bonsai and the Writer’s Muse

You would think, if one has done a certain thing many times in their life, they would adjust to it. Moving, it seems, doesn’t work that way. If I were to map all the places I’ve lived in my life, it would look like a bowl of spaghetti dropped on a map of North America. I was born to a military family, and Uncle Sam does like to keep his boys and girls rootless.

Which reminds me of something. Bonsai is created largely through trimming the roots of the tree. The tiny, highly prized, works of art that live their lives in pots, have the potential to grow into a full-sized tree. If they were planted and had the chance to develop a full root system. Bonsai in the wild develop through growth and adaptation to confined environments, prevented from growing by rocks that bind their roots, winds that prune away leaves and new growth, or other difficulties.

There is something about those dwarfed trees that speaks to the human soul. Bonsai are so much more than just a houseplant. Indeed, keeping them inside is not good for them. They require care, patience, and dedication as it can take decades to fully develop the gardener’s inner vision of the tree’s potential.

In human terms, I’ve come to think of myself as something like the little trees. The closest I’ve come in my life to developing roots was the time we lived in New England, and even there was moving, just not very far, and always coming back to the old farmhouse. Which has been torn down, now. It’s complicated. I moved away from there gladly, after years of wanting to get away. And now I have moved again, and I’m at that painful stage of rooting where I can barely find my way to the grocery store, and work is still a strange place, and writing? Well, my brain is insisting I can’t write until I have a desk.

Which is nonsense. Before moving, I rarely wrote at my actual desk. I wrote sitting in bed with a back pillow, like I am now. I dictated in the car or walking on the treadmill. I wrote at my art desk. So why my muse is standing in the corner with her back to me, arms folded, and nose in the air? It has a lot more to do with the lack of routines, I think, than a real need for my desk. It’s the painful root trimming that needs to regrow and anchor me a bit before I try to add back in the words.

And add them in I will. I’m planning to return to a daily wordcount goal once I do have that desk (and all the other clutter that still needs moved into the apartment. Which is supposed to happen Tuesday with the help of friends). Not much, at first, just something written every day. Until then, I’m going to focus on growing the roots back a little bit. Not too much. You see, I am already planning the next move, in a year or two. Perhaps that will be the last one.

Probably not, though.

5 comments

  1. The funny thing is, my main take-away is “….ooooh, that’s maybe how I can get my Eucalyptus to go more “tiny tree” than “frustrated sprout.”

  2. Bonsai trees can live for hundreds of years; the oldest known is over 1000 years old. Due to the constant care and maintenance done to bonsai trees, they typically live 25% longer than a tree of the same species living in nature. As you say, pruning the roots is the key.

    1. In Great Britain, by harvesting trees as coppices, they can turn an ash (normal lifespan 200 years) into one that lives 1200 years.

  3. I remember decades ago when my aunt and uncle moved from CA to WA. They rented a house for a year before buying. And they lived out of boxes for that year. My dad looked at me after his brother casually mentioned this, and said, “no matter how short a period of time you plan on living somewhere, always move in completely. You need to feel at home.” That’s always stuck with me. If I’m at a hotel for more than one night, I always completely unpack. Even knowing the uprooted feeling and the chaos that comes with moving, I really really want to move out of here. Sigh. Patience is a virtue.

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