Some Dreams of Bonsai

"Your dreams can be interpreted as dramas, perhaps, but never as diagrams."
(Seth, pg. 161 in Roberts, Jane  The Nature of the Psyche; Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.; 1979.)

In other words, you can use prose and poetry, song and music,
dance and gymnastics, sculpture and painting,
classical cultural references or profoundly personal and private experiences
to start to interpret a dream memory
for its multi-dimensional metaphorical significance for you,
but you cannot hope to do this with just a literal fill-in-the-blank diagram.

       Several times during my stay in the Phoenix, AZ area (1971-2002), I had a variation on a dream of being at my folks' home there and realizing I needed to water my bonsai.  The trees were primarily mame -- which I never really had to that extent -- and appeared to have originated as cuttings from my waking life, still living in my dreams, but long waking gone.  The trees were originally huddled together in a corner by the fence of a side yard where my first Arizona tree (a small juniper) had been sited, but a few years later the trees were spread around the other side yard near my dad's vegetable garden. 
       After my move to northwest Arizona (2002-2005), I had a series of dreams taking place in a rental house where, again, I realize I needed to water my little trees.  Here they were mostly in a garage/greenhouse among a few household-type plants which hadn't been watered in a long time.  The bonsai that I found might have been only a little "worse for wear," but my actual waking trees were never seen there.

       After receiving some Phoenix Bonsai Society photos last night (09/05/05), I dreamed that one of the members in the picture was starting a spin-off specialty group.  In this dream I also saw a small display the club put together which included a miniature and blooming prickly pear cactus, and a few bonsai -- some of those plants were normal and others, side-by-side in comparison, were partly shrivelled by some virus.

       Back in the mid-1990s after I had been trying to interest several publishers in my "Big History," I had a dream in which I actually got to hold the published book.  I saw that it contained a few errors, primarily because it had been printed from an unedited draft copy which one of the companies had gotten from me.  But it was quite a rush actually holding the bound volume.

       "A bonsai lover, when he reaches old age, often finds it impossible to have a moment's happiness without the companionship of bonsai.  While eating, he must have bonsai on or by the table.  When calling on a friend, he will take a pocket bonsai or two so that he may show them off.  At night, he will put his favourites by his bed and go to sleep only after looking at them long and lovingly.  Then he will dream of bonsai, dream of his pet trees appearing in ideal forms!  With such a person as this, love of bonsai becomes life itself.  So great is the power of bonsai to charm and possess the mind."  (Nozaki, Shinobu  Dwarf Trees ( Bonsai ); Tōkyō: Sanseidō Company, Ltd.; 1940, pg. 47).

       Dreaming of a bonsai tree indicates the limitations of your own conscious mind.  You need to consider what your instincts is [sic] telling you.  (, also at )

       Bonsai are miniature magical landscapes: the world at my fingertips; a realm which I can behold in its entirety; my little corner of the world; a micro-oasis and refuge; a creation which I put into motion and care for so that it can then develop partly on its own; my view from on top of Mt. Olympus -- or Mt. Fuji; a start of numerous tales from old Japan or China; my enchanted forest; the setting for many fairy tales; a bird's-eye-view; wings for my mind and the power of flight; production from the earth; partnership with Mother Nature; conservation of a threatened site; a pleasant combination of the elements of fire (pottery), earth, water, wood, and metal (tools and wire); nature in the midst of a crowded city; an artificial life-time of stunted and misdirected growth; foreign secrets to do someone's bidding beyond my comprehension; the changing seasons at hand; an ability admired but infrequently possessed; an interest shared with others I might not have otherwise ever met; tokens of a past or parallel life in Asia; a non-verbal language that crosses political and cultural boundaries; that which I keep cutting back, bending down and confining but which still finds a way to reveal itself; ancient, multi-layered, non-rational aspects of myself which require a certain constant degree of attention...

       What if I had taken better care of that tree I once had?  What if I had selected that side for the apex instead of this one?  What if I made that side the front?  What if I had chosen that other plant at the nursery or on the dig instead of the one I did?  What would I do if I was gifted a certain very nice or even masterpiece specimen?  What kinds of trees could I properly put in this pot?  What if I tried this slight variation in the formula for this pot I am making or its glaze?  What if I were to air layer this particular plant to get a shorter tree with thicker trunk?  If I could graft all the best characteristics of bonsai onto a single tree, what would be the result for the tree and what would be some ramifications in my life?  What styles or species haven't I tried yet that I could in the future?  What if a disaster hit my yard or I was not able to care for my trees for a while?  In case of emergency, what single plant would I want to rescue?  What would it be like if I were a convention headliner or visiting teacher in demand?  What if I discovered a wonderful new sport or variety of small-leaved tree?  How can I creatively and personally display my own trees -- or those of my club?  What would it take for me to lose all or gain even more interest in this?  What challenges do the techniques employed with these present to me: eye-hand coordination, aesthetic judgement and future plant growth patterns, time and resource allocation, continued practice, understanding my abilities' possible limits?  Do I hide my trees indoors to their detriment or share what I create and care for to their benefit?  What if the spirit of Treebeard inhabited my bonsai?  What if I was one of my bonsai?

       And so very much more...

"It is the slowest sculpture in the world, and there is, at times, doubt as to which is being sculpted, man or tree."
(Sturgeon, Theodore  "Slow Sculpture," Galaxy Magazine, February 1970, pg. 49)

       Please also see the thread "bonsai dream,"

And these other recalled dreams:
       "The Fifth Beatle," ;
Cheah, Po Shan  "Dream Diary: September 1996," specifically Sept 4/5, ;
Liggett, Lynn  "A Dream of a Bonsai," Florida Bonsai, (Reprinted from V:1), 1:32-34 .

Anyone who would like to list here a sleep-dream involving bonsai is asked to please e-mail .  Contributor acknowledgment will be posted.  Please include as many details as possible.  Thank-you!

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