My Lesson from Nature

I don’t pay much attention to news outlets online, but last night I made the mistake of scrolling  through the suggested news clips that YouTube recommended on the COVID crisis and I quickly clicked the X to close the app.  I immediately felt my stress level rise.  Among the suggestions, there was enough confusion just from the headlines of each link alone to make my head hurt.  The opinions (which seems to be what news has become) were polarized and extreme.  It felt like it didn’t matter what the real facts were.  It felt like I was being given a choice to land on whichever topic fit my outrage.  I didn’t bite and swam off in the other direction.

Freedom Apple, weeks after pruning.
Freedom Apple, a few weeks after pruning.

Instead of fueling anger, I allow my attention to be drawn more toward people who have been adversely affected by this pandemic, specifically small business owners.  Because I was one for a time and I know the pressure these folks feel.  If I was still operating in March 2020, I would be facing the exact same dilemma as they are.  I feel their pain.  Mine just happened to start 3 years earlier, under different circumstances. But the end result is still the tie that binds.

In crisis, it is very easy to lose sight of what is true in lieu of all the other noises and voices that surround. This is why I was especially grateful for The Admiral to come alongside and remind me of the things to which I need to pay attention.

Through the major losses of the last 3 years, I knew I needed to find a way to drown out the external cacophony of negativity that sought to deafen my ears from Truth. I read some books and listened to podcasts, but none of that information was enough on its own.  I had to come to a point where I had to resolve what I believed about my circumstances, not what someone else was telling me.  Inspiration doesn’t expand me by just letting someone else do the breathing for me. My heart had to eventually take over and start beating again on its own, or else I was not going to sustain life within.

I began to gain clarity when I found a word picture that made sense to me. I’ve tended a garden for nearly 30 years. Every year I have engaged in a singular act at the beginning of each season.  At times the result looks drastic and extreme, but I’ve never gone wrong with this practice.

The word is pruning.

New growth on forsythia 3 weeks after hard pruning.
New growth on forsythia 3 weeks after hard pruning.

Pruning is the act of removing, cutting and discarding certain branches, limbs and vines that stand in the way of productive and fruitful growth.  It’s always done at the beginning of the season, right before new growth is ready to bourgeon.

When pruning is over, it can appear quite drastic, like I was angry one day and decided impulsively to take that anger out on the plant. But pruning is always intentional by the gardener, well thought out ahead of time because pruning has purpose.  It has to be done, and done at a certain time so that the plant can flourish in the entire upcoming season.

I do this every year to my apple trees, but did something even more drastic to two of them.  After the snowstorm of 1997, the one that split all three of my beautiful Hawthorn trees down to the bottom of the trunk, I replaced them with apple trees, hoping to have my own fruit to enjoy from my own backyard.  

But they never bore.  Between the squirrels, the apple maggots and cedar apple rust, I never ate one apple off those two trees.  So after 20 years of trying, I did what any good nursery person would do. I cut them down.  They were not productive.  They required my energy that gave me nothing in return.

What's left of the Braeburn apple tree.
What’s left of the Braeburn apple tree.

In some years, pruning means more than a trim.  It requires full removal in order to make way for something new.

This was the picture that made sense to me through all the loss I had experienced.  I had to see it as an act of pruning.  If I was to ever regain Hope, I knew deep inside I would need to see my circumstances in the light of something good, something that will make my future hopeful again.  

I’m starting to grow again, just like the honeysuckle along my south fence. It’s a hedge that was planted in 1962 when the house was built. Even though I lop off ⅔ of its limbs every other year, the hedge is still growing and providing color to my urban sanctuary.  The pain of cutting back is only for a short moment.  Growth is coming, Fruit will bear. A new harvest awaits me.

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