"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Gifts of Light


Part of the trail Toby and I take has become so overgrown I only know it's there because we've walked it so many times. Bracken ferns tower over my head and wrap me in a soft embrace of fronds and pungent, almost-sweet perfume. Sunlight filters through just enough to illuminate the green, but the wind that keeps me company like another playful puppy doesn't follow me into the thicket.

There's no room for anything else in this space except sound: a soft insect buzz; the  gruff gronking conversation of the raven pair who showed up in my sky earlier this summer; Toby crashing through the brush in search of scent. I am cocooned, and very very still.

Walt and I have spent the last few days trimming trees in our yard. Old Douglas firs whose lower branches block light from neighboring planting areas. A newer sequoia, one of the first things we planted when we moved here twenty summers ago, grown far beyond our earlier envisioned boundaries. A red twig dogwood that exploded from a one-gallon clump into a small forest of its own.

I've always been reluctant to remove even a few branches from our trees, unwilling to give up the shield and security they provide. Pruning has always felt so brutal to me. The removal of living parts. Going from lush wild growth to controlled cut angularity. But things have finally reached the point where I recognize that if the trees don't get trimmed, other plants will die from lack of sunlight and overcrowding.

The work itself was pleasant and satisfying, even with sore muscles and the unavoidable scrapes and bruises. The results were surprising. Because we'd been intent on creating light for smaller plants, I hadn't really focused on what else was being opened up. Our view beyond the fence line has been expanded considerably. In the back yard, we can see a neighbor's place clearly at the far side of our field. A place of cute outbuildings and bee boxes and a huge garden. A sight that both soothes and brings smiles.



In the front yard, for the first time ever, we can see the top of our immediate neighbor's house just behind the cedar fence that backs the sequoia. It was that sight that got my attention.

I love our neighbors, but I don't love seeing their house. For a few minutes I wished hard that we could put back a few of the branches we'd worked so hard to chop off. This was exactly why I'd always been so against trimming. And I couldn't even blame Walt because I'd been right there with him.

As I stood staring at the offending housetop, my focus shifted ever so slightly. I saw the rich red trunk of the sequoia fringed with sword ferns at its base. I saw the smoke bush already reaching toward the new light. I saw open ground ready to receive new life. I realized that eventually I'll see only green again, but it will be healthier, more diverse, richer.

Caught in the spell of the prehistoric ferns, a part of me wants to stay right here in this moment forever. No pain. No loss. No fear. Nothing but now. But I get restless, and I haven't heard Toby for a bit, so I move forward into a clearing that is as blue and open as the trail was green and enclosed. Against that brilliant backdrop that opens to forever is a trio of leafless twigs, upon which rest two dragonflies. My old friends of a couple of summers ago, here now reminding me of their message of renewal and insight—the end of illusion and clearer vision into life's realities.

Gifts of light, given as grace, received with gratitude.

27 comments:

Jessica Nelson said...

There's no stopping time.
I love how you know the names of things. I never do, even though I love how they look and smell.

Richard said...

One of the good things about yard work is that you "see" where you live. It's a living space that you share with other life.

DJan said...

Love that first picture filled with ferns. Summer is finally here, and it's time to enjoy it. Even if it means pruning and seeing more than we did before. I love the pictures!

Teresa aka Journaling Woman said...

Oh how I wish a Sequoia would grow in Missouri, but I bet it wouldn't or there would be sequoias mixed in the cedars.

Wanda said...

I just trimmed the laurel from 18 feet to 3.5 feet. Brutal...necessary...and the thing is, it always grows back.

B. WHITTINGTON said...

Deb,
As I read this I was thinking of the trees that we have in our tree line that need to be trimmed back. Mostly because they're hanging down and raking across R's head as he uses our lawn tractor to cut our almost two acres.
So it's a necessary thing.
I don't know the names of trees, I'm a bit better now that we live in the country, but the names roll off R's tongue. He loves trees. Really loves them. If he could he'd fill our yard with them.
Physically he's unable to plant them now.
Thanks for sharing and don't work too hard. I love the view it opened up for you.
Blessings.

yaya said...

You've made a yard work task sound romantic and so peaceful! I'm glad you can have new views. With all the Pines that surround us, I sometimes feel like we have a fortress..many times people comment on how big the Pines have gotten and I'm in awe too! Enjoy your little Garden of Eden...all the seasons will have surprises now I'm sure.

Wanda..... said...

Your unsure feelings of change are familiar to me, when it comes to tree trimming or removal. We've opened up areas too, and in the process have thought...oh my gosh, what are we doing, but it all works out!

Barb said...

I went on the walk with you, Deb -saw those dragonflies, too, and received their message. We had some of our pines pruned last fall - my perennial gardens are receiving a bit more sun - a good incentive for growth in our short summers.

Stacy Crawford said...

What a lovely view you have. It's amazing what some trees can do to make you feel secure, shaded, protected. I sure do miss our in the front. Darn ice storm.

Donna said...

Your view looks so beautiful to me, but I love being in nature! The ferns and all that surround it sound so lush expecially after reading your last post about the baby owl being there too! It sounds like a little paradise and that's how I feel about my yard...our own little haven, So glad summer is here and we can go out and enjoy it!!

kario said...

Pruning, I am brutal about. Pulling plants out and dividing or thinning, I hesitate to do. I hate getting rid of plants altogether, but always love the results when things are given room to grow.

Can't wait to take a walk with you and Toby. Someday soon...

Retired English Teacher said...

Pruning is brutal, but it leads to new growth. I loved the dragonflies.

Lavi said...

Being surrounded by plants is very calming. I understand why you were reluctant to prune the trees, but they will grow back. Maybe even thicker and healthier.

Mark Lyons said...

Light is such an incredible gift, but ironically many of us feel so comfortable in the darkness. Thanks for your reminder that we need to cut away those things in our life that keep the light out so that we can truly live in freedom.

I love you
Mark

Desiree said...

Oh, I know well those mixed feelings that come with pruning shielding, sheltering foliage :) Mixed blessings, indeed!

Out of My Mind said...

Sigh ... ... ... BEAUTIFUL! kt

Katie Gates said...

Oh wow, Deb, this is one of your most powerful posts ever! Amazing, truly amazing. And this line: "A newer sequoia, one of the first things we planted when we moved here twenty summers ago, grown far beyond our earlier envisioned boundaries." So many possibilities in that wording... Thanks for sharing your vivid and visceral thoughts.

Elenka said...

My husband was just doing the same thing these past few days. I always shudder when I hear him rev up the chain saw because the next thing I know, a tree is down. (We've got lots of trees on these 9 acres.)What he doesn't think about AT ALL is what you end up seeing once the tree or bush or whatever is no longer there. Yes, there are many things that need some trim work, but you have to look ahead to try and figure out how it's going to look after the fact. In the 34 years we've lived here a lot has grown up, but I don't have 34 more years for it to grow back.

Charlene: the Polarblogger said...

It's such a refreshing activity to work in our yards, beautify our surroundings and bring in the light.
Thanks for this inspiring story about the wonderful gift of light. We all need that.

Linda Myers said...

What a beautiful piece of writing! It feels like you're sitting in that peaceful place, looking around and describing it all as a writing exercise.

deborahjbarker said...

Deb, that first picture of the emerald ferns that have covered the trail is magical. As I walked through the woods, during and after a recent shower, I had to stop and take a photograph because my way was barred by overhanging branches, heavy with raindrops and full of new growth. Your post is delightful and I mean that word as it sounds. What a lovely place you live in and how beautifully you draw it with your words. Thank you :-)

She Writes said...

Pruning does tend to reveal things that were hidden. I often don't want to see everything that is conveniently covered.

colbymarshall said...

Beautiful views you have. I love looking at your pictures...so soothing. Just got back from a week at the beach...the view was so inspiring. Hope you had a great 4th!

Wander to the Wayside said...

Deb, this is a test to see which blogs I can or cannot leave a comment on, and why ...

Sandi said...

Reading this post "lightened up" my perspective. I love light, yet at the same time, also love the lush greenery of the forested area I remember that surrounds your home. I covet your home, and "extended back yard"!
I totally understand your reticence to "prune", as I'm guilty of that same thing. But, I thought about my overgrown lilac, that produces poor quality bloom, and the need to prune in order for the plant to receive the light it needs to be healthy. I've let it go for 20 years, because it hides the back yard neighbor. Perhaps a "light" pruning is in order. Thanks Deb, for reminding me that pruning isn't death, it's a little bit of rebirth.

Philip Verghese'Ariel' said...

I don't have words to describe, but to say one thing, happy to be here, i could find a poetic touch here in these pages, i love such words, great experience
thanks for sharing
I joined in
best
philip