When I was a little girl, in the summertime I loved to be outdoors. Play was often sitting still with rapt attention, as my mother weeded and watered the flowers she had carefully planted in our yard in the springtime, or that sprung up again miraculously year after year. I marveled that the lilies-of-the-valley and the daffodils could continue to survive the Midwestern ice and snow and deer. I marveled too at my mother’s patience, dedication, and methodical movements; only her huge sun bonnet appeared to sway. I noticed, though, that she didn’t pay much attention to the shrubs around the front and side of the house. This seemed to be a big gap in the gardening effort. I knew there was a gleaming pruning shears hanging on the wall of the garage. I wanted to be helpful, but my mother wouldn’t let me try out the shears. “They’re too big, too dangerous for you to use,” she said. I longed for her to change her mind.
After several summers had passed and I had outgrown my summer play dresses, I got up my courage. Now Mom smiled and said “yes” when I asked; now I could be of service. I lugged out the shears and vigorously went about my task. How proud I was to observe the improvement in the appearance of the area in front of our house, or so I thought. I was even more thrilled when my parents praised my efforts.
It was a long time until I was able to prune hedges again. The play dresses were long gone and I was in the country north of New York City, married but no longer happily so. These boxwoods, though the same variety as in my childhood yard, looked different. They were scraggly, misshapen, prematurely withered before autumn. I tackled them with a vengeance, lopping and chopping and hacking until I was exhausted. Day after day I did this, but could make no headway. Finally I gave up and put the shears away.
Four years ago, again after a long hiatus, I took out some pruning shears to work on a small, delicate Japanese maple tree in the front yard of my new found beloved’s house in Westchester County. I carefully tended to each gracefully bowing branch. I meticulously evened the skirt around the tree. I made sure to water it when there wasn’t much rain and to trim its dead branches before the spring’s new buds emerged. Faithfully, I have continued pruning since then; the Japanese maple continues to grow, to blossom more profusely, year after year.
Copyright © 2010 by Suzanne Salomon