I was standing, armed and ready, with my hedge clippers in hand, eyeing the weeping redbud tree in my front yard. My mind wandered from the trimming task before me to remember the hike I recently took in the redwood forest in California. My fellow hikers and I chose to take the canopy trail, despite the warnings of tripping hazards, lack of cellphone service and medical care more than an hour away.
I decided it would be worth the risk to look down upon the giant trees from above them. It was a breathtaking sight. (My husband ended up experiencing a tripping hazard that sent him down the side of the mountain. Fortunately, his descent was stopped by the mighty trunk of a tree without sustaining any broken bones.) Those redwood beauties have survived hundreds of years to reach their present height and shape, evoking the words of Joyce Kilmer that you will never see a poem (or essay) as lovely as a tree. Nobody pruned those trees, and yet, there they stood in all their magnificence, just the right shape for a redwood.
I glanced over to my neighbor’s yard, the second home for a weeping cherry tree that formerly grew on my property. When it stood in my yard, I had a vision of the shape that tree should take. I wanted it to be willowy, with light showing through the branches. After over-pruning, it began to look tortured, and I blamed the tree. I replaced it with the present weeping redbud, which was about to meet my hedge clippers.
My neighbor had saved the weeping cherry by planting it in his yard, where, I had to admit, it was growing into a lovely ornamental tree. All of this gave me pause to consider what I was about to do. Would this weeping redbud meet the same fate as the weeping cherry if I executed my aggressive pruning intentions? These trees were weeping for a reason. The leaves rustled in the wind, and I interpreted that as shaking at the thought of my clippers. I decided to let the redbud fill out into the leafy ball it wanted to be, and I just cut the bottom so that I could see the trunk underneath.
Since my tree-trimming was cut short, I had time to think about whether this lesson about over-pruning had other applications in life. There is a danger when we hold an image of what we think our children should be. Children need to be nurtured and guided but allowed to take their own destined shape. In each person, there is a size and shape they are meant to be. Kahlil Gibran wrote, in “The Prophet,” that children come through us but not from us. Like trees, they will sprout up from seeds and grow into their own destiny.
I say affirmations every morning that include the words “let life unfold with ease.” When we hold onto a vision of a certain outcome, we can miss the possibility of other more natural and beautiful outcomes that over-
pruning may prevent from unfolding.
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