Bonsai goes to Church (and Synagog)

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Bonsai goes to Church (and Synagog)

Post  Will Heath on Fri Apr 10, 2009 5:31 pm

I was asked to decorate the Sacrament area of the local catholic church this Thursday for Holy Thursday. This came after I agreed to teach a intro to bonsai class for the women's club at the church, opening myself up for other opportunities.

usually after mass the congregation gathers in this area for a few hours of silence, prayer, and meditation. In the past they have decorated with hundreds of candles and about the same number of plants, rocks, crosses, you name it. Needless to say it was a little overdone and lacking in the sport of Lent, where sacrifice is honored.

So, when asked, I stated that I thought a more minimalistic approach would be in order, and as such, bonsai would be perfect. A few here and there, on high pedestals, just to give a presence, but not overwhelm like the average club show with trees shoved together in order to fit them in. Father Jim loved the idea as did the usual group of very finicky older ladies who usually does the decorating.

My thoughts are that such activities for bonsai can not only introduce many people to the art, but also open up many teaching opportunities, such as the Women's Club I do at this church.


It was interesting, they allowed me to use any thing I wished as far as their pedestals and candles go, but I had to have the Tabernacle in the center, I had to have candles, and the seating had to have a center aisle and be facing the Tabernacle. A formal display was out obviously so I settled on five bonsai and tried to represent different styles with two informal uprights, a literati, a full cascade, and a windswept. After some thought, I just settled on centering the stands around the Tabernacle with one informal upright to the side.

It is not the optimal time for showing bonsai here in Michigan, the tropicals having spent the winter inside and still are inside due to heavy frosts still happening every night and the pines and deciduous trees just beginning to come out of dormancy. Larches are just starting to show green here.

There was much discussion on the bonsai before and after prayers and surprisingly a windswept that needs some detail work seemed to be the overall favorite. About 150 people came in and out last night, many staying for an hour or more in silent prayer.


By the way, all the bonsai I took there were Shohin.


In the end, it was fun.











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Re: Bonsai goes to Church (and Synagog)

Post  Will Heath on Sat Apr 11, 2009 2:32 am

I took this mugo as well. After a serious hack back last year, it has quite a few buds and I think this 6" shohin will change quite a bit this year.




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Bonsai goes to Church (and Synagogue)

Post  bonsaisr on Sat Apr 11, 2009 2:49 am

Sorry, I don't have any really good pictures, but I have been doing this for about 15 years. There is an obscure Jewish holiday known simply as Tu BiShevat, 15th of (the month of) Shevat. It always occurs two weeks before or two weeks after the Lunar New Year. Here it is midwinter, but in Israel it is spring & the almond trees are in bloom. With the recent back-to-nature and appreciate-the-environment movements, it has become better known. It is called the New Year of the Trees. For non-Jews, I just call it Jewish Arbor Day.
Every year I put on a more-or-less one-woman bonsai exhibit at a synagogue or other Jewish institution, like Hillel. I also display related books, literature, & bonsai information. The exhibit is heavy on the kitsch to interest the widest possible audience. (Remember my European birch & the Golem?) I have never gotten new club members this way (that I know of), but it is always very well received.
As far as church is concerned, a few years ago a lady who was running a Methodist retreat borrowed a few of my bonsai to improve the atmosphere. She said they were very much enjoyed. One of our members used to exhibit his bonsai every fall at the Unitarian Church. As far as I know, outside of that, none of the churches or Asian houses of worship in the Syracuse area has ever invited us.
Iris

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Re: Bonsai goes to Church (and Synagog)

Post  Will Heath on Sat Apr 11, 2009 3:12 am

Iris,

That sounds wonderful, be sure to take a few pictures next time, I'd like to see them. Nice to hear from others who have had the same experience.


Will

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Re: Bonsai goes to Church (and Synagog)

Post  JimLewis on Sat Apr 11, 2009 3:39 am

The church was decorated with bonsai at Crag Cowing's and Anita Hawkins' wedding up in Maine a few years ago -- along with a small exhibit in one of the nearby rooms. Dunno if Craig go any pics. I did, but seem to have lost them in subsequent changes of computers and operating systems.

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Bonsai goes to Church (and Synagogue)

Post  bonsaisr on Sat Apr 11, 2009 2:06 pm

JimLewis wrote:The church was decorated with bonsai at Crag Cowing's and Anita Hawkins' wedding up in Maine a few years ago.
When our granddaughter (whom we raised) got married last year, she asked me to provide the centerpieces for the reception "because bonsai are so much a part of your life." I managed to field 15 trees, although some of them were just potensai in bonsai pots.
Very Happy
Iris

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Re: Bonsai goes to Church (and Synagog)

Post  Rob Kempinski on Sat Apr 11, 2009 2:34 pm

Will Heath wrote:

It is not the optimal time for showing bonsai here in Michigan, the tropicals having spent the winter inside and still are inside due to heavy frosts still happening every night and the pines and deciduous trees just beginning to come out of dormancy. Larches are just starting to show green here.

Time to move south Will. It will take forever with that short of a growing season. Wink

It was a nice touch to the altar display.

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Re: Bonsai goes to Church (and Synagog)

Post  Will Heath on Sat Apr 11, 2009 5:14 pm

Rob Kempinski wrote:

Time to move south Will. It will take forever with that short of a growing season. Wink

How's that spare room coming along? Wink



Will

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Bonsai Goes to Church (and Synagogue)

Post  bonsaisr on Sun Jan 31, 2010 10:25 pm

I just got home from this year's Tu BiShevat exhibit. Unfortunately, I only had seven trees in showable condition. I wanted to have more, because this year it was at Temple Adath Yeshurun, the biggest Conservative synagogue in the area, and one of the oldest congregations in the country.
Of course three of the trees were dormant deciduous specimens. I always have to reassure the spectators that yes, they are alive, just like the trees outside, and they will sprout new leaves in the spring.
My husband & I set up the exhibit on Friday afternoon, then we came back Saturday morning. There was a service followed by a fellowship luncheon, so there was a lot of traffic.
I also came this morning to host the exhibit. They had Sunday school classes and a citywide environmental fair, so there was a lot more traffic. A few people came in off the street both days, from announcements in the newspaper. The synagogue was very receptive & cordial, & the exhibit was well received. Quite a few people picked up handouts & asked lots of questions about bonsai. It remains to be seen if they will ever turn up at a bonsai meeting.



The literature table. I show books & pamphlets about bonsai, plants of the Bible & Israel, and handouts about buying bonsai & joining our club. Hey, Bill, I included the flyer for the Second National Bonsai Exhibition. People were excited to find out there is a hog-heaven show that close.



My flowering crabapple, 'Indian Summer.' In training since 1999. Blooms every year, but doesn't set fruit for me yet. Lowest branch is a thread graft. Caption is a quote from the Sh'ma (Jewish Creed), "(You shall discuss them [the words of G-d]) while on your way." The boy in the wheelchair is talking about the Torah on his cell phone.
More later,
Iris

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Bonsai Goes to Church (and Synagogue)

Post  bonsaisr on Mon Feb 01, 2010 2:45 am

More pictures. They gave us a good location in the hall opposite the coatroom. The club owns two lightstands for such occasions.



My Korean hornbeam forest, from when I gave a workshop in 2006. The gentleman who is reading was a little gift from Tony Mihalic. The caption reads, "You shall take to heart these words that I command you today." The stand is from Whitehorse.



My modest larch clump, collected north of the St. Lawrence river in 2005, and purchased from Dave Easterbrook in 2007. It looks like four trunks, but there is another one in back. The trunk on the left was added last year when I couldn't plant it properly. This spring it will be turned around. The pot is by Nick Lenz & the stand is from Whitehorse.
I always include on the label the Hebrew name of the tree if I can find one. The Hebrew name for cedar is Erez, and for larch Arzit, which you could translate as "cedarette," a good indication of the relationship between the two genera. Some of the spectators noticed this.



Dwarf olive, Olea europaea 'Montra,' usually sold as "Little Ollie" because it is patented. The container is Featherock, a form of pumice found in California. This originally belonged to a member of the Rochester club, & I bought it in 2002 when he moved away. It spends the winter under fluorescent lights. It is not at its best this time of year, but at least it's presentable.
The caption reads, "For the Lord your God is bringing you into... a land of olive trees and honey."
The rest tomorrow.
Iris


Last edited by bonsaisr on Mon Feb 01, 2010 6:39 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Additional information)

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Re: Bonsai goes to Church (and Synagog)

Post  Paul Landis on Mon Feb 01, 2010 3:04 am

Great displays--thanks for sharing them with us !!

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Bonsai Goes to Church (and Synagogue)

Post  bonsaisr on Mon Feb 01, 2010 7:00 pm

Last two pictures.



Ficus benjamina 'TooLittle' (sic, one word), another cultivar that is patented, hence almost always sold without a label, but universally recognized by bonsai fans. This one was purchased from Bill Valavanis in 1997. Despite my intentions to grow it in the form of its parent tree, it insisted on growing like a temperate tree leaning over a pond. Go argue. It also spends the winter under lights, but I can leave it on a windowsill during the winter if necessary. The statuette is by a local artist. The caption reads, "You shall joyfully draw water from the wells of salvation."



A general view of the exhibit. The tree on the right is that potboiler, J. squamata 'Prostrata.'
Only four weeks to Purim. Spring is coming.
Iris

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Re: Bonsai goes to Church (and Synagog)

Post  Dustin Mann on Tue Feb 02, 2010 10:56 am

Will and Iris, Very nice gesture and message about our trees.People,plants,animals, the only living things from our creator.Hopefully, we can share with others ,pass on lesson of harmonious living, then give away to others, once our journey on earth is over. Will stop by my place before Feb. meeting. Need different email or phone to access. Dustin

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Bonsai Goes to Church & Synagogue.

Post  bonsaisr on Mon Jan 20, 2014 5:26 pm



This has been one of my most successful Tu BiShevat displays. To begin with, they gave me 4 banquet tables with tablecloths right against the wall in the social hall, well lit with plenty of room, and right in the traffic. I had bonsai on three tables, and a table with books & handouts. Because of religious laws, I set it up Friday afternoon. I could have taken it down after dark on Saturday, but I left it up until Sunday afternoon, because they had a program Sunday morning. I don't like to put my trees through a three day exhibit, but they apparently all took it. Lavender star flower won't, but I don't have one now.
I got such a positive response, it was very worthwhile. My dear husband did the shlepping & he gets a lot of credit. Of course he loves to socialize and attend services, so he got his reward. There wasn't much Friday night except the evening service, but I got to say kaddish for my father, who died the day before Tu BiShevat.
The big event was Saturday, the seder for Tu BiShevat, after the service. They had a good crowd, and folks oohed & ahed at my trees. If you've never been to the Metropolitan, a local hometown artist looks good. Elihu commented that the quality of my trees has improved from past years.
People missed seeing a tree in bloom. I've been working on that, but it is very difficult, not having a greenhouse. I may try 'White Chojubai.' I can't keep the red one alive.
I always bring some dormant temperate trees. There is always, "It's not dead, is it?" "Will they get leaves in the spring?" I have a feeling very few people know what a larch is. When I tell them that mine bloomed last year with a little cone, and it will get needles in the spring, they look at me kind of funny.
For my Tu BiShevat display, I use labels with the common name, the botanical name, and whenever possible, the Hebrew name. I also add a label with a Biblical quotation related to the tree, or to a figurine. The display is loaded with kitsch, & people respond to it.



My larch clump from Dave Easterbrook. The fawn and the fake snow illustrate one translation of a line from Ps. 29, The Voice of the Lord causes deer to give birth and strips the forests bare.
Iris

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Re: Bonsai goes to Church (and Synagog)

Post  JimLewis on Mon Jan 20, 2014 7:09 pm

I love it, Iris!!!!!


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Bonsai Goes to Church & Synagogue.

Post  bonsaisr on Mon Jan 20, 2014 8:45 pm

Thank you.

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Re: Bonsai goes to Church (and Synagog)

Post  hawthorn on Tue Jan 21, 2014 2:10 am

Very nice idea guys.

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Bonsai goes to Church and Synagogue

Post  bonsaisr on Sun May 24, 2015 10:58 pm

I'd like to see bonsai used with other religions. It is a completely secular art these days.
This year our synagogue tried something different for Shavuot, Feast of Weeks, Pentecost, anniversary of the Giving of the Torah. For the Scripture reading, the Ten Commandments are read in unison. After the service, we had a buffet luncheon and what they called a Beit Café. Members of our and the Reform temple submitted art and other works that were displayed all around the room, illustrating passages from the Pentateuch (Five Books of Moses, first five books of the Bible). I used a bonsai to illustrate one of my favorites, Genesis 2:19-20, which describes the origin of taxonomy. There were also recitations, poetry, and even a puppet show. Tomorrow (it is a two-day holiday) we read the Book of Ruth, honoring all converts.



Iris

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Re: Bonsai goes to Church (and Synagog)

Post  Precarious on Mon May 25, 2015 4:21 am

Great thread, thanks everyone for sharing. I once took a bonsai to an all-faiths devotional. It was placed in a corner with a lamp on it. People commented that it added a sense of peace to the gathering.

Iris I couldn't help but notice how your granddaughter honored you at her wedding. Wonderful!

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Re: Bonsai goes to Church (and Synagog)

Post  dick benbow on Wed May 27, 2015 2:24 am

I took an Olive and Cedar of lebanon to a protestant church to co-incide with a sermon on a segement of the bible talking about pruning....Smile


was surprised at the interest afterwards as folks gathered around the examples to ask questions. so many didn't even have a clue what an olive looked like let alone a cedar of lebanon.

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