David DeGroot’s Foreword to Post-Dated
Post-Dated by Michael Hagedorn is a compelling tale of two journeys that the author took during approximately two and a half years of a bonsai apprenticeship in Japan. The two journeys were taken simultaneously—one journey being the events, activities, and accountabilities of daily life, and the other being the intellectual and emotional journey of seeking and finding meaning in those experiences.
Part I is excerpted from his diary entries, and is very entertaining to read. There are stories that reminded me—either pleasantly or painfully—of my own study at Tokai-en, some experiences that I am glad I didn’t have, and many more that I only wish I had had. Michael writes in his Preface that the reader will not learn to do bonsai by reading this book, but his stories and quotes in fact tell a great deal about various aspects of bonsai appreciation and care.
I believe that many if not most westerners who study bonsai in Japan do so with the intent of not just acquiring a skill set, but of gaining insights and hopefully even some understanding of the culture and aesthetics in which bonsai is rooted. Michael, however, seems to have gone a step farther; his writing reveals an openness to his experiences that has allowed him to internalize the philosophical, near spiritual aspects of bonsai culture, and validate them for himself by pairing them with similar Western concepts. It is interesting to see him conclude that Japanese physical learning was in the end as complete and effective as text and lecture learning. His recognition that the aesthetic/emotional/philosophical concept of aware is not far removed from the Western concept of entropy should put to rest the common Japanese conceit that westerners are incapable of experiencing or understanding life as Japanese do.
Post-Dated is a work that should be read and re-read by any serious student of bonsai. My congratulations and thanks to Michael for writing it.
—David DeGroot, teacher and curator, Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection