All human beings occupy a very narrow strip of ground located on the brink of the yawning chasm of insanity. Whilst we all consider our grip on reality is firm the actuality can be very different. Events and circumstance can quickly conspire to shine a different light on our predicament. Just as a baby bird falls from the comfort and safety of it’s parents nest into the cold hard and unyielding world of the concrete jungle we can inadvertently tumble over the edge of sanity into oblivion.

It’s rare for any individual to simply launch off into the wide blue yonder like Wile Kyote falling into a bottomless ravine following some ill fated attempt at clobbering the Road Runner. Normally the fall is a gradual one fuelled by either circumstance or an over active imagination. Often our descent is punctuated by stops on little ledges and rocky outcrops or dangling from cascading trees, legs kicking in the breeze as we take in the view.

Everything seems well. Isn’t it strange how we can convince ourselves that, however precarious our situation. Or however far from normality we stray that all is well with the world, or at least our bit of it. But, one day during a moment of clarity we gaze up to that mellifluous pasture of ground that we once occupied with impunity and realise that we do not have a hope in hell of ever getting back there.

I had the unnerving experience of such a moment of clarity recently. I had taken a day off to work on some trees and following a successful stint was enjoying the late afternoon sunshine. Sitting on a log gazing absent mindedly at one of my better trees and being seduced by it’s magic. I drifted across the mountains the glorious warm sun on my back and the wind blowing through what’s left of my hair in a very pleasant fiction when I was bought crashing down to earth.

My eight year old daughter was standing nearby brandishing a bamboo cane. Cause for concern at the best of times. She sidled over and said “Daddy, why do you like bonsai so much?”. Instantly I was struck with a clarity of mind rarely experienced. My immediate reaction was one of stunned silence. It had not occurred to me that anyone could NOT like bonsai.

I thought for a while before answering. Sarah never asks questions flippantly and being bright and intelligent demands a worthy answer. Any casual fob off will result in one being painfully shot down. So having considered my answer carefully I launched into a long winded diatribe about the amazing adaptability of trees living in inhospitable conditions and the eternal struggle between life and death. I get very excited talking about these sorts of things and have managed to found a new religious movement based on the life principles and teaching of bonsai wisdom as it encircles our fleeting existence.

By the time I had enlightened Sarah with a brief synopsis of my philosophy and made a quick tour of the garden pointing out various illustrations of different types she had completely lost interest. Somewhere along the line she had wandered off and was playing happily on her swing beneath the old apple tree.

It’s probably not wise to encumber such a young and innocent mind with such sombre matters as those pertaining to the human condition. But, having lost her mother and five grandparents between the ages of eighteen months and four years both Sarah and myself are well acquainted with the fleeting nature of our existence.

However the proceeding events had bought to my attention the fact that I may well be a little unbalanced.
Today Sarah and I spent the entire day together in the workshop. She made a wind chime from old exhaust pipe, wire and string whilst I worked on trees. At the end of the day she said “Dad, you’re the maddest dad in the whole world.”
That makes me very happy.
Graham Potter
Kaizen Bonsai
04/2003

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