2019 was probably one of the toughest years of my life and the year I found that making friends was easier than keeping them. It was also the year too many people gave up on their passion for bonsai, some found other interests, some moved, and some became too ill to take care of their trees. I was honoured in all the above occasions to receive the phone call/message. During a conversation with another person discussing issues of “what happens to my trees when I can no longer look after them?”, this person replied, “well, I am not sorting out your sh!t too!”
It is a great honour for me, to be remembered; when people turn to me to help get rid of their trees or take over when someone has passed on.
I have had calls from people who are moving house and cannot take their trees. I have found gems amongst the neglect and yes, I have found the sheissen too!
So, when the call came from a friend’s wife that she did not have the capacity to look after his trees since he had passed on and that she would like me to have them, I felt so honoured. We had not been good friends in the sense that we visited regularly, but whenever we bumped into each other in a shop, we would always talk bonsai. We would discuss the latest soil fad, a new watering techniques or schedule sand ooh’ed and aah’ed about some or other artist (with a good dose of gossip too:-)
He was a tall, gentle man, with honest worker-hands. His eyes softened when I asked after his wife. I knew what his trees meant to him and how much pleasure he got out of them. I liked him, even though he always politely declined my invitation to join our club or to do a talk during one of our meetings.
The day I went to pick up his trees, his wife and I talked and talked a lot. I could see how difficult it was for her to part with this side of his life. After tea and cake (and Grappa – at 09h00 in the morning – it was something his dad needed), it was time to start loading the car. Papino said: “You come back. We finish this bottle!”
At first, we stopped at each tree and I started cutting run-away branches to get it all in the car. It was such a holy moment. We reflected on the style, what else could be done and I even related a story or two about some trees and their (sic) history. I was there when a “V” was cut into the baobab. I did not agree at the time and I walked away. I swear, I saw the panic in his eyes. Now, many years later, I can see it was a good move.
The “I-am-not-sorting-out-your-sh!t” moment hit me when his wife handed me his box of tools. What a privilege to share this intimate moment with someone who cares. His box was neat and ordered, (mine not!). His tools are mostly still in their original packaging (mine not!), they are clean, (mine not!)!
Do we know when we put our “toys” away, that it might be the last time? Do we pack our tools so that when someone comes to clear our sh!t, they don’t see the panic and tears and heartache and doubt and self-hate in our boxes?
When I look at his trees, there was not one weed in any pot. Did he know? Did he prepare? I am honoured and I know that she found consolation in the fact that “He knows they are in good hands!” May you find peace, my friend, and the heartache lessen with time!
But..who is going to sort my sh!t?