Gin & Zin

The Japanese Maple

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The Japanese Maple

A kindred soul, one of the most beautiful people you would ever meet, gifted me a gorgeous Japanese Maple for my shower gift when my son was about to be born, over 6 years ago. 

This thoughtful gift was right up my alley. No amount of diapers would have been as cool as this gift.

In the 6+ years of it’s life, this tree has done so-so. Towards the end of summer it’s always a little bit crispy, and then I trim it back, and tell it I will take better care of it next summer. The water has always drained very quickly from the pot. I just accepted it and went along with my life.

I have basic gardening knowledge (and I would like to think decent common sense, too!), but I have NEVER repotted it. I have added soil to the top to “amend” it, but let’s face it, Martha Stewart would be pissed. You are supposed to re-pot plants on at least an annual basis.

I clearly neglected this plant and expected it to be just fine.

This summer we were out of town often, and it dried out more. Our house sitter didn’t think it would make it. I thought, well, now is the time.

2 weeks passed, and then I randomly decided it was time. I pulled it from the pot, and added cardboard, leaves, and sticks to the bottom of the pot to help it hold water a little longer. My daughter helped me fill up a bucket of new soil and then add on top of the more fibrous mix. Then we added some bone meal and fertilizer to really make up for lost time (although it recommends adding to plants every other month!)

When the new pot was ready for the tree, I also decided to loosen some roots, maybe trim some away. You will never guess what I found in there.

Other than the two cute frogs, I found a gallon sized plastic pot turned upside down, taking space from the roots, taking space from the tree, just being there and crowding the plant. I was shocked! How had I NEVER known this? 

But then I saw the lesson.

How could I expect this amazing, treasured gift to thrive when I hadn’t been taking care of it? How could I give it what it needed if I didn’t even bother to check out it’s roots, to see what it had going on inside? It was truly amazing that it had adapted and thrived with such an aloof owner.

So the lesson. Smacking me upside the head. 

Look inwards, take care of your roots, do the things that you know are inherently good for you, follow the directions and support that you lend to others. We can always take better care of ourselves. We can always do more. I coach patients daily on this. But it is so true. Turn over that plant and see what the roots are like. What do they need? And please, please, do not let it go 6 years without doing so!! I have not been neglecting myself completely for 6 years by any means, but as a mother, you care for others all the time, working overtime for others needs. Yes you KNOW you are important and that you have needs, but they are not put on the tippity top of the list because it just isn’t always possible. So then time passes. 

Of course I’m talking about basic things like taking a shower, shaving legs, and creating space for quiet time, but also those not-so basic things like massages, husband dates, yoga classes, appointments, and long runs by myself. Those are things that make me feel like I am on the list, and not a dried up withering tree. Those things that make you feel like you are growing strong and not withering with the season. Kinda like how I set a mom goals to have my teeth brushed before noon from 2010-2015? Yea, just like that. Doing that simple thing can make you feel taken care of in a little way when you are raising up precious cherubs.

Lesson learned. Implementing can be hard. Upping the self care can be hard. But who wants to be an almost dead crispy tree?

After telling one of my patients this story, they replied that the upside down space wasting gallon planter may not have been an accident- that is how trees are bonsai-ied, meaning that by stunting the roots the trunk grows strong and the tree adapts. Another lesson. Seriously!

I’m digging the story even better now… Because he said- I bet the roots are strong and the trunk is thick. YES! Oh yes, the roots are strong and the trunk is thick- but it still needed lots of love and care and examining. Just like, I believe, we all do. Are we really “Okay!?” Are we really “Alls good over here.” And if not, it’s okay. Because if we don’t examine those roots from time to time the tree will wither, no matter how strong the roots or trunk are. I believe that, with all my heart.

So you better believe it during nap time yesterday I took a dip in the hot tub. I ignored the 2 days worth of dishes (still there…), and 5 baskets of clean laundry (took care of those later on), and had 15 minutes of my own re-charge, respite, and energy surge. It was like getting charged back up to a full battery. Because what is the point of moving things from room to room or having spent those 15 minutes washing dishes? More tired, moving faster, gotta get it done. Why? I didn’t really need to do that. We still had some clean dishes. I had no guilt, I am proud of my mid day dip, and I am really looking forward to making it happen again. Because~ the roots, trunk, and leaves, all need nurturing.


thank you (barn images) for this amazing photo. 

4 thoughts on “The Japanese Maple

  1. What an absolutely beautiful metaphor!! It is so easy to get to the point of being “withered”; sometimes it is hard to wait for the nurturing to take effect. This “withered” mama needed to read this today!

    1. Yes some days or weeks I feel very withered and then those little leaves start to grow, or I’m reminded that withered can be “okay”, but only for so long..

  2. Hoping you worr a bikini for your mid day dip! Love the story – im super digging it..and will likely poke at my roots tomorrow…or the day after…

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