From the nursery I returned with what one day I would eventually portray as an elegant, pine green Juniper Bonsai. However, at the time, the tree did not bring me an ounce of joy, as all that was on my mind was the passing of my first and only dog, Leo, a brown Teacup Labrador. I scraped my fingertips across its dark, needle-like foliage and traversed my hand around its twisted, dark red trunk wondering why the bonsai was treasured by so many. Was it not simply a miniature tree? Why would people value a plant which mimicked any ole’ full-scale tree? As a reminisced on these thoughts, it struck me how one could have perceived Leo as just a dwarfed dog, bred to resemble a full-grown Labrador, yet to me he was everything. Thus, I cherished the tininess of the tree, and this quickly grew to be my favorite aspect of the Juniper Bonsai.
As I arrived home, my mother brought to my attention the sensitivity of the plant and how it required a great deal of care, similar to Leo. However, this did not resonate with me too well, as I had Leo as a companion for the earlier days of my childhood and was hardly the one to feed him and fill his water bowl. At the conclusion of the first week of owning the Bonsai tree, it was evident I lacked the adequate guardianship characteristics needed to successfully nurture the tree. The prickly foliage started to transition to a yellowish hue with faint black specs emerging. Although the importance of the plant was still absent from myself, I could not bear to experience another loss in such a short period of time. At that moment, I decided to take the initiative to nurture the tree and build it up to be as magnificent as Leo was.
Undergoing this revelation, I started a bond with the Juniper Bonsai, to which I deemed it necessary to name the plant. Thus, I named my Juniper Bonsai tree Leah. Every morning I would awake to tend to the needs of Leah. I would observe the dark, rich soil in which she was rooted to ensure she had received enough water to grow to be mighty, but not an excessive amount as to hurt her. After getting dressed for school, I would bring Leah down to the kitchen to accompany my mother and I for breakfast. During which I would attentively watch the weather forecast on the television to make certain the conditions were suitable for Leah. She was delicate and could not withstand breezy or rainy days. However, I had to make sure she received enough sunlight for her extensive roots and twisted trunk to thicken, and her dark, prickly crown to expand. Thus, she would reside in my backyard when the weather permitted until the end of the school day came and we were reunited. Furthermore, I would coat the upper layer of the soil with fertilizer once every three months to provide Leah with the nutrients she needed to thrive. As time progressed, it seemed as if Leah filled the void in my heart that Leo had left behind. The meticulous nurturing of the tree resulted in her doubling in size over the course of a year, to the point where Leah had overgrown the boundaries of the clay pot. Therefore, I was required to prune the majestic Bonsai tree and relocate her to reside in a larger pot.
Over the course of one year, it seemed as if the nurturing I had invested into Leah had caused her to become an extension of myself. In essence she had become my kin, as I obsessed over her well-being and stressed over the state of her development day after day. Leah had taught me the discipline, attentiveness, and patience necessary to care for another. As a result, I wished I had done a better job of caring for Leo with my improved knowledge and perspective. Upon graduating high school and heading off to college, I gave the Bonsai tree to my mother as a token of appreciation for the care and nurturing she invested in me. Through Leah, I had learned the significance of the efforts essential to raise kin and was able to appreciate all my mother had done for me. To this day, Leah the Bonsai Tree rests on my mother’s kitchen table.
Author: Matthew Leehan.