Nature’s Child is an evocative memoir about the life of Megumi Bennett, a celebrated horticulturalist and bonsai and ikebana artist.
The story, as told to author Mary Ann Napper, covers the phases of Bennett’s life: her birth in Tokyo during WWII; her young childhood in the wild mountain valleys of Nagano Prefecture where she discovered her love for plants and nature; the influence of her grandfather, who introduced her to classical Japanese scroll art and bonsai; her mother’s garden and influence in studying ikebana (flower arrangement).
In college, while continuing her studies in ikebana, she specialized in English literature and met visiting Australian art teacher Jean McGilchrist, forging a close friendship. Enchanted by images McGilchrist showed her of Australian flora, Bennett aspired to create ikebana with these alien plants. At age 29, sponsored by McGilchrist, Bennett moved to Australia for a year, meeting people who were similarly dedicated to horticulture and who helped manifest her vision.
Throughout the story, readers gain fascinating insights into both Japanese and Australian cultures, as well as into the rich international world of horticulture. The writing is lush in sensory and visceral detail: You can see her village of Ariake and smell her mother’s delicious cooking. From a childhood scene in Ariake, Napper writes, “On autumn mornings, I stomped in the gold and brown carpets beneath the canopies of mulberry trees and giggled with delight when the leaves crunched beneath my feet.”
For all the rich experiential detail of Bennett’s life history, readers might yearn for more specifics as Bennett begins to fulfill her vision of building bridges between peoples. She offers only general detail about what it was like when the newly founded World Bonsai Friendship Association in 1989 brought people from 32 nations together under the theme, “World Peace through Bonsai.”
Nonetheless, Nature’s Child depicts a life richly lived and illustrates how a person’s passions can reach across cultures, bringing people together in creative, uplifting, and unexpected ways.
Also available as an ebook.