Bonsai Takes Time and a Little Patience

This week my good friend Stuart came over with a couple of trees to look at. One of them was this lovely little Ezo spruce. A great example of the benefits of taking your time.

It’s a sad fact that we westerners are in a hurry all the time. Everything has to be ASAP. Nobody can wait for anything. Stupid marketing has sold us all on one minute this, instant that, same day, next day, super fast etc’ and we are all much worse off for it. Stress is one of the biggest killers in todays society. I should know, before I started Kaizen Bonsai I worked as an operations manager for a print company, the stress of which put me in hospital with chronic phneumonia just days from a pine box.

I do understand that, particularly as a business we need to get our finger out. Like many people I spend great chunks of my life in front of a screen prodding little plastic squares with my stubby digits. I do most of my buying right from my desk and thanks to the magic of the interweb i can buy anything I need, very often from far flung places in the world. There’s a great sense of excitement every time a brown cardboard box turns up at my door, that’s the magic of mail order. Half the fun of buying mail order is in spending time hunting for exactly what you need and the expectation of it’s imminent arrival. Once you have the box open and packaging all over the floor the spell is broken and all you have is a bunch of stuff that you either have to use or find a place to keep. It’s a bit like a kid at Christmas, once your presents are open and dinner is eaten it’s all a bit of a let down really and there’s just a bunch of crap on telly to endure until bedtime.

In a way it’s a bit like bonsai, we work hard press forward and chase a dream to create or obtain the perfect tree. Very often we cut corners and do things that, deep down, we know is either risky or just plain wrong in an attempt to arrive at our goal sooner than perhaps we deserve. Based on our experience at that moment we have a picture of what we want to achieve, the problem is in order to get there we have to push ourselves and in doing so we  tend to learn new things which elevates our understanding of what a good tree is and so our goal continually moves away from us much like a donkey being led by a carrot suspended in front of it’s nose.

I was once lucky enough to buy a perfect trident maple, just what I had always dreamed of owning. I put it in a beautiful pot and displayed it at the top European bonsai show. It got a full page in the book and it was shown in a magazine too. I kept it for a year before I sold it. I sold it because it was boring. For sure I could continue to develop and refine it but it was just too dull. Don’t get me wrong, I love refining bonsai, styling raw material is, to me, frustrating, at the end the trees are never what I hoped. As they say, be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.

I say all that to say this. Bonsai is not about an end goal, it’s not about a finished tree, it’s about the journey. In fact it’s not even about little trees, it’s about you. We like to think we are busy developing trees but in fact we are busy developing ourselves and our own skills, imagination, creativity and patience. Once we have them the trees appear to do themselves. However one thing that cannot be circumvented is the time it takes. We can push all we like but trees go at their own pace and dictate what we can achieve.

I don’t know anything in life that’s worth having that came easy, or quickly. For instance Ford build a car in 7 hours. Bentley take more than 720 hours. If you have driven both (I have) you know exactly where that extra time goes. Which brings me back to Stuart’s spruce.

We picked this tree up from an importer about 6 years ago. At that time it was much as you see it now but a lot smaller. Stuart popped it into it’s current pot and pretty much left it untouched ever since. Over that period it became a bit of a blob without any definition or character. When it arrived here I got the impression he was hoping to offload it on me. I think we all get that way with our trees at times. So, undeterred I spent about two and a half hours clipping and pruning and cleaning. Gradually a beautiful tree emerged. Not perhaps the crazy twisted dragon of a tree that’s become very popular over recent years but very special nonetheless. Over the past few years this tree has developed a very special beautiful quiet character that is rarely seen in western bonsai. Proof indeed that bonsai does take time but it’s worth waiting for, just enjoy the journey and keep on learning.

G.

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