I love the Japanese maple that grows in our backyard. When I first saw this yard with a Japanese maple as it’s focal point, positioned perfectly as a splash of deep red amidst a sea of green, I knew that this was the place for us.
I talk to this tree often. Whenever I have had a hard day and need to decompress and release the pent up emotions hiding inside, I stand beside this tree, allowing a beautiful red leafy branch to rest on my shoulder as I breathe… just breathe. Standing near this tree, I can literally feel the stress and tension leave my body as I become rooted to the earth. This tree and me… we were meant for each other.
This weekend I finally made the time to prune the Japanese maple. As I picked up the pruning shears, I was apprehensive. Although the tree had lost all of its leaves, I could still picture the way that the beautiful, deep red leaves filled it’s long branches, proudly swaying in the wind.
It is recommended to prune a Japanese maple in the late fall or early winter, once all of the leaves have fallen off. One of the benefits of this is that the full structure of the tree can be seen, making it easier to prune based on the health and growth needs of the tree.
I, however, have always pruned in the summer, when I could see the shape of the canopy and prune based mostly on aesthetics. As I looked at the structure of the tree today, I was overwhelmed and apprehensive. When full of leaves, the tree was so pretty, so perfect, and I didn’t want to risk ruining that beauty, even though I knew that pruning the tree would help it to grow stronger and healthier.
I started to prune tentatively, cutting away the most obvious branches. The more I cut, the more I saw that needed to be removed. By focusing my previous pruning efforts on the aesthetics of the tree, I had missed some areas that needed to be cleared to help the tree grow stronger and healthier.
As I walked back into the house once I had finished, I had a feeling of loss and dread. I had removed so many branches – had I just ruined it? Will it grow back? Did I make a terrible mistake?
As I allowed these feelings to wash over me, I noticed how much these feelings mirror the fear, dread, and uncertainty that I feel when I make changes in my life; when I move away from the things that are comfortable, yet are no longer nourishing me.
There comes a point when taking a set of metaphorical pruning shears to our life is required for the ongoing sustainability of our health and well-being. This can mean letting go of relationships, behaviors, and beliefs that no longer serve.
Once we make the decisions that change our lives, however, we can be filled with dread, fear, and doubt. Will it work? Is there a better future coming? Or did I just throw everything away?
In these moments, we must have the courage to move forward fearlessly, trusting that the cuts we have made are the right ones.
The period of dormancy between pruning and new growth can feel like a lifetime. But when we make changes that are for our highest good, the end result is often a life that is stronger, healthier, and more magnificent than we ever imagined possible…