Saturday, May 27, 2006

Bonsai at the National Arboretum

Guests in from out of town last weekend spurred us to make our first visit to the National Arboretum. The "Arb" as I must call it after having spent a few years in Ann Arbor is a phenomenal place. First, it is huge and also very accessible because you can drive around to the different places that you want to see. It is worth a day and a picnic lunch. We went to the grove of state trees, say the former east portico of the Capitol, and walked through the Bonsai Museum.

I'm fascinated by the Bonsai Museum and took a number of photos, first to capture the beauty of the trees, second to make cards with, and third to have and reflect on them.

Here's the first photo. I believe that this is the oldest bonsai tree at the museum. (I regret to report that my notetaking was remiss during the trip - I mainly had the camera so I can't report the details of the trees including the type of tree and the age, which are all recorded in the display at the museum). It is large, filling a table top, but not the size of such a huge and old tree.

This one reminds me of a tree in a forest, but of course it is in a pot on another tabletop.

Finally, this azalea is slightly past it's prime, but is still amazing. (As an aside, there is an azalea garden at the National Arboretum that had hundreds of azaleas and would be worth the trip when azaleas are in bloom - usually the last week of April and the first two weeks of May).

What interests me most about the Bonsai, I think, is the discipline and commitment. I understand that they must be trimmed initially daily to train them to grow and to be small. It makes me wonder, what am I making a daily commitment to like that? And then to realize that the purpose of the tree is to grow something beautiful in a small and cultivated way. What drives people to make that commitment? What if someone growing one of these trees for say twenty or thirty years then dies? Do people carry it on? What is the purpose of all of this? (I've been feeling very existential lately.) I think that I'm attracted to these trees because they obliquely answer that question: what is the purpose of all of this?