As I walked along the heavily mulched trail on the east side of Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois, I could see my breath on a chilly February day in 2010. The silence which I typically cherished on these afternoon walks was broken by a very shrill burst of sound. “GRRRRRRRRR!!” went the limb shredding machine. Several arborists were carefully pruning the shrubs and trees along the paved road. February is a perfect time to tackle this annual task before the warmer days of spring and prior to the sap again flowing, rekindling the plant back to life after winter’s long, cold slumber.
Now fast forward to a recent February afternoon in 2013 and in my new state of Colorado. I was lost in thought on my walk in Louisville, Colorado, along a flat sandy trail with stately and barren cottonwoods lining a dry creek bed. It was a stark contrast to the arboretum’s lushness and wide variety of trees. However, what really hit me on this walk was the whole notion of pruning. This time though there was no loud whining coming from a machine to abruptly snap me out of my thought-induced state. Rather it was my own need to gain a perspective on my life at this stage of the game.
As I saw the brown overgrowth of winter vegetation beneath the cottonwoods, I felt like I could relate. My reaction, “Gosh, that certainly needs to be cleared. If someone would prune those shrubs, I bet they would have some new growth this spring.” Within minutes of considering a good pruning job on the shrubs, I realized this is what I also needed in my own life.
“Hmmmm….how does one prune oneself?” I paused to consider. Feeling a sudden burst of inspiration, I noted that I too could use a good dose of pruning. Over the past 4 ½ years, our household possessions have been sorted, donated, given to family and friends, sold, or have been kept. The cycle has repeated itself five times due to our move from Illinois and through the return-to-college years! We have packed and unpacked. We have loaded and unloaded. We have stored items in three different locations. We have moved and schlepped or hired movers to do this chore. The costs have been dramatic: financially, time wise, and emotionally as move after move becomes “heavy on the soul” and the burden of doing more in the future becomes unfathomable. In fact, it feels much like the overgrown vegetation or a shrub loaded with crisscrossing twigs and rubbing branches, not promoting the usual spring blossoms or tender leaves.
Alas, I hit on something. Reflecting back on my human development classes in college, I remember the various stages and resulting transitions that one typically negotiates through life based on Erik Erickson’s theory of development. For me, my self-proclaimed pruning stage is my call to action bringing me more in line with Erickson’s idea of generativity, a time to be fully-engaged in my life, feeling liberated for my future.
What my pruning stage is asking of me requires letting go of more possessions. I want a life filled with possibilities and opportunities without the dread of dealing with the extraneous possessions again. I am after essential, simple, and modest living. Now that we’re in a one-bedroom apartment, we are on our way to realizing this lifestyle. I intend to relish the extra time away from the burden of possessions to spend with my husband, grown children, family, and friends. Plus I desire time to fully participate in my passions and interests. I will take photos of the possessions that hold the most memories and take joy in finding new homes for these former treasures which only now clutter my soul and space.
This is not downsizing. It is a more meaningful process for me personally — it is time to prune and promote new growth! My first step? Off to the hardware store for a sturdy pair of pruning shears! Tell me how you can relate to a good pruning!