A couple months ago my mom taught me how to prune a tree.
Our mulberry in the back yard was so overgrown. Last summer it was full and green and lush, but branches grew every which way, running into the patio roof and dipping down toward the sandbox. While I knew it needed to be cut back, I didn’t want to kill the poor thing, so I hadn’t messed with it at all. Besides, I had no idea where David kept the saw. But Mom is the kind of person who just gets stuff done without waiting for other people, so while she was in town visiting, she picked me up some supplies and we set to work.
She explained that branches growing across or entwined with each other needed to be removed so those that were left could breathe and flourish. More branches don’t always indicate a healthier tree; in fact, she pointed to a few places in our very full tree that showed spots of disease. Creating space by getting rid of everything sick or superfluous would allow the tree to focus its energy on growing bigger, stronger, and more beautiful.
We sawed and trimmed, piling up countless limbs. We sealed cuts to prevent infections and pests from getting inside. At first it seemed impossible to work out some of the snarls, but slowly we began to clear away everything dead and disabling. Our shoulders ached and our hands were tired, but we could see we were making progress.
It was immensely satisfying work.
David was (understandably) worried when he saw just how much we had cut down. Would our back yard have as much precious shade this summer as we had last year? Would the tree even survive all that sawing and trimming?
Only time would tell.
It has been two months since I finished pruning our tree and it appears to have forgiven us for cutting so much of it down. All the photos in this post were taken yesterday. Our overgrown mulberry will be overgrown again before too long, because it it has new growth EVERYWHERE.
The tree is just as full and lush as last year. It looks well-tended and less jungly. It even appears to have forgiven us for cutting it; there is new growth around many of the sealed cuts.
Our tree is thriving.
And I had an epiphany.
In several books I’ve read recently, I’ve discovered so many gems on creating space. Advice to “get rid of the unwanted [in order to] make room for what is needed,” and to use money to “foster experiences or create space in our lives for the things that matter,” and so on.
A home decor blogger I follow mentioned more than once that she uses Sundays to create white space in her life.
And then there’s that whole Konmari business of getting rid of anything that doesn’t spark joy.
Apparently the universe is trying to teach me a lesson, of which the mulberry tree has been only a small part.
I need to create space.
Rather than waste my energy on tangles and stress, I need to focus on creating some space in my life.
In my finances for emergencies or occasional treats. In my home for only the things I consider useful and beautiful. In my schedule for service, spontaneity, and enough sleep. In my body for better food, less tension, and bigger breaths. In my mind for the things that are truly important. In my heart for more love and more grace.
It’s going to be hard and sometimes painful work. I may be overwhelmed right now, but I’m comfortable in my overwhelm. I need to get over that. I need to take a good look at myself and eliminate any branches that are blocking the sunlight or choking their neighbors. I need to work on creating space for growth and goodness.
So Universe, if you’re listening, know this: message received. If you need me, I’ll be over here creating space for all the wonderful things you want to send my way.