The Fool Takes Flight

Jaded /ˈjādəd/ [Adjective] – tired, bored, or lacking enthusiasm, typically after having had too much of something

Somewhere around two weeks ago marked the end of my first year of college. It also marks the end of what I can only describe as my almost year-long hiatus from taking care of my trees. To put it shortly, I’m back. And none of you ever knew I’d even left.

4 years ago I happened to stumble upon an AskReddit post talking about bonsai trees. Much to my surprise, it said that essentially every conception I had of what these tiny trees were was wrong. Apparently, bonsai trees didn’t come from bonsai seeds They could be nearly any tree in existence. They were not grown, they were shaped, artfully crafted over decades. Sometimes even centuries. And there was a community of people on Reddit dedicated solely to doing that very thing.

And for some reason, I thought this was the coolest thing I’d ever seen.

Fast-forward back to today. I’m back at home from school, back at home with my trees. At college, it never bothered me, but now that I’m back, I’ve been realizing just how much I’ve missed working on my bonsai. Along with this realization, I’ve sighed in relief. Part of me was afraid that upon coming home, my desire to return to working on my trees wouldn’t come with me. Over the past few years, my trees have become part of my identity- to lose my love for them would mean to lose part of myself. A part that I was particularly proud of. And yet, at the same time, it would feel worse, even wrong, to force myself to do work on them. I’d feel as if I was betraying myself, trying to live as who I’d once been, and not as who I had become. Acknowledging this fact only serves to make me happier, as my desire to care for my trees returns home with me.

It’s been this return that finally pushed me to starting writing this log. A few years ago, I’d had the chance to ask a rather prominent artist why he decided to get into bonsai professionally. Instead of answering directly, he gave me what he described as a piece of jaded advice.

“Don’t sell bonsai to feed your family.”

For whatever reason, this is something I’ve pondered over endlessly since hearing it. It may have something to do with the fact that, until today, I never thought to look up what exactly jaded means, and only had a vague idea. I really don’t think he meant for me to mull it over nearly as much as I have. But regardless of whether he meant it, it’s come to have a meaning to me deeper than face value. Don’t practice bonsai to feed your family. Don’t do it to become a renowned artist, or to impress others, or for anyone other than yourself. Practice bonsai because you want to. Plain and simple. And if fortune and fame and adoration happen to follow, then that’s just an added bonus. Isn’t it?

Or maybe selling bonsai is just a bad way to put food on the table, and I’m merely an armchair philosopher trying to find meaning where there is none to be found.

Writing about my trees has been something I’ve wanted to do for quite some time now, and is in no small part inspired by Adam Lavigne’s blog which I so enjoy reading. I want this to be a place for others to learn as I do. The site is named Dunning, Kruger, and Me, after the Dunning-Kruger effect. Wikipedia describes it as “the cognitive bias of illusory superiority […] in which people mistakenly assess their […] ability as greater than it is.” I chose it to serve as a constant reminder to myself that, as much as I think I know, there is always so much more that I don’t. There will always be more for me to learn.

If you’ve somehow managed to read this far, I appreciate it, and hope that you’ll be happy to know that this is the first and last post that doesn’t focus on the trees. It wouldn’t feel right not to have any trees in the inaugural post, so I’ll leave you with one from a couple years ago, the first I ever took of a tree I could say I was proud of.

A ficus salicaria purchased from Wigert’s Bonsai Nursery and styled by myself

Thank you for wanting to know more today than you did yesterday.

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