Thursday, February 9, 2012


Last week, as the weather became unseasonably warm, I found myself in a conversation with some plant-loving friends.  Was it too late to prune?  When was the best time?  The answer, by a knowledgeable master gardener, was not simple – in short, “it depends.” 

As my friend shared some of his knowledge about appropriate pruning of different plant species, I was reminded about my experiences watching people pruning trees in northeastern Brazil.

One particular pruning incident comes to mind.  There was a gorgeous flamboyant tree in the courtyard of the school that hosted our garden project.  I was particularly fond of it because it was large and shady, and such trees aren’t easily found in that dry, rugged part of the world.  One day, a caretaker at the school decided to prune the tree.  He pruned it so drastically, though, that even the principal was alarmed and asked him to stop before he finished the job.  Already though, so many limbs were on the ground that the tree was a shadow of its former self. I smile to remember how shocked and dismayed I was as I observed what appeared to be ruthless butchering of that precious tree.  Surely, it wouldn’t survive!

Despite my sadness and worry, though, everything turned out well in the end. In the process of witnessing that tree’s miraculous recovery, I learned a thing or two about the tenacity of life in the face of challenges.

It seems to me that regardless of when we prune, or how we prune, the objective is the same.  In gardening, the purpose of pruning is to help a plant flourish.  In our lives, pruning can help us flourish too!  Whether we are clearing away clutter from our physical environment, or from our mental or emotional environment, pruning leaves space for growth and creativity.

In my own life, I will confess that my natural attraction to possibility often creates a values conflict for me in my physical environment.  To sum it up, I keep too much “stuff”!  Should I honor my commitments to frugality and resourcefulness or my commitments to sharing and simplicity?

Recently, I invented an acronym to help keep me on track in my efforts to simplify.  I call it PrUNe!

Pr =Precious.  Is this item precious to me?
U= Useful.  Am I likely to use it again?
Ne=Needed.  Do I need this more than someone else might?

If I answer “yes” to any of these question, I can keep the item.  If not, I recycle it or find it a new home.

I still have a lot of simplifying to do, and I know it will be an ongoing process.  I am confident though, that faithful pruning will leave room for flourishing.

What about you?  Are you doing any pruning in your life?

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