The tree trimmers were here today to work on the almond tree in our backyard. (I mentioned calling them a week ago in this space.) Originally we had wanted them to take care of all five trees in the yard, but when they gave us an estimate of $1600, we had to settle for more modest goals. The almond was full of dead branches, plus one rather large live one that hung dangerously over our neighbor’s property, so that’s the one we decided to deal with. Maybe we can address the rest next spring, once our tax refund comes in …
Anyway, I didn’t watch them working much for two reasons. One, I didn’t want to get in the way of people using power equipment, including — especially! — chainsaws. Two, I was busy cooking up a cauldron of “false gumbo”, scrubbing the screen door on the front of our house, exercising Sean and keeping an eye on Charlotte. (Nina was out with a friend for a few hours.) So I was otherwise occupied.
Which just increased the impact when they told me they were done, and I looked at their work …
… and I kid you not, my first words were, “there was a tree under all that?!?”
I was joking, yes, but joking on the square. The overgrown almond I had known had been transformed from a thicket of live and dead branches (several of which interfered with the power lines to the house) into an open, airy structure that left the electric lines alone and allowed sunlight to hit the ground in spots. One of the difficulties we’ve had with the back lawn is that the trees block out so much sun that there are spots where grass simply won’t grow — and the almond has been the worst offender. Now we’ve got even more hope for The Bermuda Grass Strikes Back in 2011.
Who knew that a few hours of professional pruning would make such a difference? Except … maybe I should have.
See, one side effect of Sean contracting Leigh’s disease (and the aftermath of that) is that it initially forced me to drop almost every project I had. Blogging went on hold for seven months, re-emerged briefly, then stopped again for a month and a half. I was looking for a job a year ago; I haven’t made a concerted effort since because, if I did get hired somewhere, who would take care of Sean? (The answer, I learned this summer, is not “my wife” — her CMT prevents her from doing the physical work.) The housework fell apart to the point that I’ve had to throw myself into it over the last couple of months just to catch up. Reorganizing my Rhapsody files, outlining short stories, looking for a publisher for my novel … all went by the wayside for a while.
Meanwhile, a lot of things got set aside that were really not that important — and haven’t been picked up again. A lot of the pages I used to frequent on the Internet I don’t bother with anymore because a few months’ absence demonstrated how little they contributed to my life. Planned writing projects I was worrying about a year ago are still sitting there, but I’ve stopped worrying. A couple of fantasy basketball teams I started last fall were abandoned shortly after the season began (something I’d never have done in the past). If you’ve read this blog from when I began it at the end of 2008, you’ll know that one of my regular topics was the sorry state of the American church, especially as it manifested itself in institutional, system-driven congregations. I still touch on that occasionally, but for now I’m largely leaving the fight to others. It’s not where I’m supposed to be right now.
Simply put, helping Sean fight his fight has stripped away a lot of the dead branches — and some of the live but unnecessary ones — from my tree. And in a lot of spots, more light is shining in. I’m more patient than I used to be. I’m developing a bigger capacity to treat others gently, even when they’re being ninnies. I’m finding happiness and laughter in places I wouldn’t expect, and learning to enjoy the life I have rather that be annoyed by the one I don’t. What my life has lost in breadth it seems to be gaining in depth.
Even my walk with God has gained an extra dimension: the ability (willingness?) to accept whatever happens as God’s will, and therefore good. In addition, I’ve been able to drop more and more of the man-made religious trappings I was taught over the years, and let my faith be based more on relationships with Jesus and with people. Would these things have happened if my life hadn’t been cut down to the main branches by the events of last summer? Maybe — I had already let go of the desire to fit in with the institutional church system. Then again, maybe not — because I’d never had to depend on Him and trust His judgment like I have in the last twelve months.
And I don’t think the pruning process in my life is finished; a lot of extraneous stuff could still be removed without hurting me any. It’s all up to the Master Gardener to decide what stays and what goes. But I think I can trust Him to do what needs to be done to let the Son shine through.