Tony and I were both into bonsai- I blogged very briefly in the Before.
For my 25th birthday, a month after we met, my future husband bought me a tiny bonsai made from Swarosvki crystal, and I still have it… it’s one of my favorite possessions, one of the few material things I truly cherish.
I had two bonsai when we met, tiny ones that I kept inside, on the window sill of my little shoebox flat. I tended to them with ridiculous amounts of care, water and fish fertilizer.
Tony had been the owner of many bonsai in the years past- and had the photos to prove it- but had only one remaining- a huge, glorious fig tree that he’d been pruning, repotting and caring for for the last fifteen years.
|Tony’s fig before….
When we moved in together, all our bonsais came too. Mine two tiny ones- a white cypress and a tree of a thousand stars- both died, as did the trident maple I bought for Tony on our first Valentine’s Day together. But the fig never showed the slightest sign of ill health, and the cuttings we took from it flourished. I still have three of them now, as well as the original fig, which is somewhere around twenty years old. Two of those cuttings are growing to be full size figs, and I think I’ll plant them in the backyard here at the Tiny Train House. The other one is another bonsai, crafted to grow over a rock from Tony’s discarded fishtank. It’s beautiful. Tony was excessively patient and good at growing things, but bonsai still seemed a strangely feminine hobby for such a big bloke.
When he died, there were a lot of people who seemed eager to take Tony’s big, old, gnarled bonsai off my hands. I wasn’t sure if they were worried I’d kill it with kindness, or own purpose; or if I’d just get rid of the bloody thing altogether. The thought of someone else taking care of it distressed me- I had watched Tony and his cruel-to-be-kind bonsai technique for the last four or five years now. I could take care of this plant.
‘Taking care of’ the bonsai really meant no more than watering it every few days and preying like crazy every time I moved it. This fig tree was a work of art and had been one of Tony’s most treasured possessions… I had joked, only half joking, many times, that if I killed it, he’d haunt me.
Maybe he still will.
It’s beyond time for the bonsai to be cut back. I noticed a few days ago that the thick, malleable wire Tony has used to train the bonsai’s limbs was beginning to cut into the flesh of the bark, scar the tree’s limbs. As I remove it, I wonder… when had this been put on? Just days before Tony died…? I think so.
I get out my secateurs and take a deep breath, saying a small prayer to the garden gods or my husband or whoever. Then I prune this damn plant the same way my husband would have.
|…. and after I hack it.
I hack it to pieces.
When I’m done it looks bare- not as bare as Tony would have left it, but as napalmed as I’m prepared to go right now. I’m not really expecting it to die… I think I know enough about cutting plants to have left it enough to grow with, but who knows. If recent luck is anything to go by, the fig will wilt and harden and all I’ll be left with is a stick.
But it’s been four days and it’s not dead yet, so you never know. I’ll keep you posted.