Yesterday I was talking about how we are giving ourselves the opportunity to see what living in South Texas does to us instead of what we are going to make of living in South Texas. Overnight (it’s now Friday) I’ve been thinking about one of my favorite visual arts: bonsai. The fact that I can find so much appreciation of that art form, and yet not own a bonsai or two myself fits in nicely to what we’re doing right now and I want to explore it with you.
You must be familiar with what a bonsai is. It’s the ancient art of training live trees to look as if they are much older, in miniature. The art goes back hundreds if not thousands of years and it’s a commentary upon a life style that doesn’t really exist for the common man in 2016.
Why do I say that? Because of the nature of society today.
To create a bonsai one first finds the subject, and wandering around in the wilderness looking for an old looking tree to harvest is frowned on in most places. You can’t bring home specimens from National Parks — if you did, soon there would be no National Parks left! They’d be denuded. But, I’ve seen bonsai that were over 100 years old when first collected as “starter plants.”
You can start your own brand new bonsai — and doing so is a commitment to the next generation(s) because your new starter bonsai will take years before it really deserves notice. But that is what a great many of us must do.
Having the plant one then repots it and here is where I (personally) get in trouble. The nature of a bonsai is that the tree is continually under stress — for it is stress that causes the miniaturization, and gives character to the artistic form. Part of that stress is caused by radically trimming back the root structure. Another part is the result of using loose, granular soil which channels water away from the plant rather rapidly. And a third part is the selection of pot which limits growth and water.
When you are done you have a plant which literally needs to be tended to every day. Therein lies the problem. Never in my life have I been one place every day. Eventually I move on, or I go away, and my poor bonsai is left to shrivel up and die. This, by the way, is also why we’ve only had 1 dog and zero cats in our 48 year marriage. Our style of living doesn’t accommodate pets very well, not even pets planted in soil and called bonsai.
I don’t know anyone who would be thrilled with a full time job that only offered 2 weeks vacation (after a suitable tenure). We like our time off. But you can’t take time off from your bonsai, or your pets. Even the typical 2 week starter vacation is long enough to kill a bonsai.
Of course purveyors of bonsai sell hundreds and thousands (I suspect) starter bonsai every year. And hundreds and thousands of bonsai end up on the trash heap because the purchaser didn’t realize what it would take to keep, nourish, and develop this artsy tree.
This new place of ours, this mobile home (I still have a hard time saying I live in a mobile home — even though saying I lived in an RV was natural), is a different life than we lived heretofore. Just as a bonsai has it’s own needs apart from the needs of it’s owner/creator/gardener, so moving from a house, to an RV, to a mobile home means that our way of living has changed and we have unique needs that we never faced before. And the last thing I want to do is to tell the universe how it needs to behave to make me happy. I’ll do much better if I listen to the universe first, and figure out what it requires of me and then determine how I’m best going to get along in a new universe of things, and people, and events.
The RV park has a monthly calendar of activities. As temporary residents I had no problem at all ignoring that calendar. I was here for a short time to do what we wanted to do. Now, however, we are becoming parts of a community and I feel some sense of involvement. Just how involved we’ll want to be, or we’ll be able to tolerate, or we’ll be forced to be involved is something we need to feel out. There is a difference here between permanent residents and seasonals. Where we’ll fit in we’ll figure out eventually.
Leaving baby behind… that’s what it feels like when we travel away from home. In our case we don’t have dependents — not pets, not plants — though in the old pre-retirement-days our plants often took a beating while we traveled. And even if they weren’t bonsai we lost a good many of them while we were out having fun somewhere else. This past 6 weeks we’ve been extremely stationary. The furthest we’ve wandered from the park has been about 50 miles. I’m sure that won’t continue. We have been talking about whether we can afford a quick trip to Milwaukee. I don’t usually think in those terms, “can we afford it,” because we try to live below our income level so that we can just up and do things without a lot of concern about money. But coming on the heels of this home purchase, cashflow is a little tight and I’m actually having to think about whether it’s a good idea.
I hope you think about what you leave behind in your travels. In the past when we returned home to dead plants I was always upset with myself. The “investment” in the plant really wasn’t the point. What upset me was that something alive that depended on my was dead. It didn’t matter that it was a plant (fortunately we never lost a parakeet, or a hamster, or fish during our wanderings so plants are the only things I can mention as examples); it mattered that I had not been faithful to an obligation I willingly too upon myself. It’s an old code I guess. In today’s throwaway society I’m not sure how much attention people pay to obligations they have taken upon themselves.
Here the sound of road grinders and graders and large trucks is temporarily filling the air with human activity. It’s probably not the idea time to be settling into a new home. What we are experiencing is not what life is going to be like over the next few years; the road construction will be finished soon and life will settle back into a steady hum and clanking of machinery. I don’t know of any other major projects planned for the park so this major repaving is a one-off experience. Yet… We’re still wondering… what life will be like in S. Texas. Will I go out looking for a starter bonsai? Will I commit to nurturing a new life that looks old? Or will I say, enjoy them when you see them.
Thanks for stopping. I’ll be here again tomorrow. Why not check in and see what we’re up to.