It Takes Time to Understand What Bonsai Is

Bonsai is a beautiful, complex process that can’t be taught or explained in 30 minutes or a visit. It’s an experience unfolding.

Recently, I had to explain how a program fit into my workflow at work. I wasted their time because I couldn’t cover everything from ingest to fully archived in my demo. There were too many components involved.

Then I thought about bonsai trees.

While I never cultivated my own bonsai tree, I learned that the end result, the bonsai tree, was a product of a long process involving several tools and techniques.

I knew a Japanese gardener who had a nursery in LA — no, he wasn’t Mr. Miyagi. I asked him if I could interview him about making bonsai trees for a biology presentation. He declined the interview.

“To understand how these were created, it is best to see it unfold over time, ” he said. And so, I visited his shop from time to time to see what unfolded.

From that experience I realized there was more to what he did than what I could explain to a class. The class would have to experience what I experienced (to see transformation of source material into bonsai) over a period of weeks — not in one presentation and not in one field trip.

In his shop I saw nothing but beautifully executed, tiny trees but his garden out back was filled with hundreds of pots and source specimens used for grafting and root cutting.

It was then I realized that learning about people or things takes time.

My next step in this journey is that when I have the opportunity to explain a complex process, I’ll schedule a series of demonstrations to explain a process unfolding & have tea with them — like the gardener.