Ryan Neil and the ancients

I got to know Ryan on a hike up the California mountains to visit the ancient Bristlecone pines. Even though we were at a high altitude, and it was difficult to breathe due to the thinner air, none of that seemed to affect Ryan who took off over the cliffs like a mountain lion carrying the whole group's water and food in a shoulder bag. Already there and then he showed how determined, dedicated and passionate he is in his search for inspiration and knowledge about how the trees live in the wild and how their surroundings and environment affect them.


With patience he took the time to explain how scorching sun, fires and blasting winds shape the trees on the mountain tops. At the same time curious about what a novice like me, from a completely different climate, had thoughts and ideas about these trees in this unique landscape.



Some of these Bristlecone pines has reached an incredible age of 5-8000 years old. How come? Maybe because there is no underbrush and risk of forest fire and that the climate up here has remained stabil over the millenias.


Study of a few of the styles and forms. Bottom right is Andrew Pearson, Ira Sisson, Ryan Neil and Jesus Contreras (missing in the photo is Tom Benda and myself.)



When we settled down at the top of the mountain pass, we slipped into a more spiritual and deeper conversation. Ryan spoke candidly about his doubts and challenges he had, partly after suffering an injury that ended his basketball career, but also after more the six tough years under Mr Kimura's guidance and teaching in Japan. The result were the cornerstones of what we know today as Mirai, which is so much more than a nursery.


On the way back we had a stop at the Yosemite National park to zip in the grandieur of these monolith mountains. All a huge inspiration for the pots Triskele group went in to to make at Mirai.


Ryan, as I see it, has managed to combine tradition with his vision of the future of bonsai. We saw evidence of this when we returned to Oregon, where Ryan's side as a successful manager of both garden and media team shone through, while he has architects and construction workers going at full speed in developing both the garden and the land. To be able to build the business he runs, together with others who are equally passionate about their various tasks, whilst at the same time retaining creativity and innovative, it stands clear to me that it requires a combination of experience and talents that very talented few possess.




Slowly I realised that Mirai is a unique place in its location among the fertile hills outside of Portland and remains an ongoing project for others to perhaps one day follow the same model that Ryan has created. What I took home with me, after working on pots with Andrew "Stonemonkey" Pearson and Tom Benda at Mirai in the spring of 2022, was that "Nothing is impossible", or "To big" and rise to the challenge you see fit for your ability.


"The time is now."


Thor Holvila

may 2022





Featured Posts
Recent Posts