The delight of tiny trees

While I was visiting Raleigh a few weeks ago, the art museum held an annual exhibit called Art in Bloom. I was thrilled the four-day exhibit coincided with my trip, and my mom and I met at the art museum one overcast, chilly morning to enjoy the extravaganza.

Most of it was indoors (more on that part of the exhibit in a future post). Crowds meandered through the museum, clumping around floral exhibits. There was an outdoor part of the exhibit, though, and I’m so happy my mom and I decided to step outside, despite the coolness, to see what was in store.

What awaited us was a collection of bonsai trees.

The Triangle Bonsai Society brought several of these tiny trees to the museum, and members hovered around, happy to chat about the trees, whether theirs or someone else’s.

While I had been fine with just my cell phone for the inside exhibit, I sorely missed having my good camera with me for these trees.

My mom’s favorite was this tiny blooming lilac:

One of the things I never realized about bonsai trees is that they can have different owners over their lifespan. The sign by the lilac tells that while the tree itself is about 15 years old, its owner has only been training it for the last two years.

This Japanese white pine is about 40 years old (!), but its current owner has only been training it for three years.

The intricate moss pattern at the base of this next bonsai made it my favorite. Plus, I love that it seems to be looking at the elms growing behind it, as if to say, “I’m just as much a tree as you.” Can you see its tiny buds beginning to open?

This tree below had the neatest base. I didn’t get to ask any of the bonsai experts if they knew whether the tree had always lived on that particular rock base. The base and the tree trunk mirror each other’s shape and color, and one without the other would not be as interesting. I’m not sure I would have even given the tree a second glance, if not for its base. But look closely at the sign. This tiny tree dates back to the late 1800s. Can you imagine the responsibility each new owner must feel to keep this bonsai flourishing?

I snapped this last shot as Mom and I turned to go back inside. Every time I look at the picture of this one, with the metal sculpture in the background, I cock my head right and then left. I wish they had flipped the tree around to twist in the same direction as the sculpture. Then again, maybe someone was trying to make a statement about life not imitating art.

This Sargent Juniper bonsai is about 65 years old.

I wonder if bonsai trees have a lesson for us about our dreams. They’re beautiful and thriving, despite their diminutive size. They spark curiosity, inspire smiles, and force their owners to learn the specialized skill and discipline of cultivating them.

Because our culture whispers to us that small dreams aren’t as meaningful or significant as grand dreams, maybe, just maybe, these tiny trees can help us see that even our smallest dreams are worth pursuing.

3 thoughts on “The delight of tiny trees

  1. Pingback: Life imitating art imitating life | The Flourishing Tree

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