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.

I am a stubborn individual. Many times I have pondered whether this character attribute is, in fact, a virtue or a vice. I can see how being persistent in certain circumstances has led me to personal success. I can also see instances where my refusal to alter a course has brought unnecessary hardship to my life. I suppose the answer lies somewhere within the fabled words of Kenny Rogers in that you need to “know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away and know when to run.”

Life is a gamble these days. The status quo that we knew — even one year ago — no longer exists. The paradigm is shifting to an undefined end. In our current social, political, and economic environment: victories are most often rewarded to those with the most flexibility. However, change is intimidating; and just like a game of cards, making the wrong choice can set you back farther than where you started. The weight of deciding how and when to change any variable of your life can be paralyzing. How does one determine when it is most prudent to stay the course or make a change?

Start by prioritizing regular time for personal introspection. Quiet and meditative time can open windows into your deeper self. I believe that there is a light within our consciousness that (being unaffected by all things temporal) can help us see how things are instead of how they appear. All you have to do is slow yourself down and detach from the world enough to catch a glimpse of that wisdom and light.

Ponder your situation and derive an implementable solution. There is little good in taking on problems that are outside of your sphere of influence. I turn to the oft-quoted ‘Serenity Prayer’ when mitigating stress or anxiety created by things that “I cannot change.”

God grant me the SERENITY to accept the things I cannot change, COURAGE to change the things I can, and WISDOM to know the difference.

Reinhold Niebuhr, American Theologian, 1951

Sins of omission are real. With that stated: it is imperative to recognize that you, as an individual, have little to no control over certain things. Understanding this will help in prioritizing what an implementable change is and what it is not. If the ailment is something that you cannot do anything about — emotionally letting go of that thing could be the exact change needed to find your center again.

When looking to make the world a better place, it is imperative to get your foundation in order first. Make those changes in your own life that will allow you to be a shining example to others first. If you can define your unique personal values: you develop a base of support that will enable you to share yourself with others.

Strength and leadership principles originate in the home. The next place to implement change is at the family level. Strive to create harmony within the relationships that matter most. When outside personal and professional networks see a caring and confident human being with all of their personal affairs in order — they will be more inclined to hear your message.

My challenge to the Heber Valley is to make 2021 a better year than it’s predecessor. We have virtually no control over natural disasters, disease, or pestilence. We may not have much influence at the Federal or State levels of government. However, every individual CAN make changes that will affect their strength and happiness. You can choose to find gratitude in an environment ripe with fear and disaster. We can all positively influence those people that we interact with daily. That is within our control.

Thank you for supporting Heber Valley Life magazine. We live in the best mountain community in the American West. It is my genuine pleasure to highlight those that make it so every season of the year.