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  • Alice Wyatt

A Well-Pruned Life



It is Monday morning, and I am supposed to be writing. A drooping plant needing a watering-can drink has morphed into the hose being dragged around the front of the house and a plant by plant inspection of the whole garden. I realize the Pomegranates are starting to bud, meaning any trimming needs to happen now. I hesitate for a moment. The morning is my most creative time; warm sun pouring in, still warm cup of coffee perched on the desk, open laptop, and writing goals on a yellow sticky note smile at me hopefully. Ahhhh!!!! This is what I always do!

Well, the decision is made. As King Solomon says in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, For everything there is a season. Spring is upon us! Hopefully, the trimming and shaping of words will come later in the day, when the noon sun makes me retreat into the cool of the house.

The Pomegranate bushes have not produced fruit for the last two years. When I first moved in and discovered the three scrubby shrubs in my front garden were Pomegranates, the fruit of exotic lore, I was enchanted. The wonder has since worn off. They get too much shade, not enough water, and their placement is such that I can’t get a hose around that side of the house. The no fruit thing has sealed the deal. Time for action!

Turning off the hose, I go to the old adobe shed and fetch my leather gardening gloves and green-handled rose pruners. The cats are excited to share the morning with me and weave between my legs, making it challenging to take a step without tripping over a tabby.

Standing in front of the head-high shrubs, I take tentative snips with the pruners. It is kind of like giving something a haircut. My goal is air and light. I know energy going to fewer blooms will yield larger, healthy fruit— a great lesson in less-is-more. Snip, snip, snip. I gain confidence and begin not to overthink each decision as I go along. Snip, snip, snip. I pull small branches out of the center, creating more airflow and letting sunlight into the heart of the plant.

This is taking a long time. As I tackle larger and larger diameter branches, I realize I need to upgrade my tool. Back to the adobe shed for the Compers, my long-handled shears that can easily lop off a finger if one is foolish enough to stick a digit between its curved beak.

Ah-Ha! This is better. The Chomper goes right for the widest part of the limb rather than taking nibbles off a branch. CHOMP! I just eliminated time-wasting steps. Slender sucker branches at the base of each shrub are gone in three easy bites, chomp, chomp, chomp. So satisfying!

I find my rhythm; decisions agonized over a few minutes ago are now made easy because I have defined my goals and have the right tools—double Ah-Ha moment. Once again, standing in my yard, messing about with plants, has opened a door into the spiritual world.

Indecisive because I wasn’t sure what I wanted, taking tiny bites when I needed a chomper used to be a pattern in my life. The reasons are many, but some are the same I overcame in Pomegranate pruning. What if I make a mistake? What if someone gets mad at me? What if someone else can do it better? What makes me think I can do this?

How many relationships have I tenderly nurtured, laying in bed agonizing about who said what and what exactly was meant by that, when I should have brought out my emotional choppers, CHOMP! How many committees have I served on without contemplating, Ok, what are my goals in joining this group? What can I give, and what fruit will this bear in my life? Last year, a friend and I partnered to bring a fantastic project to our community. She has a background in event planning and producing artistic events. I stopped short of owning my value in the planning stages and struggled to make decisions confidently even though my responsibilities fit perfectly within my skill-set. I made tentative snip, snip, snip motions around the edges while she watched patiently, staying within her sphere of obligation. Oh, how I love her for that!

On the other hand, when I got my feet under me, I was able to speak honestly about several issues, knowing I had strong feelings and wanting my voice to be heard. CHOMP! The other day I could tell my husband was upset, and instead of hovering around the edges, resenting his anger but not wanting to confront it, snip, snip, snip, I said, “Let’s talk.” We sat cross-legged in the middle of our bed and used a tool our therapist taught us - back to back. We talked about our feelings and what had led to this distance between us. Beds are great places to work out differences because, well, a bed is handy afterward - if you get my meaning. CHOMP!

We need to figure out what we want or need in every season of life, set specific goals, and search until we find the right tools to get the job done. Don’t mess about with things that kind of work or will bear fruit (maybe) next year. NO! Time is precious. Heavy pruning is sometimes needed. We may gasp at the pile of debris lying at our feet until we feel the fresh air and warm sunshine that can finally reach our hearts. The fruit we bear is a gift to the world, and it will be all the sweeter for the labor it took to get there.

I put up the pruners, haul the pile of branches to the burn pile, peel off the gloves, and give one last pet to the dusty tabby cats before heading into the house for a much-needed shower. My desk, laptop, and now cold cup of coffee are waiting right where I left them. I add to the top of my yellow sticky note, Prune Pomegranates, cross it off, and sit down with fresh inspiration.


For everything, there is a season - and a tool. Alice Wyatt

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