Sunday, May 25, 2008

Yasha of the Trees

We named her for a Japanese half-spirit, InuYasha. Inu-Yasha is the protector spirit of the forest. Although bearing little resemblance to the InuYasha of legend, she seemed to grow into the name. She was just a tiny white puffball when we brought her and her brother home, but even then she developed a fondness for the bonsai.

She sits among them, in the growing beds, and watches graceful butterflies dip and flit among the lantana flowers. On warm days, she lays on the wet redwood chips under the benchs, where shade protects the maples. As a puppy, she sometimes did harm to the trees that she was meant to protect. Finding sweetness in the heartwood of liquidambar, she chewed a whole flat of cuttings into useless tinder. Once she lay on the soft perlite-plumped ground and chewed a small quince into pencil sharpness, and later pulled the same quince out and carried it around the yard as a prize.

Protector spirit of the forest? Not always, certainly. She is a half-spirit, after all... caught between two worlds. She cannot be entirely one thing or the other. Sometimes she is the Inu, and sometimes she is the Yasha. She can walk among the trees so carefully that they hardly sense her presence, when she is being protective. Squirrels, cats, and birds avoid her trees when she is guarding them. Her shining eyes miss nothing.

When she is the Inu, the dog, she can dig and chew and destroy. Unerring in her instinct, she finds the trees that are special to her Master, and with paws, teeth and wet nose she undoes the careful work that her Master has done. Sometimes the damage is not found for days, and the tree doesn't survive.

We named her for the half-spirit of the Japanese lore, and in the naming she found her path. And like so many other half-deities, her reckless moments can mean the difference between Life and Death. Her power over the trees is absolute and utterly without comprehension.

Maybe we should have named her Lassie.

(first published in Joanie's Journal, BonsaiTALK forum)

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