The Night.

My favorite time in The Nook. Early morning is nice, with the fresh air and birdsong. Afternoon can be a bear, especially in the summer. If it’s not raining, the 100% humidity can be stifling.

I can relax in the cool air of a Florida evening, the night breeze brings with it the smells of green, and night blooming flowers. When the sun goes down we can lose 20° F of temperature. That’s like 6-7° C.

Not good in the winter so much, unless you have a warm fire, a fine scotch, and some marshmallows to roast, but when the temps are high, the night air cools the head and brings relief. I’ve been working hard recently getting trees repotted that have desperately needed it, moving and building benches, wiring, pruning, fertilizing, weeding trees.

This Pause we are in has given me time. A pause in time. That’s mostly what I have. Time with my thoughts.

Fortunately I have my trees to distract me from my thoughts.

This is a gumbo limbo. I’ve been looking at it, watching it. Letting it’s spirit enter my subconscious.

It was a cutting, off a big tree in Puerto Rico, or maybe storm fall. Rooted by Pedro Morales, then it came into Erik Wigert’s nursery.

Erik used to hold amazing open houses where he would have demonstrations by local and international artists, workshops, vendors, raffles, and for a few years, even banquets catered by the best chef in bonsai (and a damn good bonsai artist too) Jason Osborne.

I was a demonstrator and presenter for many years, Erik and I were close, and I took this tree as payment one of those years. It made at least one appearance in the blog, an ensemble piece from 2012. It was one of three trees.

Of the other two trees from that post, oddly, one is dead, the other has rotted so much it’s unrecognizable from all those years ago.

This tree has done well though.

It was a long road from the original styling to here.

But it’s developing about the way I wanted it. Not exactly as the original vision, but close enough. In eight years a man can change. And a tree. A tree has its own ideas, and sometimes it’s we who get changed the most after the work is done, not the tree.

Gumbo limbos are a “near” succulent. The new branching especially. Like celery. Wiring can be a challenge. And they are spectacularly drought tolerant. But they do lignify, they are a tree, in case you are a bit of a conservative. They grow so large and get woody so much so that they used to carve carousel horses from their wood. There’s a certain humor in a tree named gumbo limbo being used on an amusement park ride where you go up and down, or high and low.

How low can you go?

When I was a boy, a teenager really, I was walking home and got jumped by two kids. I lived in a tough area. At the time, I worked at a golf course as a bag room attendant. I started as a caddy (I was a good caddy too, I could carry the biggest and heaviest bags, suggest clubs, find lost golf balls and I even knew how to hold the pin properly for the golfers as they chipped onto the green), and worked up to the bag room.

I was in charge of organizing the storage of the bags, making sure the clubs and shoes were cleaned when they came in, I parked and plugged in the golf carts at night, made sure the driving range was picked up through the day. I even ran the register at times in the pro shop.

The golf pro was an older guy named Tom Oteri. He drove a big old Cadillac, had demeanor of times gone by, maybe of an old mob associate. Not an enforcer but maybe a cousin or accountant. He was a good man though.

At the time of my fight, there was another guy who worked in the pro shop. I don’t remember his name, but I think he was a drifter. Skinny, wiry, well tanned and well worn face. Short sides and an almost James Dean swoosh you the too. When I went in the next day, and he heard of the fight, he took me aside and began to teach me some things about self-defense. He drove me around the golf course, we visited the groundskeepers building, the cart building. After work, we went up to the Nineteenth hole, he bought me my very first club sandwich, and tried his best to cheer me up.

It was a rough time for me, my father in law was sick and wouldn’t live much longer after that day. I was not doing well in school, was thinking of quitting the job, quitting baseball. It was not a good time.

And this man, who didn’t even know me much, except as a bag boy in a mid range private country club on the border of Brockton and Easton, Massachusetts and took the afternoon to cheer me up. To share his life experiences, and street wisdom (it was him that taught me to put the smaller bills on the outside of a money roll, to make people think you have less money than you have, and therefore less likely to get jumped).

I learned a lot that day, the day after my fight, but I don’t remember much more about him. I’m not sure he was even there ever again. Like I said, he was a drifter.

What was his name? Where did he go?

I think back often on days like that. I try to see them from a different view, a different angle.

Life isn’t about straight paths. Paul McCartney wrote a song, “The Long and Winding Road” that talks about life (try to get a copy without the orchestra, maybe just a guitar or piano accompaniment. Phil Spector ruined the song with that treacle). Being a McCartney song, it is a simple love song, but most songs are.

It could be said that it’s only at night that we can see the furthest. Stars are only visible at night, when the sun goes down. But what we are really only seeing is the past. The light of a star takes years, sometimes thousands of years, to reach us. That star we wish upon may have burned out yesterday, but we won’t know it for a hundred years. The tree, in all its dramatic movement and shadowy artsy fartsy-ness.

The pot is a Sarah Raynor container. I think the shape adds to the gracefulness of the trees design.

Maybe all we need is to be out in the night, taking the time to sit and enjoy a beer, or a coffee, or whatever, without the TV blaring its incessant noise of talking heads and their continuous flapping of gums just to fill the silence.

Just sitting, looking at my trees, helps calm the brain.

I mentioned Shakespeare in the last post. Something about making up words. I’ll quote him now.

 “…..a tale 
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, 
Signifying nothing..”

7 thoughts

  1. This is the only bonsai blog (or blog in general) that I consistently find my attention actually captured by the dialogue and not simply skimming through paragraphs quickly to focus meticulously on the images. Especially in these days of social isolation the service you provide with this blog for free, at a personal cost to you even, is an immeasurable one. It may sound a bit sappy but I’m truly grateful and know there are many other readers that feel the same way.

    Thanks for all the education, entertainment, and escape.


  2. Sean! You took the words out of my mouth.
    Keep up the good work Adam.
    This is the first time I leave any comments on any blog , even though I have been following this one for a while.
    Adam you gave me a courage and inspiration to try to make my first bonsai.
    Thank you!



  3. I share Sean’s sentiments. Thanks for the hyperlinks too to prior posts about current trees — following progressions through time is really helpful for me.


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