Garden Clippings

I really let my garden yard, full of roses, grape vines and fruit trees, get away from me last year. When the heat of summer hit, I abandoned the little side yard and cowered inside with the AC running non-stop. When fall came, well…it was still summer. It stayed hot–well into the 100s—all the way through October. It stayed hot, and I stayed in. Every man, woman and rosebush for themselves! Winter came and went in the blink of an eye and here we are again with spring arriving in January.

And January finds the once lovely oasis is now a shambles of weeds, fallen leaves and scraggly, overgrown bushes. My little fountain sits empty and silent, its pump having given up many moons ago. Instead of blooming annuals, dull dry brown weeds as tall as trees surround the fountain. Climbing vines meant to soften the arched trellis seem rather to have swallowed it whole. The now leafless grapevines have spread and climbed into trees and trellises more than ten feet beyond their allotted corner. Let’s just say the garden is in chaos.


These past few weekends, I finally got out and got to work on clearing out last year’s residue from the garden yard. As I worked, random thoughts, ideas and questions came to me. Some relate to grieving and others just to life in general. Garden metaphors are certainly not new, but here, in no particular order, are a few of my “garden clippings.”

January is the optimum time in this part of Arizona to prune roses and non-citrus fruit trees, but calendar time is so arbitrary. It’s time to plant tomatoes here – but not back east or up north. There are rhythms and cycles and weather patterns that just don’t know how to read calendars. When does the grieving season end and the healing season begin? It’s not a date on a calendar. It’s not a set of five stages that you go through one after the other and then you’re done. There’s a rhythm and a pattern unique to each person and unique to each loss. Rather than measuring progress against the yardstick of time, we need to feel our own rhythms to know when we need the rest of lying fallow and when it’s time to bloom once again.


It’s been in the high 70’s for two weeks now and the peach tree is already beginning to bud out. I begin trimming anyway, hoping that new buds will form below where I’ve cut. Clip, clip, clip. Unopened buds fall to the ground around me. Then I find two large branches that have to go – one looks diseased, the other will be unstable when full of ripe fruit. Better to cut it than have it break later. Out comes the chain saw. Buzz, buzz, buzz. I stand back to admire my work and shake my head at what’s left of the tree. No minor pruning—this was major surgery. I console myself by saying that the poor little tree can only bear so many buds. Every year we lose at least one branch under the weight of all the peaches. Better to be brutal now, to select the strong branches. And later, to be brutal thinning down the little green fuzzy peach infants so that the remaining branches can hold their weight. At this cavalier snipping and chopping, does the peach tree register the same numbing shock that I did losing Cameron? Will it wither and die from the pain of it? I hope that, like me, it will bloom all the more and grow strong enough to birth its sweet juicy fruits without breaking.

What branches need cutting out in my life? How much blooming can I stand? How many peaches can I juggle without collapsing under their weight? I’ve got a million ideas, but I can’t see them all to fruition. Possibilities flood through me in profusion, but I’ve got to pick and choose, to weigh and balance, to cut out a whole lot of ideas, even really good ones, and focus on nurturing those blooms that remain.


Why is it so much easier to prune my fruit trees than it is to clean up my office? Cut and toss, cut and toss, cut and toss. With a discerning eye, I easily identify what stays and what goes. This branch stays, this branch goes, these shoots along the top can stay, these going off at odd angles have to go. Yet in my office I can stare at a pile of year old paper and the best I can muster is to move the pile to the other end of the desk or put it into a basket to sort through later. Maybe I need to tackle my office with pruning shears!


I keep working my way around the fountain and it’s entourage of weeds. Thinking about clearing them away feels overwhelming. Yet I’ve already purchased the annuals that will take their place. This is what I do. I get ahead of myself, put the cart before the horse. I want the blooming garden before the ground’s even prepared to hold it. I don’t want to do the weeding. I don’t want to do the tilling. I don’t even want to do the planting. I want to cut to the chase and enjoy the blossoms!

Maybe cleaning my office is more like pulling weeds than pruning trees.


Thank God for husbands! My DH musta read my mind, cuz he cleared all those weeds around the pond for me. Procrastination does pay sometimes! Did I say the weeds were as tall as trees? That was no exaggeration – when the weeds were finally cleared away, they revealed a “volunteer” oak sapling about 7 feet high with a trunk as big around as my thumb! First of all, how’d that get there? I don’t have any trees like that on or near my property. Second of all, what kind of 7 foot interlopers do I have in the inner garden of my subconscious, buried behind the weeds? Or in my office, buried under a stack of paper for that matter… Oh, Deeeeeee aaaayyccchH? Wanna clean up this mess for me too?


There’s an elegant and austere beauty to the newly pruned garden. It has a Zen-like quality. The little fountain, cleared of its weeds, stands ready to host the sound of trickling water, the newly pruned roses await their first unfurling leaves and bare tree branches curve up into the blue sky like an empty bowl holding space for the growth yet to come.

Wishing you peace on the journey…

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