At the Root

This morning, with pruning shears in hand…hedge clippers really….I hit the rascally foliage that grows along our alley hedge. We love the green screen that makes our urban backyard feel like a private sanctuary.

(to be honest: it is a very wild patch of sanctuary)

We have lovely neighbors who all access their garages via the alley. So, when those branches and pokey vines and thorny sticks threaten paint jobs, I go out and cut it back. 3x a summer. Seems sacred.

I’m learning how to do this. I’m not really a detailed person, who even knows what species of green she is cutting into. Let alone pruning seasons, growth rate, blah blah blah…..but I’m learning what I need to do. I do know that when working with poison ivy one must immediately put clothing and gloves in the washing machine and go take a shower. Poison Ivy in its last throws of life right at the big clip, lets its poison juices splatter. Nature can be devious. We humans don’t always win.

Today, I cut out 6 Oak trees. If you work with me much, you will eventually hear me exclaim about the miracle of the acorn that becomes a mighty oak. While a super tired example, it is still marvelous and amazing in its reality. Things know what they are. And they must be that. We have much to learn from both the acorn and the oak, and the soil they take root in.

But I’d love to look at the more nefarious nature of rooted trees in a fence row. While today I cut them at the root, where the ground has already given way to a mighty life, I know that I have not thwarted it. Likely, yes, I won’t have to prune it again this year. Yay. But over the winter, those roots will do their rooty thing, because they can’t help themselves. And next spring, I will have trees anew.

Swing this from reality over to metaphor land (you knew I’d get here) and I’ve got to say, that the root of our ills, our wounds, our self loathing, our low self esteem must be dug out: the whole root stock. MUST. No satisfying superficial clip from big ass clippers will be enough.

We must dig.

We must shovel.

We must clear what is around it.

We must sweat, grunt, give up, come back, hack, bring in friends.

If we don’t….if we just clip the branch at the soil, it will come back.

It. Will. Come. Back.

It is not enough to know our pain. It is not enough to name our pain. It is not enough to talk about our pain. That is a super brave start.

We must claim the truth of what happened to us or what we’ve done.

We must look it in the face, and risk the spray of unseen poison juices getting on us.

We must get down on the ground and see the size of the root stalk.

We must look around, like Sherlock Holmes on a case, and notice all the environmental realities that went into that moment/those moments that stick in our psyche and spirit like pungent rash producing toxicity. Understand it we then go at clearing it too, enough to dig.

We must get the right tools and dig, dig dig, until we have extracted the whole root stock. Only then, ONLY THEN will it not regrow.

That is our aim. In spiritual direction, we can meander gently, like driving down the alley and wistfully say “Boy, we need to prune the greenery.” Knowing that we are putting it off. And sometimes we take a deep breath, and march out first thing in the morning and say “THIS”. And off we go.

I’ve had a number of conversations lately where I’ve had the nudge that now is the time to ask a question. A question that gives a cutaway view of the soil and root of the repeating stories and patterns. I don’t push if the person isn’t ready. But I know that in exposing what is beneath the soil of their own moment, the work has begun in a new way. It doesn’t take long from there for the next layer and leaping forth to happen.

I’ve also recently been in a personal conversation that began “I don’t think you’ve ever gotten this aspect of me.” Inside, I kept saying to myself, “Listen like an adult. Listen like an adult. Listen like an adult.” With this internal mantra, I was distracted away from the petulant child mantra of “But…But….But….”. And I heard. I had heard before, but this time we rooted and I could breath into the fact that my own self protection has not served me well in this issue. And it was time to let it go. It was time to dig out the whole root stock of self defense that was keeping me from something ready to truly flourish.

I breathed into it like an adult.

I breathed into it like one who cares for the other.

I breathed into it like someone who cares about growth.

I am all those things, but when in self defense, I forget.

And the root stock was not as big as I thought it would be. In actuality, one big yank and it was out of the inner story soil. When I become aware of little seedlings it has left behind (because we know, creation is boisterous and wants to propagate) ….when I become aware of the seedlings of self defense the root stock left behind, I’ll pinch them between my thumb and forefinger, and be done with it.

I can pinch that little thing because I know who I am and can be no other thing, once I see it. Once I see that I have no need to be self defensive and offended, and every need and reason to be connected, mature, free.

You, too. The digging is best done with friends.

With dirt beneath the fingernails and LOVE in the heart,