God speaks in mysterious ways, they say. This morning my Creator spoke to me from across the neighbor’s fence, in the voice of the little tree I’d been contemplating as I sipped my coffee and watched the sunrise. (Yes, of course there’s a tree in here somewhere.)
I’d noticed the tree earlier this week. It looked like it had been decapitated, headless as the plucked chickens in your grocer’s deep freeze. Sometime over the weekend, Mr. Neighbor had gone out with a pair of pruning shears and turned his ex-wife’s beautiful garden upside down. Truth be told, I’d been feeling a little sorry for the tree, shorn of its glory, standing there naked yet solid and rooted, revealing its inner workings, its structure and shape for all the world to see.
The form is beautiful, I think to myself, like a piece of Renaissance art, all curves and fullness, and yet not perfect – here and there a scar is revealed, reflecting the various passageways its growing beauty had traversed. But I was still a little worried for the tree – in the back of my mind the nudging words of my forester father, that fall was the time for significant pruning, for the health of the plant, the bush, the tree. And yet, three times this week, yes three, I’ve observed heavy cutting back taking place around me.
Who knows, perhaps here in the east the weather and vegetation are different, and benefit more from a spring trim. Either way, well-intended shears or not, the message finally got through, even down to the casual comment from one of my girls yesterday at the home, about trimming the tips of one’s hair to encourage healthy new growth. In this case, however, I thought perhaps a little over-pruning had been done – if this tree had knuckles, it had certainly been cut down to them.
The words continued to flow: Just like this tree, every so often – and only if we open our eyes wide enough – we can see the work of the Great Pruner in our own lives. Shears in hand, the Master Gardener will step in and begin to clip. Leaves long dropped, fruit long sprung, branches and twigs flying in a cloud that, when it disburses, will leave us standing there just like that tree, shorn of all things past, yet firmly rooted, where we, and everyone else, can take a good long look at our branch structure.
These are the times we begin to understand a little more about who we are, how strong we are, and what we’re truly capable of. In these moments we can take a lesson from this little tree. It doesn’t begin to doubt itself, torment its soul with questions and what ifs, what-did-I-do-wrongs. The blessing for the tree is that it understands, with all its treely wisdom, that this time of pruning is not about the past – it’s not about what happened last summer, last season, what fruit it bore, what birds it sheltered, what shade it offered.
It’s about the present, and it’s about the future. It’s about what does this little tree need right this very moment, to encourage its growth, to make it stronger than ever, more beautiful in its blossoming than ever before. It’s about the promise of spring, new life, rebirth and resurrection, a personal Easter for each plant, each tree, and yes, each person.
And unlike human gardeners, who may be well-intended but ill-informed, we can trust that the greatest Gardener of them all knows all about timing, and all the tips of the trade, from making a clean cut and not spreading disease to keeping the shears sharpened and knowing when a slice would be so deep as to stunt all future growth. No over-pruning here, although it may feel that way for a while, as we, like the trees, must learn to submit, to sink inwardly, deep into our roots, to find the nurture and sustenance to go on.
If we’ve gotten away from those roots, begun to over-identify or see ourselves only as our fruits, our flowers, this trimming can be – at least momentarily – devastating. If we’ve begun to place our value only in those who come to nest in our shade, who disappear when that protective covering is gone, again, this can be devastating. It can totally knock us on our collective keisters until we begin to remember, to connect, to go deeply enough to find the truth within. It was always there, after all, and still is, just waiting, rich and vibrant, for us to remember and come home.
Of course, there are other aspects to this tale, like the dangers of those who take it upon themselves to do a little trimming, which can serve as a reminder to us to keep our shears to ourselves. The Great Pruner has care of this garden – it is not our place to interfere. And yes, there are times when disease and rot may call for the deepest pruning of all, or a lightning strike from the Heavens may split a tree from tip to toe, calling for major surgery to rescue anything left behind, if a fire was not sparked that took the whole forest with it. But those are not stories for today.
Today we sit with the strong, healthy young tree, standing there in its glory, yet another shade, and wait with it in celebratory anticipation as the winds blow and seasons change, and the first buds and new growth of spring begin to appear.
And so it is. Namaste.
(C) 2013 Mary Batson, Front Porch Rambles. All rights reserved.
Republished with permission in On Purpose Woman.
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