing the immense beauty that the human mind is capable of conceiving, is part of how we all want to help. That’s especially so when we are appreciating bonsai, and it’s most of the purpose of bonsai: as a teaching aid to that end.
I’m glad I’m back.
As St. Augustine put it so elegantly: “the world is a smiling place”.
September 3, 2006 (transferred to this website, July 5, 2008).
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