The Hook To Hang Our Hat On: Part I
If you like wearing hats, like me, you’ll know that just about anything can be a hat support. Anything, really: A chair, a hook, a doorknob. A rack in the oven. Hats, if you’re a hat person, are everything. You live for hats. You don’t live for the hook.
Oddly enough, we can get everything backwards when it comes to things that have forms, like bonsai. We mistake the hook for the hat. We think making forms is the end-all of the adventure, and remain preoccupied with what’s on the surface.
I had a yoga teacher in Arizona who, when he saw a sunset, would break into a spontaneous asana, like a triangle pose or a tree pose. He just did it without thinking. It was the feeling he had when he saw the sunset. That guy had it right—the feeling creates the form. But he was not a beginner. Most of us, like me, do yoga in dimmed rooms and wonder if our pose is really as good as we can make it. And we do it some more until we pull a muscle… so involved we are with the form. The hook.
Yoga is outwardly similar to bonsai, making forms with bodies rather than trees. But yoga teachers are clear that yoga is not simply about making the most perfect poses with our bodies. For that is an unending search for the kind of perfection it denies. We work with the imperfections of our bodies to gain some grace and acceptance of them, and to acknowledge that our lifestyle and approach to living is mirrored in our bodies. There’s the hat.
And doesn’t that sound a bit like bonsai? If you see an old pine at the top of a mountain after a long hike, is it likely to be in a perfect pose? It’s as tired as we are. Are we not more willing, after that arduous hike and wondering about the knees that were once young, to forgive this tree it’s own transgressions on perfection, and on our expectations?
We engage with bonsai, but if open to the experience of bonsai, we engage with ourselves. The hook is the tree… the hat is within us.
The inimitable Hogwarts Sorting Hat…
We tend to employ many hooks to occupy ourselves, don’t we? I have a few. Yoga is one. Argentine tango another. In tango I enjoy the vulnerable collaboration, and the inability in close embrace in hiding from your partner what kind of day you just had.
Bonsai is my biggest hook, though, and I hang my best hats there: A care-taking responsibility, a tuning fork for the seasons, a philosophic metaphor for life, a collaborative slow-motion tango, and a calming, low-impact way to stay out of worse trouble.
- How deeply do we enter into the forms that we engage with? How richly woven are our hats?
- How aware are we of what bonsai does inside us, what gates open when we see one, or create one?
Sometimes while teaching a class I recite a part of a poem that reflects the feeling I have looking at a particular tree. Perhaps your link to bonsai, your hat, is more than joy at seeing a pleasing form, and perhaps it’s a very different hat from mine, but whatever it is I urge you to explore that.
I have yet to hang a hat on a bonsai, a real hat I mean. I hang all kinds of other metaphorical hats on them. Because that is what I think bonsai are. They are hooks to hang our hats on.