Living Sculpture

A Note From The Publisher

Evergreen bonsai isolated on white background

One of my personal hobbies is styling and tending to bonsai trees. The overall goal behind the art of bonsai is to create a portable window into nature in the form of a potted tree. That tree, in miniature, should illustrate all of the characteristics of an ancient and venerated monument of endurance and survival as it may be found on the mountain itself.

The discipline involves, initially, creating a design or a plan generated from careful observation of the natural characteristics of the tree. A good design will enhance and capitalize on what is already provided by the uniqueness of the specimen to be styled.

That plan is then enacted by manipulating the tree through bending, cutting and even rooting the tree in an impoverished soil medium so that the overall growth can be controlled by fertilizer as determined necessary by the tender of the tree.

When a tree is young, the stylist will often make drastic alterations that put a tremendous amount of stress on the tree. It is easier for the tree to recover and grow into its new shape if the alterations are done in its youth. Some of these alterations can leave scars that take years to grow back over.

While the tree is being transformed by the cutting, bending and wiring process, it is often unsightly. From the vision of a bonsai artist: he or she understands that, while stressful, the alterations are necessary to create the most beautiful future for the tree.

Every three to four years a bonsai tree will need to be repotted — especially if it is to remain in the same container. As a root develops it calluses and will no longer take in water. The bonsai adapts by growing new, tender roots that are able to provide this life-sustaining function. When a bonsai tree is repotted, the stylist will often leave the above ground “nebari” for aesthetics and cut out the other larger and non-essential roots. This act of removing the larger roots prevents them from binding and choking out the smaller and vital vessels needed for the uptake of the life- essential water.

The bonsai artist studies, considers and understands the patterns of nature. The custodian of the tree cannot command that the tree stops growing when he or she becomes happy with its appearance. The tree will continue to grow and sometimes the initial design plan will need to be modified to prevent any unchecked growth from destroying what makes that particular tree special.

I propose that the Heber Valley, today, could be likened unto a bonsai tree in training. We are lucky as a community to have obvious physical characteristics that can be enhanced and embellished upon. We are also lucky to have some visionary “stylists” that are stepping up to address the fact that our optimal environment is creating an unchecked pattern of growth. Our container is small and will require some specific and implementable planning if we are to embrace an extraordinary future.

Our destiny is far from being set. One certainty, however, is that we will continue to grow. Pablo Picasso is quoted stating, “Every act of creation begins with an act of destruction.” The disruption of the status quo is difficult because change and uncertainty are inherently scary. If we accept the fact that we cannot stifle the growth or its speed, then we need to create a plan — based on real and implementable solutions given our current circumstances — that provides our tree the best opportunity to be beautiful, interesting and to fit within the provided container that is our geographical valley.

My summer challenge to the community is to think about our tree as a whole. Each leaf, branch and root effects the overall, but cannot survive individually. Let us all work together toward the overall success of our tree.