Some of my most incredible memories of China, and there are many, are of the gardens. This last trip seeing the gardens of Suzhou and Hangzhou were beyond words. Ancient bonsai, exquisite flowers, rock sculptures, and tranquil water features. In fact, every tree in that country seems perfectly trained into a work of art. Chinese gardeners apply the same rules of balance to their standard trees and shrubs as they do to their miniaturized trees. This fall Judith and I finally resolved to take a bonsai class to start imitating what we observed in our own gardens.
The class we took recently at Wigert’s Bonsai in Fort Myers, FL is known as tropical bonsai. (The unique growth habits of tropical trees have inspired new styles and compositions.) When selecting my tree, two small Fukien Tea trees jumped out at me. One, more rounded with tiny leaves and ample flowers felt Yin to me, while the other was more angular with larger leaves thus exuding Yang energy. I felt they wanted to be together in a composition; a dance between Yin and Yang at the center of all creation. This balance between these primal forces was also at the heart of the book I am currently working on on Daoist sexuality. In working with them every day, the trees would teach me this dance. Our teacher was not impressed, as this did not conform to traditional Japanese standards, but he allowed it.
The instruction was sound and easy to apply, but I felt stifled by the seriousness in the room. Judith was unaffected. An artist in all mediums (sewing, upholstry, cooking, decorating, gardening); she took to bonsai immediately. She selected an ordinary little Tiger Bark ficus and set about transforming it into an adorable tree. I followed her lead and just focused on my work.