I went to the flower show yesterday and felt a little depressed until I got to the bonsai exhibit. I had seen Jane Pepper in a slim blue suit disappear into a lecture room. There were clean white tablecloths on pedestals in the DiBruno room. And in the exhibit hall—cavernous, concrete--all sorts of blooming things that made my eyes sting.
Under burning lights the bananas and palms looked stiff. Crazy zig-zagging birds from the zoo whizzed high up near the rafters. They were having fun. Squeezed in with the tropicals were tiny daffodils and iris. Hostas were just unfurling all over the place—a relief. I was nose to nose with an orange azalea I thought was witch hazel at first. Under the chatter of the birds was the low hum of conversation from so many members of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.
The bonsai were displayed, each in a little niche. I could stand and contemplate the tiny leaves of a buttonwood still in training or a cedar bending left. I’ve been reading about Japan and thinking about narrow valleys and plains of rice fields.
Finally, I bought peony. It was difficult to pick one. I chose one with white floppy flowers, one spot of red at the center of each bloom. The root was just sprouting encased in a plastic bag. When I got to the grocery store a little later and put the peony down on the counter to pick up my bags of groceries, the bagger laughed. “I thought it was a dead bird,” he said. “No, just a peony,” I replied.
“Jacqueline Onassis wanted only these at her funeral,” the man who sold me the peony said. “Ah,” I said, not sure at all that it was a good thing.
“It’s all for a good cause,” I said to my husband this morning. “And I loved the bonsai.”