Do you have a desire to leave a legacy? I don’t mean a legacy of grand statues or tomes written about your accomplishments; I mean something beautiful you pass on to the next generation. Well, why not in the form of a miniature, perfect tree? Here’s how the ancient art of bonsai can bring us closer to the moments that matter and keep us connected to the world for hundreds of years!

Time often feels like it’s slipping right through our fingers, but could a tiny tree help us slow it down? This ancient practice gives us a whole new view on the way that time passes, as it’s captured carefully by the tree’s branches for generations!

Image: Large bonsai

Source: Pixabay

Leaving a Legacy in Trees!

If you’ve ever had a houseplant handed down to you from a loved one, then you know how special these living memorials can be. Each plant is who it is because of the care and time of the person who tended to it before, and now, every new growth is because of you!

These heirloom plants connect us to time, to the lives that came before us and who will come after us. All those stories in the leaves of a beloved plant.

The ancient art of bonsai brings this notion to a whole new level, requiring meticulous care in order to create the perfect tree, just in miniature form.

The fun thing is, depending on the bonsai you’re looking at, you could be admiring hundreds, if not thousands, of years of continuous human care!

Every twist and turn that makes these tiny trees who they are has been carefully crafted by loving hands and decades of time.

For Chiako Yamamoto, the first and only female master of bonsai, her most prized bonsai was collected from the mountains by her grandfather and has already lived over 100 years! It’s now with Chiako and because of her care, will go on to outlive her, too. Talk about a new definition of “family tree”!

Caring for these miniature trees isn’t just a connection to the past for Chiako, but to her future, and more importantly, her present. They’re a powerful way to mark time and rethink how we each want to spend our own.

BBC caught up with Chiako to learn more about her ancient work and what has brought her to dedicate her entire life to the lives of these tiny trees! It’s an absolutely beautiful video. You don’t want to go on with the rest of your day without meeting Chiako!

Find more from BBC Earth Unplugged by visiting their YouTube channel!

(Pssst.. if you were curious about that brush, it’s used to clean off the dirt and debris from the tree!)

A living connection to your past!

How amazing is her family’s tree?! Can you imagine being responsible for something so important?

I now have a 35+ year old schefflera in my apartment that my dad has had since before I was born, and there isn’t a plant in my collection that I care about more than this one. I’m already feeling the pressure to keep it alive and healthy, but can you imagine if you were handed down your family’s 100+ year old tree? Whew! Now, that isn’t stressful at all.

But this is about way more than the plants themselves…

Our time here is limited—100 years, if we’re lucky—but these tiny trees are able to help us slow that down. In order to give them the care that they require to live on, we have to stop and tend to them, carefully examining their growth and snipping back a few bits so that they can become even stronger.

It’s hard not to apply those same actions in your own life while you’re doing this. What can you prune back? What would make you feel more rooted and strong? How can you feel more vivacious and get the nutrients you need?

If anything, bonsai show us that good things take time.

Growth and healing don’t happen overnight, but from years and years of care. It’s in this way that bonsai most capture humanity, in my opinion, for every bend in their branches are physical representations of our actions. It’s our living story that we can hand down.

If you started raising a bonsai right now, who do you think would have it in 100 years? What would it look like? As always, dear friend, stay open to new possibilities.

  • Sam

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  1. BBC Earth Unplugged. “Bonsai: The Endless Ritual | Extraordinary Rituals | Earth Unplugged.” YouTube, 21 Aug. 2018, Accessed 17 Dec. 2020.

Sam has written and edited hundreds of articles since joining the EWC team in 2016. She writes about topics from the wonders of nature to the organizations changing the world and the simple joys in life! Outside of the EWC office, she’s a part-time printmaker, collector of knick-knacks, and taster of cheeses.