Category Archives: Bonsai

Life Intrusions

Life has a way of intruding on an author’s work.  This happens because, as my wife and editor Kathleen is fond of saying, “Your output is derived from your input.” In ways both subtle and obvious, a writer’s background shapes his writing.

In my case, one such influence dates back to my earliest childhood. For as long as I can remember, the universe has beckoned me. Astronomy was my first love. When other boys might have said they would grow up to be doctors or policemen, I wanted to be an astronomer. My father taught me the constellations and the names of the brightest stars.  In junior high school, I bought a cheap telescope from K-Mart and spent time observing the moon, stars, and sun. In high school I expanded my horizons to cosmology and from there to relativity and quantum physics.

I didn’t actually end up as either an astronomer or a physicist, but my interest in those subjects hasn’t flagged. I have a better telescope today, although still a modest one, and subscribe to Sky and Telescope. I’ve even sold them a couple of essays.

My interest in science and particularly astronomy influenced my literary ambitions, too. In the long ago, I principally read and wrote science fiction. My favorite SF stories to both read and write were those involving the exploration of the universe.

Later I became increasingly interested in mysteries and somewhat disaffected with the direction in which the science fiction genre was heading, but astronomy didn’t get left behind. In The Fibonacci Murders, for example, you’ll find Venus shining in the evening sky, as well as references to the moon and light pollution. Light pollution also figures in the opening scene of my forthcoming novel, Ice on the Bay. My in-progress return to science fiction, Space Operatic, takes place in the inner Oort Cloud.

My other key hobby, bonsai, hasn’t yet worked its way into my writing, but then I’ve only been into the art for about ten years. I have, however, pondered some possibilities. Tomio Kaneko, the Japanese-American mathematician who debuts in The Fibonacci Murders, just might have a son with an interest in bonsai, an art that can yield valuable works through the application of, among other things, sharp instruments.

That sounds about right for a murder mystery, no?


The Bonsai are Up!

During the winter, bonsai typically have to be stored to protect them from from the wind and from temperature fluctuations.  The cold isn’t so much the problem: trees that live in cold climates are designed to survive the cold.  The wind, though, can desiccate (dry out) a tree’s tissues, and temperature fluctuations can cause repeated freezing and thawing that can damage pots.

There are several strategies for dealing with these issues.  Deciduous trees can be stored in an unheated room or garage.  Once they’ve lost their leaves for the winter, they don’t need sunlight.  Due to lack of space, however, I have typically placed the trees under their benches and surrounded them with sheets of plastic to keep the wind at bay.  More recently, I’ve removed the shelving and simply placed the trees together, and used tall metal stakes to support the windbreak.

I generally put the trees into storage this way over the Thanksgiving weekend, as in my area that’s when temperatures are starting to get low enough that the trees will need some protection.  I put them back up on the benches in the early weeks of spring, depending upon how warm it’s getting.  This year I left them down a bit longer than usual, because the weather has been unusual.  As of today, however, they are back up.

I haven’t started repotting yet, although by all rights I probably should have done so a few weeks ago.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had time.  With luck I can get to that shortly.