WHO DO YOU TOUCH> Last week, Mary's mother passed away after a long illness. In circumstances such as this we often spend a good bit of time reflecting on our own mortality as well as that of the departed. One of the lessons of bonsai is that it is the nature of life to have a beginning, a period of growth and improvement, and a conclusion. Not too many years ago, the United States was an agricultural society. The citizens of those days were immersed in the cycles of nature to a much greater degree than we are today. Growing bonsai has the side benefit of reminding us of the biological rules which govern our lives. These rules seem to be overlooked as we live out our lives in a society that is so heavily based on technology.
An additional attraction to the art of bonsai is that it fosters the natural instinct we have to admire age and experience that has endured, if not conquered, adversity. The potentially long life of our bonsai is appealing. In bonsai there is the opportunity for each of us to extend our own existence by leaving behind things of beauty that will live long after ourselves and give enjoyment to those who follow.
Mary's mother gave me my first bonsai, a "Boulevard" chamaecyparis, for Christmas 25 years ago. It still lives, happy and healthy, in the same pot in which it was received. Offspring from that tree are now in the hands of others all over the eastern United States. Two of the best bonsai in my collection are descendants of that first bonsai and share the bench with their source. The gift was an event of little lasting consequence to Mrs. Becker. However, my life in the subsequent 25 years has been unalterably changed. The gift opened a world of enjoyment to me that would probably never have been revealed to me otherwise. All of my bonsai activities since that first Christmas can be traced back to the unexpected gift from that fine lady. Mrs. Becker's life touched many in ways far more significant than her gift to me. I'm sure that she had no idea of the consequences her gift would have. In our lives, it is often the little thing, the small event, that reverberates far beyond our imagining at the time. Many times we are never aware of the results of our actions. Although she is no longer with us, the ripples Mary's mother made on life's pond will spread for years to come. We should all be so lucky. Who have you touched?
reprinted from the December, 1995, issue of the Central Virginia Bonsai Society Newsletter
The Adams' Bonsai web site is dedicated to the honor of the three individuals whose connection led to my involvement with the wonderful world of bonsai. Rowena D. Becker, my mother-in-law, started me down this path with a Christmas gift bonsai in 1970. The source of this bonsai was the garden of Mrs. Becker's friends, Jane and deShields Henley. Mrs. B. and Shields have passed on. Jane lives in a retirement facility in Newport News, VA.
ROWENA D. BECKER
JANE HENLEY and H. deSHIELDS HENLEY
Jane and Shields were founding members of the Virginia Bonsai Society in Norfolk, VA. They were among the very first practioners of bonsai art in the eastern United States. Mrs. Becker was friendly with the Henleys through mutual horticultural interests. She persuaded them to sell her the small bonsai that was given to me the Christmas before Mary and I were married. My total lack of knowledge led me to seek out the Henleys for guidance in keeping the tree alive. Both were tolerant of my ignorance and graciously allowed me to visit and dream among their private collection of bonsai. Whenever my family visited the in-laws, at least one visit to the Henley bonsai collection was always on the schedule. At their invitation, I attended a Saturday lecture/demonstration and workshop at their club. A young man in his early twenties named Bill Valavanis did a great program on literati. This was my first bit of formal bonsai training. Over the years the Henleys became close friends and benefactors, seldom letting me leave their home without a new plant of some sort to work with in my own garden. Many of my propagation skills were acquired from their teaching. When advancing age and illness necessitated the downsizing of their collection, many of their finer trees were auctioned to assist in the construction of the Japanese pavilion at the US National Arboretum. These two fine people are among the foundation stones of bonsai in the US. Unfortunately, Shields passed away several years ago. Jane and I remain in contact though separated by 200 miles