Welcome to the Saruyama Blog, intermittent and generally off topic. Occasionally you might see some trees...and weird ones at that.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Back from some wandering again...or was it just wondering

I said in my previous post, which was over a month ago that I would be more prolific with posting but that clearly hasn't happened. I hope anybody that follows this is actually still there. I feel it is necessary to post stuff to help people to understand what I do and what I am thinking but, like my dislike of living life through a lens, I have been more focused on learning and experiencing new things...some of which have been incredible and given me a different outlook on Bonsai, others simply good fun.

I have just returned from a month long trip to the US which took in two major conventions and plenty of private work and clubs in between. The first convention was one which is very close to my heart as it is the only purely stone orientated convention and it is run by a good friend and spiritual brother of mine, Sean Smith. This year I was invited to speak about Japanese Suiseki Aesthetics, a topic which made me think greatly and do some academic research into things which I had taken for granted or simply accepted. I was very worried that my talk would be dry and too academic but it was warmly received, particularly by those people who are much more learned than me. The world of Japanese Aesthetics is a very vague and indistinct one, the concept of beauty for the Japanese is something difficult to define and comes from the heart more than the head. It was good practice for me to try and make it come from the head and along with a lot of the discussion that took place at the event, I wrote an article for the California Aiseki Kai newsletter which will be published soon. I will link it here when it goes up.

Mr. Morimae of Wabi fame also came and spoke and I had the honour of translating for him for some of the time, if you can call it an honour, it was a trying and difficult ordeal but I made it through relatively unscathed. He talked a lot about many of the things I had spent the summer thinking about. This is not unsurprising as he is the organiser of the Genkoukai, the group who put on a very special exhibition in Kyoto at the end of January. At the end of January I had seriously considered quitting Bonsai for various reasons which need not be discussed here, but after visiting their small but refined exhibition and speaking with several of the key figures in the group and also taking time to sit down with the Chief and discuss why we do Bonsai, I decided that my short term annoyance with the shady side of Bonsai was not as important as having a grand view of things and the necessity to concentrate on the path rather than the goal.

After a few months of ruminating on this, Mr. Morimae spoke at great length of the importance of approaching Suiseki with the correct heart and mind. Rather than looking to criticise and look for the negative, it is better to be more accepting and appreciative of the effort that has been put into it. This was something that I had felt at the Newstead exhibition in the middle of September. Whilst the overall level of quality of individual trees had decreased slightly, the overall level of effort and spirit had increased dramatically. There were many new names and faces who were trying hard rather than resting on their laurels. This would feature again later in my trip

After the show I spent a few weeks on the North East coast, mainly with Sean Smith but also up in Rochester, NY and also down at one of the greatest single collections of Bonsai in the west, the Kennet Collection. During my time with Sean, we spent many a night discussing the future of Suiseki in the west and how we can both best serve the small but dedicated number of enthusiasts. The Cuba Libre's certainly helped the conversations flow but it was refreshing to speak freely and openly about the problems and the positives that come up. Sean also taught me a few new techniques and it was incredible to watch a true craftsman at work. I commissioned him to make a new box for an antique scroll I purchased. I was very happy not only with the final result but also to have been able to watch him in action. It also gave me another insight into why rather than simply how.

One of the other highlights of the trip was the fact that I got to experience an American Halloween for the first time...including carving my very first pumpkin. Staying with Sean meant that I got to hang out with his daughter who, along with most girls/women I meet, seemed to enjoying making fun of me, calling me "Accent Boy" and moking my clear and perfect speech. I did get even though by beating her at pumpkin carving and the Disco numbers on Just Dance on the Wii. I challenge anybody to beat me on it...my rendition of "Ring my Bell" will go down in history.

I have just written another page of text but due to the wonder that is windows and this stupid blogging tool, it has been lost. I am an analog person. I need to sleep so I shall add to this again later.


  1. Just to say. I'm Still around here and i'm still reading. Keep them coming...

    Best compliments,


  2. Ah out of the barren wilderness comes the King of Monkey Mountain. Good to hear from you Peter