THE NECESSITY OF PRUNING
By NANCY PATRICK
I know many people favor fall—the end of long, hot summers and return of cooler weather and beautiful, colorful foliage. Although I do enjoy the brief autumns we have in West Texas, I do not happily anticipate the imminent winter.
It’s not the cold weather I dislike but rather the absence of green leaves, blooms, sunshiny days, and outdoor activities. I think I experience seasonal mood changes because although I manage a few frigid, indoor days, I soon long for sunshine and an outdoor excursion.
I do, however, understand the necessity of seasons. Without winter, spring would not exist with its glorious, sunny, budding, blooming, warm atmosphere. Those of us living in West Texas who love nice yards must learn to garden wisely. We never have enough rain so we frequently experience water rationing. That means a goal of large, green lawns is not practical. Gardening requires education in xeriscaping techniques that teach stewardship of resources.
One of the first things xeriscaping taught me relates to the perennial or annual nature of plants. Annuals live for one season only while perennials come back each spring. Obviously, perennials save money because they revive each spring. Although I plant a few favorite annuals, I know those will die with the first freeze, so I anticipate my disappointment even when I plant them.
What I dread each year happens in November with the first hard frost. Overnight, my garden changes from green, lively plants to brown, brittle stems and leaves. Sadly, I wait for a warm day when I go out and prune all my perennial plants. I trim them to the ground, leaving only the stubble of the plant. My garden looks so ugly when I finish. I just stand and look at the apparent disaster.
As the long winter months pass, warmer weather arrives, bringing spring with it. Spring revives my perennials as I see the new growth come up from the ground. The rebirth of these plants seems miraculous because the plants appeared dead for several months. Even so, I’ve grown to anticipate the resurrection of these plants.
The same thing happens with most trees. We all see them “die” in autumn, but we know they will revive in spring because of their nature. We also know that trees, just as my perennials, will thrive more in spring if they had a winter pruning.
Watching nature in the plant world makes me think human beings can learn much from observing the plants as they progress through their seasonal changes. Humans, neither annual nor perennial, do experience seasons that have certain characteristics and exhibit common traits. For example, we all entered the world as infants, grew into childhood, lived through adolescence, and then entered young adulthood. Adulthood itself has its own seasons that require us to adapt to the changes of each season.
One of the pruning experiences in my early adulthood related to pruning some relationships—some by choice and others by chance. One of the earliest prunings came after high school graduation when my classmates chose various new paths: university, career, military, and/or marriage. Depending on those routes, we went in many directions, some of which placed us near each other while others separated us for the rest of our journeys.
Although my church relationships of my youth had played an important role in my life, I decided to do some pruning with my adult life in college and marriage. My husband and I wanted a “new” life as a couple, so we joined a different church from the one in which we met and married where everyone knew me as a child and teen. We certainly didn’t cut our association with our earlier relationships, but those relationships evolved and changed.
One of the most significant changes occurred within the family. As people become adults, their relationships with their parents, siblings, and extended family members change into a different form as the marriage becomes the nucleus for an entirely new family unit. These adjustments require some pruning to establish new boundaries that had not existed before. These might be painful for some but necessary for the new family to establish itself and flourish.
In addition to personal relationships, many people find it necessary to prune and train their professional relationships to fit the needs of their priority familial relationships. Some professions demand so much time and dedication they can overwhelm a person’s time and family. Without careful control and prioritizing, parents can lose the close connection they may desire with the children by allowing their careers to consume them.
Another pruning season occurs in our senior or retirement years. Many people decide to downsize their homes as well as their possessions as they live on fixed incomes that may provide less money than their salaried years. They may find it necessary to alter gift-giving practices of the past as they budget their adjusted incomes. In many cases today with people living longer than earlier generations, some find it wise and convenient to move to senior facilities where they live in apartments and enjoy meals in a shared dining room with other residents. This progression of pruning can create difficulty for older people adapting to the changes in their circumstances which require relinquishing many of their material possessions. Though pruning changes the appearance of everything and may hurt temporarily, it eases the way so the next phase of life can flourish.
Most of us do not really relish change. On the contrary, we prefer the comfort of the familiar, often fearing different or new circumstances. Those of us who understand the nature of aging and the necessity to accommodate not only our own requirements but the needs of those whom we love find we can make the adjustments because we do not want others to do our pruning for us.
Nancy Patrick is a retired teacher who lives in Abilene and enjoys writing.