A New Year’s Story-

Usually I offer the bungled photos of the year in a blooper reel to start the New Year. As I reviewed the year’s photos, however, it became clear that there weren’t enough qualifying photos. Which suggests either an uptick in selective shooting or a lack of studio clowns. Either way I have no photos for you this year.

So I’ll share a story instead.

On New Year’s Day I rode out on my bike to our local volcanically active mountain, Mt. Hood. I should qualify that by saying I rode towards Mt. Hood, as it’s too far away for a part-time bike commuter like me to reach and hope to return in the same day. On the way there I was leapfrogging with another rider, with the lead often changing during road crossings where we had to slow down. I was tailing him most of the time and assumed he’d soon leave me behind, being obviously a svelte and speedy road biker.

At one interchange he quickly looked both ways, and went across the road without pushing the button that would give the bike path the right of way to him. As he was crossing, though, he swerved to the button on the other side, and pushed it. For me. So I wouldn’t have to slow down.

I spent the rest of the trip riding his gift.

Inevitably, I began thinking of bonsai. When visiting other’s bonsai yards I often ask what their favorite tree is, and they tend to point out a tree that someone else started. Not one of their own creation. They often tell a story about the responsibility they feel for this tree, and even gratitude. Which gets me thinking. That so many would place such high value on what they didn’t craft themselves suggests that there’s something core there. And I think the reason we feel that way is because such trees already have momentum, and to continue that momentum is our privilege. Some trees had a button pushed for us by someone long ago.

Here’s wishing everyone a great 2019. Hope you all reach the mountain you’re aiming for, or at least get a few more rotations down the road toward it. And that you encounter strangers who make the light go green for you.


Mt. Hood at the end of the trail, on a glorious New Year’s Day-



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  1. Ray says:

    Great post Michael. Happy 2019!

  2. Melvin Zamis says:

    Beautiful thought

  3. Deborah says:

    Lovely. A new thought and so accurate. Thank you and Happy New Year.

  4. Todd Guenzburger says:

    Thank you for such a lively sentiment!

  5. Chris Cochrane says:

    A resonant sentiment & intriguing photo. Thank you for sharing.

  6. endsurg says:

    Happy new year

  7. Alan Thompson says:

    Michael, you are one of those strangers who has “made the light go green” for me in my Bonsai journey. Thank you so much and keep the great articles coming!

  8. Lani Black says:

    Beautiful bike trail and a nice way to start 2019. What is the name of that trail?

    • crataegus says:

      This is the Springwater trail. Goes all the way from downtown Portland to Boring, Oregon, some 26 or so miles. It used to be the old trolley line many years ago. Part now of the ‘rails to trails’ movement.

  9. Happy New Year Michael!
    You certainly helped with my favorite tree. Keep up the great work and see you sometime in 2019!

  10. Thomas Anglewicz says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Michael. Some really good thoughts to start the New Year!



  11. suki says:

    I agree. (My sensei started a tree for me and I would feel I was letting him down if I didn’t keep it healthy and beautiful.)

  12. Paul Newman says:

    Happy New Years Michael. Thanks for the help over so many years.

  13. Judy Conibear says:

    Thank you for this lovely reminder.

  14. The life message and bonsai inspiration is much appreciated, Michael. Set the tone of the year with a good deed. I dig it!

  15. Sharon Christian says:

    What a lovely story. I’m happy for the kindness you encountered and I feel that you repay. Wishing you safety and enjoyment as you enter 2019. Have fun and keep creating and exploring. God bless!!!!

  16. Janet Roth says:

    Lovely little story Michael. It reminds me of a once-common practice we had down here, back when the we paid the Bay Bridge toll in actual currency (and the toll was under a dollar). The toll was a quarter, so you’d hand the toll-taker $.50 and tell her to apply the extra quarter the car behind you, who would then get a nice pleasant surprise. Someone started doing it, and it just spread… I learned about it when it happened to me, and it just kind of added a little nice glow to my whole day.

  17. William Lee Kohler says:

    Michael; Thank you so much for your help to all of us who meet you, your gentle and amazing manner shaping trees and a great and prosperous New Year to you and your child the Bonsai Village.

  18. Cameron Carlson says:

    Such zen

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