The Rest Of The Story?by Will HeathBonsai and photograph by Colin Lewis
There I was, staring intently at what was most likely the best example of a rugged, windswept Black Pine that I had ever seen. The tree looked ancient, the bark had deep fissures, the trunk swept back in a jagged curve displaying jin and shari in all the right places, the branches mirrored the trunk to show that they had endured the same harsh conditions that the rest of the tree had, and the foliage was sparse where it should have been, the foliage of a survivor and not like many other examples that show the foliage of a tree that has never seen a worry. In every way this tree told the story of a mountain pine growing in harsh conditions on a crag where only a few life forms could etch out a life.
Then my eyes traveled to the soil surface that was covered with the richest green carpet of moss I have ever seen. The moss was immaculate in every detail, obviously well groomed, trimmed and watered. The moss was carefully, expertly laid down with great care taken to filter fines between each piece and all troweled into perfect position.
The image, the story, the tale so well told by the tree, was stolen from me. The logical side of my brain started asking questions. How is it that the tree shows so well the environment it survived in while the moss or the grass it represents seems to never had seen a bad day in it's life? How is it possible that the elements of wind, drought, and time had no effect on the ground and such remarkable effect on the tree?
Would not a simple top layer of jagged gravel have completed the story better? Larger jagged pieces of stone? Maybe a sparse outcropping of moss in one or two single places with a touch of withered brown would have been more in line with the tale being told?
Are we so obsessed with the tree alone that we forget that there is more than one chapter to a story? Have we forgotten that between the pot and the tree there is an space that needs attention in single specimens and not just in penjing?