Coming to Grips with Bonsai

My husband’s love of vegetation was impeded by our move to a small two-bedroom apartment and squirrels.  

The patio, our only link to nature belonged to herb devouring brutes. We witnessed squirrels lounging mid-air on our screen door.  I heard clanking, looked, and saw squirrels rolling pots together with their little apple seed claws.  Staring them down did not work.  They stared back, the monsters.

The squirrels annihilated every plant, every root, every dirt clod on our patio. 

My husband, for obvious reasons, became despondent, so I signed him up for a bonsai class at the local nursery. 

Jake carefully walked out of his class, cradling his new son, a Chinese Brush Cherry.  His face part proud, part crest-fallen. 

“I don’t know if he’ll make it,” Jake said.

He described the carnage of the past four hours.  Jake, morally and ethically opposed to plant mutilation, unwillingly obeyed as the instructor, Master Moe, ordered him to brutally hack off the branches.  Then Master Moe forced Jake to smite the roots to a wisp of their former sturdy mass.  Only a frail, minuscule root tuft remained.  When potting the raw, fragile tree, Master Moe commanded Jake to bind it to the bottom of the pot with cold, mean wire.

I said, “I think the instructor knows what he’s doing.”

We arrived home, and Jake gently carried the tree into our apartment.  He introduced it to our son.  “This is your new brother,” he said.

To one versed in bonsai, it is well known that bonsai go through a brief shock period after the initial potting.  Although Jake had been warned, when the leaves turned yellow and began to fall off, he was visibly disturbed. 

“He’s not gonna make it!!” he said.

I said, “I think the instructor knows what he’s doing.”

Just like Master Moe admonished, the shock period passed, and the tree sprouted new leaves.

I bought Jake a new bonsai the next Christmas – a Brazilian Rain Tree, of the legume family.  Jake performed the entire gruesome potting procedure in our dining room.  It was touch and go.

Immediately after the surgery, the tree started to sag.  The leaves went pale.  “He’s not gonna make it!!” Jake said.

Jake stopped showering.  He ate beets out of a can.  But a few weeks later, the Brazilian Rain Tree, of the legume family, came out of its shock period and gleefully generated new branches.  

“What have you learned from bonsai?” I asked.

He smiled.  He thought.  He thought again.  Then Jake said, “Like bonsai, I can take a pruning from my wife, survive the shock period, and thrive.”

“I think the instructor knows what she’s doing,” I said.

Ah, marriage – the human bonsai.  You cut off parts of yourself then shackle yourself to another person in a very small space.  If you can survive the shock period, then you deal with squirrels from that day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health until they die.