A Word or Two from the Sensei

A word or two from the Sensei:

“I turn to simplicity; I turn again to purity.”
—– Genghis Khan, 1221 AD

Yes, friends…. Even the Great Khan ( whose methods and politics many in our Club still revere) wished for rest and quiet in his last years. And, my fondest desire was to follow old GK into the peaceful Gardens of Tranquility, where only an occasional veiled dancing girl would provide a counterpoint to the contemplative mood……. But, then I went to the ABC meeting on the fateful Saturday, June 6, and I was confronted by a crazed gaggle of new members demanding with a desperate fervor to be shown the mysteries of bonsai. I shuddered…… like a poodle passing a peach pit.

So, ye new folk, abandon all hope and enter this beautiful world with its surpassingly strange participants. You have, to your probable dismay, wasted your money on dues, and now, for good or ill, you’re thrust into a world beyond your ken. Let the following serve as an incomplete introduction to this world.

Those of you who are completely new to the art have a distinct advantage— you don’t have to unlearn any of the B.S. that floats through the bonsai world all too often. Enjoy your Beginners Mind while you can.

First, get a book or two and try to absorb the most basic ideas. The book I like is by Yuji Yoshimura and Giovanna Halford, now called “The Art of Bonsai”. You can get it cheaply used thru Amazon— Unless you’re a collector, why not buy used books that you can beat up??. Note that it used to be called “The Japanese Art of Miniature Trees and Landscapes”— same book. The other great book is John Naka’s “Bonsai Techniques, Vols. 1&2”. These are wonderful books, but are relatively expensive, especially when autographed. If you’re working on the cheap, the Sunset and Ortho paper bounds are very decent, and are almost free on the used mkt. Remember that the club has an extensive library, which Burt quixotically brings to each regular meeting.

The internet is a vast mixed bag. I like a Brit named Graham Potter, who has numerous lessons on many topics. He works on especially good material, which will give you a sense of our main problem, which is the lack of good bonsai material UNLESS you are willing/able to collect. The other guy, who is a part of a New Wave of young hakajin who have been well-trained, is Ryan Neal. We will give you other suggestions as we go.

In terms of supplies, keep it simple at first, unless you are rolling in $$ and have a need to go ape-crap to disguise your insecurities. A decent pointed-nose trimmer, a wire cutter, and maybe a heavier pruning shears will get you going—- all available at Wal-Mart. Check and see what the old fools are using at the workshop— we’ll spend some time this Sat on the subject.

Wire for training is important, and not many el cheapo alternatives are available, unless you are among those fine citizens of our State who steal copper, Years ago, copper was the standard, but in the 70’s, anodized aluminum almost totally replaced it. Annealed copper is still the best, but is a lot harder to work with unless you have King Kong hands. Many of us buy aluminum wire from Dallas Bonsai Gardens, who always seem to have the best prices. It’s a helluva lot cheaper in bulk, so maybe we’ll try to make a buy and share. I have a lot of wire, if you need some to do your workshop material.

Remember that most any woody trunked, small leaved material is usable as bonsai stock. Junipers are best to start, though some of you will want to use tropicals that you can keep indoors. I’m not a tropical fan, but the principles are about the same. We’ll teach you what to look for in material— a matter of primary importance.

In NM, it is of paramount significance that you work to provide an environment favorable to the cultivation of your trees. Just about everything that bonsai don’t like is the weather norm here— dry air, strong winds, intense sun, abrupt temperature change, lousy water, etc., etc., etc. If you are unable to negate most of these problems, you will lose interest and go back to your old hobby of psycho-active drugs. There are NO bonsai prodigies— everyone is a geek for a year-or-two, at least. But if you can’t keep plants alive and happy, you’ll have to settle for being a viewer/appreciator, rather than a participant. I cannot stress this enough!! When you see Connie’s yard, you’ll understand what I mean.

Since I’m going to be in Santa Fe later this week sponging off Richard and Susan, I won’t send out any further workshop notices— unless I can get Boy George to do it. The workshop is free, though I strongly suggest that you tithe according to your quarterly gross income in order to curry my favor. Any freewill offering you choose to make will pay my gas and lavish lunch. Bonsai — like much else– is in danger of becoming the province of those who “fart against the silk”, as my Dad used to say. Money is screwing up a lot of stuff—- let’s resist that trend. Save your $$$ for material and pots— and your tithe.

Can you all figure out how to get to Queen Connie’s house??? Contact the web guy if you’ve paid your dues but didn’t get the e-mail version of this massive missive.  The crazy old broad has no internet, and has only recently purchased a propane-operated cell phone. I’m not much better, but maybe one of our Gear Geniuses can provide a map. The club bought some chairs, but if you have a portable folder, bring it. We may run out of room….

What else?? As a result of fast progress made by our earlier wave of beginners, I’ve rethought many of the teaching principles that I learned all those years ago. It seems to work well to just throw our beginners into the mix and let them start swimming. The old Zen proverb applies–” If you want to climb a high mountain, start at the top”. Who am I to argue……..

See you at Connie’s @ 9:00 am, 6/20/15. Show no mercy!!!!