Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Thorn War

I'm restoring a house.  I have been doing this for one and a half years.  With the inside repairs winding down and the summer weather heating up, it was time to turn my attention to the landscaping.  You could refer to the flower bed that lines the front of my property as a jungle.  What was once a prestine adornment  of irises and tiger lilies has now become a mass of bulb plants with vines and prickers intertwined in a heaping green hedge that looks something like razor wire. 

From a distance it didn't look that daunting.  I showed up at my mother's door this morning in search of her hand trimmers.  I figured that a little snip here and there and I could take care of my thorn problem.  She pulled them off the wall of her garage amidst an array of gardening tools and handed them over. They looked easy enough to operate.  I pulled them open and snapped them shut, nodded and said, "thank you."

After lunch I donned my yard work clothes and headed for the lawn tools with a bouncing, smiling 5 year-old closing in behind me.  She loves the prospect of irritating me while I work outside. 

"Can I try, Mama?", she squealed as I marched toward the front of the house with the trimmers in my hands. 

"No, Honey. They are too sharp. Dangerous."

I furrowed my brow at her show she would see the seriousness of not misusing hand trimmers.  I surveyed the mess, picked a spot and snipped.  I was amazed at how little damage it did.  I pulled out a branch and looked at what I had accomplished in the pruning. This was going to be more involved than I thought.

As I trimmed I thought of bad decisions in my life.  My mind created an analogy between consequences for actions and how they are like the thorns.  At first my snipping was more on the surface of the mass. It seemed like the more I tried the less I did.  I likened that to denial about the choices we make.  Seems when I would make a choice I knew was wrong I always wanted to reason that it was just mine.  No one would be affected.  When it would start to crowd me, I'd try to brush it aside and pretend it wasn't there.  A little lie here, a slight omission there.  Just ignore it and hope it will go away.

Like the thorns, they don't just evaporate.  If not properly treated they grow.  When the short snips were of little avail, I started moving limbs out of the way to see how far I could cut, looking for a main branch.  A heftier snip, a bit more pressure and a clump of thorns slumped to the ground after being separated from the thick stem.  It looked better but there was so much more to do.  My eyes scanned over the intricate weaving that the branches had become because they were left alone to do so.  This was more than I had counted on.  I connected the intricacy of the thorns to things in my life left to fester when I couldn't deny them any longer.  The complexity of something once so seemingly innocuous can be overwhelming.  How do I fix it? 

I changed my stance and started to dig in.  My moving had become purposeful and I was looking to take out this thorny menace.  I dug my trimmers deep, until I could find the bottom.  Take it out at the source.  I found where the earth met the plant and chomped the blades down on the stem.  "Snap!", the branches gave way and fell but taking a swipe at the skin on my arms on the way down.  I quickly pulled myself out of the way with an "Ouch!"  Sometimes while trying to rectify something ugly in my life, I've had to suffer a few wounds.  When things start to get hairy, it is not easy to clean up. 

As I looked down at the final blow to my thorn-laden enemy, I noticed that it had been cut at the source before, probably by the former owner of my house.  Sometimes that happens in life. Usually  the bad choices I have encountered again was because I failed to learn the lessons from the last time.  It is wise for me to understand what in my life should not be repeated.  If it grew wild before, likely will again.  I have to be careful to trim away any ideas that I can somehow control the outcomes of things I know are not the right things to do.  Like the the thorny brush, it will grow back to a overgrown mess in no time if I am not habitually looking over the stump to be sure that there isn't something growing again. 

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