A little help
The lower trunk (on the tree above) looks like it just grew that way, somewhere on a rugged cliff overlooking the ocean. The top twisty section of trunk looks like maybe it had a little help from Robert’s hands and some bonsai wire. And there’s no doubt that Robert shaped the foliage. But then, only Robert knows the whole story. My guess is he’ll tell us. Stay posted.
Here’s another tree of Robert Steven’s that comes from his famous book, Vision of My Soul.
It’s about the dead wood
The dead second trunk on this tree intrigues and disturbs me. Without it the tree would be quite nice, but fairly ordinary. With the deadwood, at least two things happen:
First the story
The deadwood gives us glimpses into the mystery of the tree’s story. These glimpses can evoke questions, like: How long was dead trunk when it was living? What caused it to die? Did Robert kill it, or did it come that way (you can provide your own questions)? Dead and damaged wood can be valuable in that regard. This is a good reason to get to know an old tree before you start hacking away. Impatience sometimes results in the best parts of a tree being sacrificed to some notion of how a bonsai should look.
Second, the tension
There’s also a dynamic tension that is created by the presence of the deadwood. That can be good, but it’s also the part the disturbs me. I think it’s the two trunks being roughly the same strength that causes the disturbance. Because they are similar in size and especially in visual strength, and because they run along more or less parallel, my eye gets stuck somewhere between the two and doesn’t flow easily along the main trunk. This creates some tension that is both interesting and a little unsettling.
A good choice
On balance, I’d say Robert made a good choice when he decided to keep the dead trunk. It’s a little outrageous (not a bad thing) and it has caused at least one person (me) to look closer and to reflect on what he sees.