Or, as we say in the West,

“Once upon a time….”

The title is how they begin fairy tales in Korea. Is this post a fairy tale? Or the beginning of one? Maybe that old song (some say it’s the oldest song) is correct when you sing,

“Row row row your boat

Gently down the stream

Merrily merrily merrily merrily

Life is but a dream…”

And it could be a dream, a fevered, or a gentle, or just a plain weird, dream, confusing when we wake, if we do, flying or running in slow motion, the words squirming, and changing as you try to read the headline.

Back when tigers used to smoke….

Get your gloves on, it’s time to work! Time to ring in a New Year, and start fresh.

Who’s a fellow traveler? Release those partisan prejudices, see each moment, though you’ve done the same thing a thousand times, had your morning coffee, tied your boots, brushed your teeth, as something never done before. Because you haven’t done it before. They all seem the same but none of these moments looks like the other. Rebirth, after a flaming exit, like the Florida crepe myrtle, damn the fire hurts the eyes. Click on it, zoom in. That’s the promise of next year, that scarlet brush stroke, like a gout.

Here’s a tree. Ficus salicaria, var “89”

So called because it froze back in the last century, year 1989, and either sported or reverted to a different leaf size than the previous willow leaf ficus we had known before.

And here is how it was in the previous post back in July:

And it’s amazing where new shoots will grow. Ficus will take over the world, they represent some of the biggest trees by mass on the planet. And, by sheer number, they definitely are the most represented, both by species and individuals. One could argue that all other trees should try a little harder, or give up the identifier: “tree”

Sometimes looking at a tree, especially with so many branches, it’s easy to become intimidated and you get possessed by

“Paralysis by Analysis”

as the owner of this tree, Doug, calls it.

So what do you do? Where do you start? The question is best answered by that old philosophical adage “How do you eat an elephant?”

The answer is “one bite at a time”.

That’s how you get past the “analysis paralysis”. Start with one branch, and start snipping.

Get rid of the odd branches, the duplicates, those going up, or down, or sideways.

Like here: we don’t need five branches in the same general area.

Those growing on the insides of the curves.

The hard choices will come later. Go back to basics. Again, we don’t need five shoots in this one spot (along the chop).

Another basic principle to help you eat that elephant: create taper. Below, the branch is as long as it should be (ultimately) but it’s all the same thickness, so the branch gets chopped. Don’t be afraid, as you’ve seen, it grows back.

This branch below really shows how chopping created taper.

Thick to thin, in incremental chops.

Below, a good start on taper…

But…

….too long here.

Chop!! (It might still be too long, let’s go back to it)

Chop!

Let’s move to the top, good growth, but, again….no taper.

Chop!

The aftermath of just covering those two basic ideas, all over the ground.

Before wiring. Doug channeling his inner neighbor Wilson look.

Putting Doug (otherwise known as The Hippie Dad) hard to work.

After wiring, the idea is to make the movement look like the way a tree naturally grows.

Easier said than done.

There are so many people that think you can learn the Art of Bonsai (capitalized of course) just by looking at bonsai trees.

Nope. Look to nature, to Van Gogh paintings, to electrical diagrams, sit in the rain and watch lightening rip the humid afternoon sky.

For natural looking branches, you gotta study tree pics in winter silhouette, tree roots, river deltas, or how the lungs or circulatory systems flow through your body. Branches grow in the same way that liquids move. It’s more efficient and nature is nothing if it’s not efficient.

Watch: the branch is almost straight….

The movement goes toward the main flow first and then away, at a shallow angle outward.

More movement.

And done. The tiger has finished his cigar and we are ready for Miller Time.

The elephant is eaten.

For now.

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