trimming the bonsai

Yesterday I talked on skype with a new friend late into the night.  He helped me form the tree of my life.

Trimming this tree must have been a job.  I have read about, and dabbled in bonsai tree trimming as I have in Ikebana flower arranging.  They both require much more training than I am willing to carve off from my focus on pottery and writing.  We only have so many hours in a day.

But the simplicity of this tree and garden pool remind me of the day I spent all day sitting in front of it, trying to understand life.  It did then, and does now, reminds me that pruning my life is a good thing.  Pruning relationships, possessions, schedules, appointments, conversations – this pruning is hard to do.  It requires sharp scissors rather than the violence of twisting and pulling which a handy, quick set of pliers would do to a gentle tree.  The scissors will provide a sharp, quick, clean cut.  The pliers will also get a job done in that, with the pliers, the branch you want removed from the tree is torn off its trunk – but the violence done to the tree in that process and with that wrongly-chosen tool is terrible to watch and terrible to the tree, leaving an angry, ripped scar on the tree.

This is why I love the ancient Celtic symbols of the warrior and the midwife as the two great icons for life-change.  The  warrior employs a great, razor sharp sword so that his cut is quick and does not allow the victim to suffer.  The midwife employes her hands to welcome the baby into a new place with touch.  The warrior and the midwife images help me to trim my life.  The warrior helps me to see what needs to be cut quick and clean in order to keep my life well-shaped and thriving.  The midwives in my life – almost all women but including a couple men, help me to birth new life into the world even with its associated blood, guts and screams.

The key to life seems not so much to have a big stick and walk softly.  They key to life seems to be knowing what to cut and what to birth, and then having close those who do that well, companion-ing us by lending knives, hands and courage.

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