This weekend was supposed to be a ‘quiet trip,’ where I spent my days sequestered in a little cabin by the sea, the smell of horse filling my nostrils and a plate of hardboiled eggs and hot tea at my side. I would write. Read. Watercolor (badly). Well, those things may well come to pass, but in true form I have stacked the trip with much adventuring, so the journey will be peppered with chowder, wine, beer, a hippie hot spring and some sweet seaside hikes and bikes. All in balance.
I took today off to prepare, and instead found myself doing the very things I had planned to do in a more placid setting. This piece isn’t finished, but it’s coming along well. Perhaps I’ll finish it up in a chicken coop.
Kerry’s thighs were stuck to the bottom of the plastic-wrapped kitchen chair. Sweat rolled down the backs of her knees and pooled in the divots of her ankles. She sat across the table from Michael and watched him with the attention of pupil to master, staring, hands cradling her face, cigarette ash dropping onto the foldout table and leaving brown scars ringed in yellow.
He’d been at it since 7a.m. He’d poured his own cereal and gotten to work before she could finish pouring water into the coffee machine. The pits of his grey t-shirt were soaked though, and his long curls were stuck to his ears, chin, and lips. Scarlet streaked his chubby Irish cheeks, and she had to remind him every few minutes to put his face in front of the steel fan. He smelled like what she’d made him for dinner the night before – a slapdash of spaghetti, garlic, parmesan, herbs and vegetable oil that they dubbed “Pasta a la Mom.”
There was a rhythm to his work. Circle the table. Sway, snip, look closely, survey from a distance. She’d never seen a plant sit still, like it was having its portrait painted. Rigid, stout, and small…tiny! It sat in a glazed ceramic pot, its soil hidden by pond rocks that she had seen in the aquarium section of pet stores. She had learned a lesson early on regarding proper nomenclature when referencing her son’s greatest treasure.
“It’s not a plant, mom. It’s a tree. The method is called ‘bonsai.’”
It was indeed a tree. One trunk with four branches that broke into dozens of thorny green poufs. Immaculate and timeless, thanks to his incessant pruning and observation.
The plant had come into their lives on an April afternoon in Chinatown. Michael had been 1/16th of an undulating red dragon in his elementary school’s Chinese New year celebration, and they had been walking post-parade through trinket shops while he gathered clumps of trampled confetti from the sidewalk. She thought she’d take him to a place that had samurai swords and ninja gear, while echoes of her father told her it would ‘toughen him up.” Instead he had spotted a shelf near the shop window lined with miniature trickling fountains, zen sand gardens, and three bonsai. Later, as he scoured websites about the proper care of his new purchase, she watched The Karate Kid.
She knew every rule of bonsai care.