Hannah Overman Koch

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Bonsai

The Bonsai Tree

On a recent trip to Chicago, I was able to visit and immensely enjoy the Chicago Botanic Gardens!
On special exhibit there was a large variety of Bonsai Trees.

The appearance of age, the organic beauty and tender care were on display in each tree.
Here are some photos from this exhibit-

The pamphlet on the collection.

Most often when displayed, the Bonsai is paired with a smaller plant or rock.

The photo below describes this particular tree-

It states:
In Bonsai, literal age is less important than the appearance of age.  This pine has both:  It's the oldest tree in our collection.  (Hundreds of Years), and its style speaks of the harsh, cold, windy conditions endured by an ancient tree.

This is an overview of the entire collection of Bonsai Trees.

The curves...

The shallow roots..

Another note from the exhibit:

Old tree/young tree, dead wood/lush growth, the passing of time.
The illusion of dead wood arises from branches stripped of bark, then painted with lime sulfur that both bleaches and preserves the wood.

This gnarly root is so gorgeous!

Well after returning home and thinking about all that I saw and experienced in Chicago, the Bonsai has captivated my imagination!  It was time to bring the ideas to paper-

A page from my sketchbook

Materials included - pencil, watercolor, colored pencils and black pens.

A few closeups of my sketchy markings.

Next, I wanted to make a collage-

I decided to only use one magazine, West Elm because of the beautiful patterns and wood designs included.

Hence, this is aptly named - West Elm Bonsai Tree.

The black paper was left over from another project.

I decided to cut tans and browns from the mag to represent the wood of the bonsai.

The mag also had subtle greens that I used to represent the greenery of the leaves.

Materials used - student quality drawing paper, black acrylic paint, magazine clippings, glue stick

My final ode to the Bonsai was making a few thank you cards.

I made quick sketches with a black pen.

Next, I glued the sketch to a piece of colored card stock.

Then I sewed a simple line (using my sewing machine) around the card stock to adhere it to the card.

Added some other black lines and the word "bonsai" to finish it off!

I find hand written notes to be something very special to me.  
I try to do it as often as possible.

And to complete the card - of course the Bonsai Tree stamp collection!
Thank you to the US Postal Service for such beautiful stamps.

When I think I Bonsai Trees now, I do not just think "tree".  The words that come to my mind are:
Age, beauty, organic, journey, ancient, convex, concave, pruning, size, time, Japanese, simplicity, lines, roots and care.

Caring for a Bonsai is symbolic to caring for our own lives.

looking at the Bonsai in a whole new way on this artist holiday,

Sunday, October 7, 2012

October Kindness Chronicles

This month's Kindness Chronicles comes in a unique form this month-

A Book Review
and a plan to celebrate Christmas a little differently this year...

Recently I read...

Three Cups of Tea
by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

"Three Cups of Tea" Young Adult Edition Book Cover Image
Image courtesy Central Asia Institute
Young Adult Reader Version

This book begins...
With the author Greg Mortenson climbing a mountain in Pakistan named K2 back in 1993 when he became lost from his group and found himself wandering into a small, poor village named Korphe.  The kindness of the village people of Korphe toward him during that difficult time touched him and he wanted to help them in any way that he could.  He saw they needed a school. That was it!  Greg Mortenson promised to return one day soon ready to build a school for the children of Korphe.  This book details his journey of building their school and the beginning of his life work instilling a priority of education across Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The title "Three Cups of Tea" is what originally caught my eye and after seeing the cover I knew this was the book I should read.  
I found this statement when I turned the book over to the back cover: 

"With the first cup of tea you are a stranger.  
With the second...a friend.  
With the third cup of tea, you are family."

This title summarizes his journey and message of the book and I believe it is the perfect title.

I believe the style writing was certainly accessible to a young reader.  It would be a great addition to a middle school library.

The key idea of this book is about random and not so random acts of kindness.  The Korphe villagers were doing a random act of kindness to help the author in his time of need so far from home.  The author's kindness was in response to their kindness.  And the kindness he has extended and continues to extend to other villages has become his very own "Kindness Chronicles".   

Greg Mortenson wrote in the introduction:

"But there are about 110 million children ages five to fifteen around the world who don't have a chance to learn how to read and write or to go to school."

As I read the introduction and the rest of the book, I was humbled.  I have always been a person to never take my blessings for granted but after reading this book I really thought about every thing I have and possess.

I decided about half way through this book I want to do something to make a difference in my community.  But what can I do?

Finally, after some thought, an idea came to me-

For Christmas this year, I am asking everyone who planned to get me a Christmas gift instead to give me canned food I can deliver to my local food pantry.  I have estimated that if everyone who was going to buy me a gift instead spent that money on canned food, I could possibly collect 50-100 cans.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to anyone who wants to find some inspiration in small and big acts of kindness.

Publisher:  Penguin Group
Published:  2009
Amazon Price:  Paperback $8.99
Check your local library too!
ISBN:  978-0-14-241412-5

Adapted by Sarah Thomson       Foreword by Jane Goodall
Includes an Interview with Greg's Mortenson's 12 year old daughter, Amira Mortenson

Also includes:
Regional Map

Please visit Greg Mortenson's non-profit website:

Also check out the service-learning program of Central Asia Institute:

inspired to make a change on this artist holiday,