Saturday, March 2, 2013
Thinking about my Father
We had an early spring day this week. One of those windless mornings when there is a slight warmth coming off the ground. I watered my houseplants and thought about my father. He died in 2001. He was 84. Together my parents grew and trained bonsai. My father tended them. He carefully pruned, re-potted, watered and protected them from the hot eastern coast summers. He buried the hardy ones deep in a cold frame for the winter. He built a greenhouse for the less hardy. He bent branches slowly,securing each with wire pulled taught to shape the tree. He protected the branches with tiny rubber patches so the wire would not cut into the bark. He created landscapes with his trees, made to look very old and gnarled from pruning and wiring. In the spring he brought them all out into the garden. Many were displayed atop a stone wall where an old grape arbor provided shade. The stones in the wall warmed up during the day. Once in a while, not frequently, but just often enough that you should always look to see, a garter snake would come out between the rocks in the wall and slowly make its way up, over the edge of a pot, and wrap itself in a neat coil around the base of one of his trees. And stay, just so, in the warm sun. It was magic for him. For me, too. I have a bonsai. It is an ornamental fig, ficus benjamina. It has a magnificent trunk, 13 inches around. It has been dwarfed to a mere 21 inch height. It sits in a pot just 3 inches tall, its roots, too, dwarfed by repeated pruning and potting. I sat on that warm morning and watched it. The tree is inside my house, in a bright window. I knew that there could not possibly be a snake there. But I watched anyway.