Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

The Bonsai Liberation Fund

Deborah Rey

"... Just have to increase the strength of the painkillers," she mimicked the specialist, as she slowly and with difficulty pushed her rollator towards the hospital’s main exit. "Nothing else I can do for you now," she imitated his pedantic voice. "You should have come to see me much earlier.... I did, you ass! Ten years ago, and you told me I shouldn’t be so coquettish! After all, a woman my age.... Fèh!"

Her husband was waiting for her in the car. He helped her into her seat and folded the rollator.

"And?" He looked at her with eyes that knew how she felt.

"The usual story. Stronger painkillers, calcium to keep my bones from really falling apart, must be careful not to break any more of them. Ah, you know, same damn old thing he always says."

"Yeah," grumbled her man. "That’s why I’d better not come along, when you see him. I’d beat the rheumatoid arthritis out of him."

She smiled and rubbed her hand. One finger was swollen and red, and the joint was beginning to grow completely the wrong way. Ugly! Ugly! Ugly! Like a bonsai tree....

"I’m beginning to feel like a bonsai tree," she stated.

He laughed.

"You’re beginning to look like one, my wife," he joked; together they grinned.

That’s how it all started.

Bonsai ... bonsai ... the word, and the picture that went with it, didn’t leave her and that’s how she decided to start a fund. A fund for the liberation of bonsai trees: the Bonsai Liberation Fund.

The BLF had two members and a dog, and the three of them took care of everything. Her man bordered off a piece of their garden, turned the ground, put in some good earth and planted a hedge of bamboo.

Grows fast, bamboo does, and by the time she’d bought her first bonsai trees, the stalks were high enough to keep anybody from seeing what was behind the hedge. None of their business and we all know how it is with Liberation Funds ... before even reading the word Bonsai, people would start screaming!

She bought first one, then two, then fifteen little bonsai trees that - just for laughs - all were between sixty and seventy years old. She, too, was between sixty and seventy, that’s why.

He dug out two small ponds and built a slender, rounded, narrow, Japanese-style bridge, to go across one to the other.

She bought a few Japanese azaleas and asked her grandson to go to the river, and bring her loads and loads of those beautifully rounded, grey and white, water-polished stones.

Her man spread white gravel on the path that curved around and through the garden, and decorated it with a raked, symmetric pattern. The old wooden rake he used actually was for hay, but the effect was stunning.

She sat on one of the many elegant benches he'd made for her and told him where to put the statue of Buddha, where to put the rain bells and the stone Chinese lanterns; she indicated where to plant the azaleas, and where to put the hand-painted sign that said: Bonsai Liberation Fund in Japanese writing. She would have preferred Chinese letters, but wasn’t totally sure of herself there, so she opted for the Japanese she was totally familiar with.

"You know something," she said, after looking around and approving with a fat cat smile. "You know something? I like feeling like a bonsai and when I’m sitting here, I don’t even mind that I look like one."

"Yo, Mama-San," he laughed. "Then it’s time to give those trees of yours a chance to breathe, eh?"

Before anybody could say sayonara, all the little bonsais had been put into the ground and after adding a little this, arranging a little that, dusting Buddha’s head and putting down a made-in-China house for the toad, he too sat on the little bench and together they overlooked their Japanese garden.

The leaves of the bamboos whispered in the wind and the water on the little fountain wall murmured sweet words to attract the birds. Come ... come ... have a bath, have some seeds, a piece of apple....

The dog slept. He couldn’t care less about being a member of the Fund, and even less about their garden ... he wasn’t even allowed to pee on those little trees! So, how the heck was he going to mark this as his territory? Humans! Bah!

The year has gone by quickly and spring’s warm sunshine allows her to sit on one of the little benches and observe the state of her Fund, or rather the state of those that benefit from it.
Ever seen a sixty-five-year-old bonsai oak spread its wings to the sky? Ever watched the splendour of an acacia bonsai, when the branches are allowed to branch out? Ever seen what a bonsai tree does, when you don’t prune its branches and tie them down in any darn twisted manner you wish, or clip the left side of its roots?

Do you know what Liberated Bonsai Trees look like?

They look happy, they look healthy, they look contented, and even though their trunks will always remain crooked and malformed, their leaves rustle in the wind and sing along with the murmuring water of the waterfall.

They’re crooked, but they’re free. Like the woman sitting on that little bench. Yes, that one, with the funny hands and funny feet. The one who can hardly walk, but always has a smile on her face. That’s what they look like.


Deborah Rey (1938 - ?) was born in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and from the time she was a little girl, has worked in radio, television, publicity and the theatre, as a broadcaster, entertainer, scriptwriter, translator, editor, and actress, in the Netherlands, Canada and the USA.

Today, retired, she finally has the time to be a full-time writer for herself, and an editor for other authors.

Her work during the Second World War, as a 'baby-courier' in the Dutch Underground, earned her the honourable distinction of having been one of Holland's two Child Resistance Fighters.
Deborah Rey is married and has one daughter, and one grandson. She lives at the French Atlantic coast, with her husband, the Dingo-Dog and six cats.

© Deborah Rey

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012