Poems (and blog posts) are made by fools like me

I must come across as the kind of person who likes trees (read: I have the capability of becoming emotionally attached to them) and thus I was given a bonsai tree for my birthday this year. And by “given a bonsai tree” I mean that I have an awesome person in my life who managed to pack a bonsai tree and bring it on a plane to give to me. I joked that I didn’t just get a token celebrating another year of life, but a new hobby. Really, though, the tree is wonderful and it makes me incredibly happy. I’m proud and relieved that I have managed to keep this tree alive for six months, and here is a post in its honor.

Before July, I did not realize that “bonsai” refers to the way that the tree is cared for and maintained–any tree can be a bonsai tree, the goal is to keep it short while allowing the trunk to grow in circumference. Of course, some trees make better bonsais than others. My tree is a Brazilian Rain Tree, native to, as it’s name would suggest, a tropical climate. But it is a hardy tree as well as a beautiful one, and it has done splendidly in Pennsylvania (it can withstand temperatures above 35 degrees Fahrenheit). I just have to keep the soil moist, watering it every three days, feeding it nutrients about every other week, and allow it to sit in plenty of sunlight.

Bonsai is more than just a way of caring for a tree, it’s an art form. One that I haven’t particularly gotten the hang of yet. I removed the wire in August, as I was supposed to, and I’m hesitant to wire it again. The wire was difficult to remove, and I don’t have an artistic vision for the tree yet. I like seeing how it grows on it’s own, always pleasantly surprised to see where a new cluster of soft green leaves has decided to burst. Pruning it is so difficult! I never know where to cut, wanting to give all the new growth a chance, to see where it goes.

My favorite thing about this tree is its dynamic leaves. Every evening, the leaves clusters close, and bow their heads as though drifting off into sweet leafy dreams. In the morning, they lift and open, reaching out to soak up the sunlight. It is a constant reminder to me that this tree is indeed alive and responsive to its environment.

I’m also fascinated ┬áby this tree’s resilience. Like a protective mother, I have held this tree in my lap for several hours in the car, in spite of eye-rolls from my family. But trees aren’t meant to travel so much, and somewhere along the way, a branch was injured. However, according to an online bonsai forum, if the cambium is still intact, you can super glue a branch back together. Problem solved!

Perhaps most remarkable of all is that trees can live for hundreds of years. If this tree is well cared for, it could live longer than I do. In the spirit of growing up, and recognizing my own insignificance (while still trying to be significant anyway?) I may be just a small part of its life. And it has certainly changed me–I have the responsibility of remembering to take care of something other than myself (I’ve never had pets, okay?) and I never thought I would be browsing bonsai forums online, videos of old men talking about aerated soil on youtube, or ordering pruning shears on Amazon, but here I am. I don’t mind the person I’m becoming–on a Tuesday afternoon, taking a 15 minutes after class to prune and admire my beautiful tree is a welcome and much needed break.

Pictures (yes I made a collage stop judging me)

tree picframe


P.S. If the title of this post has you puzzled, read this poem by Joyce Kilmer.