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.

A new year’s day wish

Happy new year, my friends.

I say that feeling a bit unsettled and regretful. You see, I’d like a do-over on the holidays. I have been sick since the Sunday before Christmas, and the last week and a half have been a fog. I am finally nearing the land of the living again, but … ah, what I’ve missed.

Family I don’t see often came to visit, and I loved having them in our home, and there are lots of good memories, but they’re all dulled by the haze of medicine and feeling miserable.

There’s vacation time that I should have been able to enjoy with my husband, but I didn’t feel like leaving the house for much of anything, and so he went on walks and hikes and runs while I recuperated and gathered strength.

There’s the knowledge that I had an okay (not great) running year but missed my unstated mileage goal by 12 miles, miles that I could have run in a single day had I been healthy. I haven’t run for a week and a half, though, and tomorrow may be my first very short attempt to get back to it. Too late for 2013, though.

There’s the looking back over a wonderful year in general but alighting on the less-than-perfect parts. The dreams deferred. The plans unfulfilled. The ways I let myself and others down.

Maybe that’s the beauty of January 1. We know that there are no do-overs. We are to stop looking back and step into a new year. We have this one day to plan and dream. Some of you make resolutions. Some of you may even follow through with your resolutions.

However you spend today, here’s my wish for you for the new year:

This year, may your life be a flourishing tree.
May you have more days of sun and gentle rain than storms and biting cold and searing heat.
May you be strong enough to weather the storms that come and flexible enough to bend when the winds blow fierce.
May you have moments of pure joy in the warmth of the sun.
May your roots be strong enough that you can support others around you and give without needing anything in return.
May you delight in those who shelter in your outstretched limbs.
May you greet each dawn standing tall and ready for what the day will bring.
May you experience moments of perfect calm and times of dancing.
May each season bring its best to you.
This year, may your life be a flourishing tree.

An island of flourishing trees

An island of flourishing trees

What are your hopes and dreams for the year ahead?

The sower and the sun (for this rainy day)

I don’t know what the weather is like where you are, but where I live, it’s cold, rainy, dreary and gray. Ugh! When the weather is overcast for several days in a row during the summer, it’s not so bad, because there are bright flowers blooming, and their color keeps everything from taking on an ashen quality.

I’ve found myself grumbling a bit, though, about our latest string of rainy, winter days, with no promise of the sun in sight. And yet, even in my winter garden, there’s a reminder of things beautiful and bright and cheerful, alive because of the sunlight. A profusion of camellia blooms:



This small camellia bush is one of three that my husband and I have planted in our garden, and it’s always the first one to bloom each winter. Its numerous, large blooms are this winter’s reward for me finally figuring out what kind of fertilizer camellias like (I used Holly-tone on them this past fall).

The perfect camellia bloom?

The perfect camellia bloom?

I don’t know why this bush blooms first, or why it has so many more buds and blooms on it than the other two. I suspect one of the others doesn’t get enough sunlight, and my husband doesn’t think it gets enough water either.

But the third camellia is almost equally situated with this one in the garden, gets the same amount of Holly-tone, light and water, and though a bit taller, doesn’t have nearly the quantity of buds on it as this one that’s blooming now.

As I puzzle over what makes one camellia flourish and another just stay alive, I’m reminded of the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:3-9) who sowed seeds all over the place: by the roadside, on the rocky places, among the thorns, and on the good soil.  Continue reading