Habits are any automatic behaviors that eliminate the need to think about what you’re doing. If you had to think about how to lift up your coffee cup for each sip, or how to brush your teeth each time you did it, it would take a lot longer. Your brain takes up a lot of energy, and it's tiring to concentrate on learning new things. Habits make it easier to do a lot of things regularly, without the energy drain.
Having a pets can create habits that are good for you, such as a daily morning dog walk that gets both you and your pup outdoors. Having a bonsai tree to care for can create good habits as well, such as daily quiet time to contemplate the beauty of your tree and establish a mindfulness practice, and daily tree watering that reminds you to drink 8oz of water yourself!
Apart from the habits you may develop in support of the immediate care of your bonsai tree, bonsai may inspire you in deeper ways...
I find inspiration to create and curate good bonsai from nature, from all the beautiful forms that trees take, both in the wild and in my own neighborhood. To better understand the possibilities of what my bonsai trees can look like, I've developed the habit of getting off my couch and going outdoors, taking an urban hike or traveling farther afield to trails in regional, state, or national parks. This habit consistently leads me to better understand the nature of trees and to find inspiration that informs my bonsai practice.
I've yet to find a great repository of knowledge available about tree tourism beyond the information available on the Giant Redwoods of California or the oldest oak trees of Georgia, but here's a short list I've compiled of some great "treespiring" places to go hiking and get "bonspiration":
Point Lobos State Reserve - Just south of Carmel, California along Highway 1 lies “the greatest meeting of land and water in the world,” according to landscape artist Francis McComas. The rocky cliffs of this small area are covered in Cypress and Pine trees that are endemic to just a tiny portion of the coast but have been used as timber and decorative trees widely around the world. For the tree enthusiast, the forms of the Monterey Cypress hanging on the cliffs are among the more wonderful concentrations of "treespiration" I've ever found.
Avenue of the Giants - A large concentration of old-growth Coast Redwoods awaits exploration along this drive that is three hours north of San Francisco by car. Explore the forest where the speeder chase on Endor from Star Wars “Return of the Jedi” was filmed; gain a sense of awe from the sheer enormity of the trees around you and the serenity and peace in the groves.
The Miracle Mile - If you’re currently or aspire to be a tree nerd, then this is a great place for you to visit. In one square mile you can find more conifer species here than any other square mile on earth - eighteen different species to be exact. This place is remote and rugged; check it out if you’re up for an adventure!
Alta Peak, Kings Canyon National Park - For a bonsai enthusiast, tree age and the resultant gnarled form are often desirable characteristics in a bonsai tree. The grove/smattering of Foxtail Pines (related to Bristlecone Pines) that stand along the trail near the peak are among the most interesting trees that I have ever seen.
You may find that the benefits of forming habits can work in the other direction, too. If you're already an avid hiker, why not pick up a basic bonsai tree and learn how to design it to match the spirit of the trees you've seen on the trail?
Do you have more spots you think are tree-tourism worthy for a bonsai hobbyist to develop a hiking habit or a hiking enthusiast to develop a bonsai habit? Let us know in the comments below!