Monday, May 25, 2015

365 True Things: 58/Bonsai

This afternoon we went out to find a nearby new geocache, and decided to take a stroll through the surrounding neighborhood. On the way, we passed by the Monterey Peninsula Buddhist Temple. And that reminded me of a visit we made there back in the 1990s for the annual Obon Festival, a day of remembrance of family members who have died—though in practice it's pretty much a carnival, featuring Japanese foods, ikebana and bonsai displays, martial arts demonstrations, and Japanese dance and taiko drumming.

When we went that one and only time, it was because a fellow volunteer at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Tony, was showing his bonsai, an art form that he practiced with great seriousness and joy. That afternoon, touring among all the miniature trees in their special trays and pots, reminded me of my father and his serious love of that same art form. When he died in 1978, he still had a few bonsai, and my mother tried to take care of them, but she, like me, lacked that special calm diligence one needs to maintain shibui bonsai.

Ogata GekkĊ, shishikiban
I don't remember my father as being the most patient man, but when it came to his raising of tiny trees, as well as supersized chrysanthemums, he seemed to find an inner peace and focus. It was his way of practicing meditation, I guess.

As for my friend Tony, his life has changed hugely since that Obon festival: he lost his wife of sixty years, Marge; he moved into a residential care facility, where he seems to be doing okay though arguably is a little lost (Marge was his north star); and he's had to give up cultivating bonsai.

I haven't gone to a bonsai show in a very long time, although now that I think about it, it is one of my favorite natural art forms. The Obon Festival is coming up again in late July. Maybe it's time for another visit. I'll take Tony and my dad with me in my thoughts. Or . . . maybe Tony would like to go in the flesh. I'll have to get in touch with him and find out.

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