How the ancient Japanese art of tree-trimming almost killed me

So the other night I tuck the boys into bed, watch a little TV with my lovely and talented wife Aries28, and decide to go for a short jog around our neighborhood. I do this sometimes to make me feel like I’m actually exercising, although the numbers on the scale when I check my weight tell me I’m not doing it enough (or at all).

Anyway, it’s about 10 p.m., and I cut on the outside lights, fire up the iPod Shuffle, and head out. I’ve got a route mapped out around the neighborhood that’s about 2.5 miles, but I decide to just jog to the stop sign at the top of the hill and back a bit. If I do that eight times, it equals the 2.5 miles. Besides, I’ve been a little under the weather recently (probably bronchitis, but I haven’t taken my lazy butt to the doctor to get checked out), and I don’t want to go too far from home. I’d feel really silly if I got a mile into my jog and then keeled over with a heart attack because I couldn’t breathe.

So. Jog to the stop sign, turn around, head back toward the house. As I draw near the house, with the outside lights chasing away the dark, I notice the shrubs in front of the garage.

Important point here: About a year ago, something killed off part of the boxwood shrubs in front of our house. The shrubs themselves are about three feet tall, and two of them got a bug or something in them that killed off some parts. Not the whole shrub, but enough that a significant portion of both of them lost their leaves; whatever it was left just spindly, skeletal sticks and branches. For some reason, I didn’t remove those dead parts of the shrubs for a long time … until a couple of weeks ago, in fact. The dead parts came out quite easily. When I was done with my waaaay-overdue pruning, it looked weird – like a giant had take a bite out of two of the shrubs in front of my house.

Last night, jogging past the house, I noticed the shrubs again, and it struck me how much those two shrubs with the giant-bites taken out of them looked like those tiny trees Japanese gardeners trim so exquisitely. You know, those … those …

And my mind went completely blank. I couldn’t remember the name of the Japanese tree-trimming process.

Now, YOU are probably sitting there, drinking a Diet Coke and munching on some Fritos while you read this, and the word has already popped into your head. “That goofball,” you’re thinking. “*He can’t remember the word *‘bonsai.’”

You would be correct. I kept on with my jog, going past my house, turning around, and heading back up the hill toward the stop sign. My iPod was pumping “Shoot to Thrill” by AC/DC into my ears. My lungs were burning, trying to remind me that I’ve been coughing up a storm the past four days, and couldn’t we slow down just a little bit? Maybe walk to the next streetlight?

None of that mattered, though, because my brain was tearing itself to pieces, trying to remember the stupid word bonsai. And failing miserably. In my mind’s eye, I could see Pat Morita as Mr. Miyagi in *The Karate Kid *telling Ralph Macchio to imagine a tree and then just cut to make the tree in front of him match the image in his head. I could see the tree itself, there on the big screen. I could see Ralph hopping around on one leg in the karate tournament. I could see Pat slapping his hands and rubbing them together as he prepared to fix Ralph’s knee so he could use the Crane Technique (“If do right, no can defense”) to win the tournament.

I could see all that, but I still couldn’t see the stupid word.

And suddenly a parade of Japanese words and phrases started marching through my head: Hara-kiri seppuku Mt. Fuji teppenyaki tora tora tora Kawasaki Suzuki shogun kaizen kamikaze. None of them were right, and I KNEW they weren’t right, but I couldn’t come up with the correct word.

Fine, then. I just won’t think about it. That’ll teach those dumb shrubs. Sing along with the iPod. We’re on John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band now. On the Dark Side. Good song. “Dark side’s calling now, nothing is real; she’ll never know just how I feel …”

Tokyo banzai Yu-Gi-Oh domo arigato origami karate chupacabra

“From out of the shadows, she walks like a dream …”

Wait a minute … chupacabra? How the hell did that get in there? That’s Mexican, isn’t it?

“Make me feel crazy, make me feel so mean …”

Subaru Mitsubishi Toyota Honda Iwo Jima Godzilla tsunami


Okay, fine. I can’t get my mind off this. I know the word; I’ll come up with it eventually. Just have to focus. That’s all. Think about it hard enough, and it’ll come to me. No sweat.

No sweat.

Well, sushi.

The upshot of the story is, I wound up jogging and walking for about an hour last night, making the lap to the stop sign and back, not realizing how badly I was wheezing, not thinking about any of the songs on my iPod, just completely focused on remembering the stupid Japanese word for trimming stupid little trees that, I came to realize, look ABSOLUTELY NOTHING like the stupid shrubs in front of my house, in fact the stupid shrubs look TERRIBLE, I need to pull them up, no, that’s too good for them, I need to use a flamethrower on them because they’re so hideous, no, even a flamethrower isn’t enough, I need to take off and nuke them from orbit, because that’s the only way to be sure they’re completely destroyed and will never again resemble those stupid Japanese trees that are trimmed using the ancient art of …



Finally I came inside and plopped my sweaty, gasping self in front of the computer, and typed “Japanese tree trimming” into Google, and when the word flashed on the screen I yelled “BONSAI!” And then I remembered everybody else in the house was asleep and I needed to be quiet.

The next morning, Aries28 said, “Did something happen to you last night while you were jogging? I could have sworn I heard you yelling ‘Banzai!’ at one point.”

I told her I’d been reading about the aircraft carrier battles in the Pacific theatre during World War II, and must have dreamed I was a Japanese pilot taking off. She gave me a strange look. Which I pretended not to see. Because really, would the truth have been any better?


That post was wa-a-a-ay too long, and I read (and enjoyed) every word.


I’ve been trying on and off for days now, trying to remember Xander’s girlfriend’s name from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (and refusing to give in to Google). I just about had it when I read your post - Alma? Arlene? Anso? Banzai? Bellisimo?

I think I need to go for a jog. :slight_smile:

Thanks very much! For what it’s worth, it was originally a bit longer; I pulled in a bit of a James Thurber essay in which the same type of thing happened to him. He couldn’t remember the name of the town Perth Amboy. Which ALSO jumped into my head while I was jogging that night, because I thought “This is the same thing that happened to Thurber when he was trying to remember ‘Perth Amboy’!” And then it took me a few minutes to get ‘Perth Amboy’ out of my head.

I took it out, though, because I thought the post was getting too long as it was.

Cat Whisperer, I happen to know Xander’s girlfriend’s name; I’ve spoilered it below in case you want to peek.


Wonderful sushi here.

With Japanese Boxwoods this is symptomatic of Cotton Root Rot. It’s common with older plants and at 3’ tall yours may qualify. Try a root soak with Mancozeb Flowable, I think about 2-3 tsp per gal. Just mix it in a container and pour through the shrubs onto the soli. You may need to lightly rinse the leaves with a hose if you do this in the midday sun. Or you could wait until later, just whenever it jogs your memory.

Doo itashimashite. :wink:

You know, lieu, I didn’t expect to get a solution to my bonsai shrub problem when I posted this. You never cease to amaze and edify. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.

Anyanka, to give her her full name :wink:

Well Sauron ol’ buddy, I’ve got it too.

As always, great story.

Funny thing is, as you were going through your list of words, the answer popped right into my mind: philately. The Japanese art of pruning must be called philately, right?


ANYA! Whew.

ETA: I didn’t peek - it popped into my head when I opened this thread. :slight_smile:


That’ll be three dollars.

Okey dokey. I’ll get that in the mail right away. :slight_smile:

I couldn’t think of the word either. I got origami and knew that wasn’t it.

But I love when I see a story by you Sauron, I always know it’ll be a great read.

That’s very kind of you to say, and I appreciate it. I figure my frustrations and goofiness should at least entertain folks if possible.



Or (more “brief moment” than “girlfriend,”)


hah - Bricker’s a nerd!

Same here. Nothing like a shared brain fart! :wink:

So, Sauron, if you ran for an hour, how many miles did you log? In my healthy youth, I could do six miles in an hour. Today, it’d probably take me 20-25 minutes to walk it. Getting old sucks swampwater.