Every time I visit family in Hawaii, I always marvel at the vegetation. There are just so many beautiful trees. I don’t know if it’s because of the climate, blue skies or ocean, but why do the trees there look better than the ones where I live? Or is it just my personal biases.
While taking in its beauty I began to wonder what makes a tree grow to its potential? Why does the same species of tree grow to different sizes? Common sense tells us it all depends on the environment it’s placed in. And that’s feng shui. So we can say, the feng shui of the plant affects its growth. It’s the environment that affects its roots, nutrition, and sunlight.
Several years ago, when my husband was starting his permaculture journey, he came across the story about Akinori Kimura’s Miracle Apples, a Japanese apple farmer. You can read the whole 24 chapters translated in English sponsored by Yoko Ono by clicking here. It’s a true story about a Japanese apple farmer, who’s wife falls ill due to all the pesticides used on the trees. To protect his wife well-being, he vows that he will find a way to grow the apples without the use of chemicals. For many many years concocts various brews, that included different foods and vinegar, to spray on the trees. However, nothing seems to work and the precious apple trees that were grown by his ancestors begin to slowly die. Akinori and his family are now the laughing stock of the village. Distraught that he had brought so much shame to his family, Akinori decides he must commit suicide. So one evening, he climbs the mountain, carrying a long rope. Just at that moment when he was prepared to die, he sees a healthy tree and has a eureka moment. He realizes that his focus was based too much on the tree itself. His concoctions were made to get rid of all the pests that were attacking the tree, while in fact he should have been focusing on the roots! By restoring the much needed nutrition to the roots through the soil, he is able to revive the apple orchard without the use of chemicals. He is a true organic farmer.
What is the point of the story? We tend to focus on what we can see, what is visible to the eye. In this case it was the tree itself and what it looked like on the exterior. But, sometimes the cause is not on the surface. There is an underlying problem. We have to get to the source of the issue. In the case of the tree, we have to feed the roots for a healthy tree.
The foundation or roots will have a large affect on the development of the tree. For example, just look at bonsai. Bonsai is the Japanese art form of growing miniature trees in shallow containers. The roots are contained in such a small area which naturally hinders the growth of the plant. It is slow growth in a controlled environment. That is it’s purpose. On the other hand if you place a small plant in too large a container, it often doesn’t get enough water to develop and grow. Finding the right size container for that particular plant is key to good growth. But, as we said earlier, feng shui is a combination of conditions, nutrition and sunlight. Understanding the needs of the tree and placing it in the ideal environment is the best feng shui for the tree. That’s true for a home too. When we understand the needs of the people and we place them in the idea environment for their needs it becomes good feng shui.
But let’s get back to the tree. What can trees teach us about life? From Akinori’s story, we learn the deeper, the stronger, the wider and the bigger the roots, the greater the potential for growth. In the same way, if we apply this to people or our children it gives us good guidance. Knowledge has power. The more we learn, regardless of subject, it will give us a good foundation. We have to just keep learning and growing. You just never know when some trivial information will come in handy.
For me, the problem is, I get bored easily. Being persistent and growing this deep foundation is not glamorous. But we have to start somewhere right? It’s the behind the scenes type of work, where you have to study, practice, repeat, make mistakes, fail, stumble, and work on the basics that makes the difference. It’s not all fun, we have to do the dirty work too. Today, we all want fast results and no pain. Many don’t want to spend time developing the roots, where no one can see your hard efforts. Little steps, the right care and the right nutrition will help develop into strong, deep and long roots. When your foundation is there, growing tall will come naturally. But not to forget, it’s not a one time deal. If you stop feeding roots, the plant will go downhill and lose their health. It’s the consistent effort that will help maintain constant growth. And that’s what trees can teach us about life. We just have to keep plugging.