Appreciating Life Through Death

Grim Reaper lurks through the bonsai garden.

Today is Monday May 29th 2017. It is Memorial Day in America, a federal holiday to remember the men and women that died who served in the armed forces.   It’s interesting that just minutes before I started writing this, that I just made that connection.  Since today I’m not working, I usually have time to do other leisurely things such as blogging.  I wanted to make this post today because I now have a little bit of time, however, I have been thinking about making this post for about a month now.  Appropriately enough, it’s Memorial Day which makes this subject even more fitting.  Many brave men and women died in service to protect what we enjoy (sometimes casually) living in America in the form of  freedom, security, and peace.  I truly appreciate this and will not take it for granted.


As much as I would prefer not to talk about death, I’m compelled to bring this up on my blog because of the many signs and occurrences that has happened in just the last month(month and half)  that the subject of death has come to the forefront of my thoughts.  As morbid it may sound especially during the height of Spring, there is a bright lesson to be learned from this and I promise if you stay with me, I will try to enlighten you.


After a wet and cold winter, spring is now in full swing in the Pacific Northwest.  We are surrounded by many bright and beautiful flowers in bloom and trees filling their bare branches with vibrant green and red leaves and needles too.  We’ve just had a couple of 80 plus degree days and today will be another fair day after the clouds clear.  Life is vibrant!  My bonsai trees are pushing growth and most of them are doing well.  Except for a couple trees that unfortunately did not make or barely making it.  In fact one is dead and it’s one that I have admired  and treasured for at least 19 years.  Talking about your dead bonsai tree is not something that most bonsai bloggers will probably bring up, but as embarrassing as this may sound,  I do kill trees once in a while.  This particular one I’ve written about a couple of times.  The tree’s declining health seemed to start last year, after restyling the tree, that following spring, branches died back and continue to get weaker until this winter when it appeared the tree could not recover from the winter.   I always talk about making sure trees should be healthy before working on it and this tree have shown no signs of weakness.  The tree seemed to be healthy at the time  looking back at it now,  I should have repotted the tree first and waited 2 years before major restyling.  At first I thought it was needle cast that started it and I applied the appropriate chemical to remedy it but that did not help.  Watering issue? I adjusted my watering but that did not help.  Ultimately I think it was a root issue, even though I did a quick remedy to move the tree in a slightly bigger box with pumice without disturbing the root too much.  The tree was too far gone that I could not resuscitate it.  What I think happen was that when I have been repotting it in the past, I have left some of the old soil near the nebari ( root base),  I should have removed all of the old soil and replaced it with good bonsai soil.  After years of that old soil there, it rot some of the roots and choked the tree eventually.

With this tree dying on me, I was very sad obviously but I have accepted the fact that sometimes trees die in my lifetime caring for them.  In fact I’ve killed more than I want to admit here, but the point is trees are mortal beings too.   Coincidentally while mourning the death of my precious tree, I have attended at least two funerals in the last month.  And just recently a close friend’s wife just recently past away from cancer.   Which also reminded me of my own mom who past away from cancer 7 years ago 2days before my birthday in April (also in Spring).


Making sense of death  in the middle of being surrounded by the beauty of Spring was somewhat confusing at moment until my older daughter called me one day while taking a break at school and told me that she was thinking about a friend.  Unbeknown to her, that day, her friend’s mom past away (she found out later via social media).  During our phone conversation we both concluded that the only solace we can derive from all this is that we only have a short time on this planet and that we need to make an effort to make a difference everyday.  In other words we need to make our lives matter.  That may mean putting our whole heart in to what we do, or  listening, loving, and being present when we are with our love ones or creating a foundation to feed millions of poor people.  Whatever you may put your heart into.  Death is a reminder that we are mortals and our time is but a very short  existence.  If I was more mindful of my dead tree sooner, it may still be alive today but rather than regretting the things I’ve not done, I will take this opportunity to use the death of that tree to remind us of a very epic life lesson.  We must appreciate life like we appreciate the flowers and beauty of Spring knowing that those flowers will only last so long.  Brighten someone’s life  as do flowers bring the same smile to someone.





I found this Scythe at a state sale just recently I just like it because it’s old and it was used for farming back then.  I also did not make any connection that this also has become the symbol of death with the Grim Reaper. 

Published by tony bonsaiko

My little trees are my daily reminders of our grand connection to this beautiful and mysterious universe.

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