Spending days together recently, my six year old granddaughter Skye and I walked and talked a path of awe and wonder. Several mornings in a row found us on a trail around a small lake in our neighborhood. The place on that route we visit most often is well loved by another granddaughter, Maddie. She is only three but she asks me about this place when we have telephone conversations because I took her there on one of our first walks together. We call it the Secret Place. Last week, the three of us had a conference call from this location! Skye called Maddie from my cell phone and told her she was in the Secret Place and wished she were there. Maddie asked questions and planned for when she would be there too.
This spot is only a small square of paving stones where two garden benches sit facing each other, but it is arbored by luxuriant evergreen wisteria and bookended by crepe myrtles . One open side faces the walking trail. The other side opens out to the lake. When we enter this shaded, hidden spot and look out across the glistening ripples of water, our view is framed by feathery fronds of wisteria leaves and knarled vine. Sometimes we see ducks land and take off on the water, a turtle head bob up, or spots where fish make widening circles on the lake surface . It is an enchanted spot, a place of cool quiet. Skye told me when something is so beautiful it makes you want to whisper. Maddie must have felt the same, the last time we were there. She whispered.
One of the subjects of whispering last week was the tight clusters of blossom that had begun to show at the tips of the wisteria branches. When we first noticed them, they looked like tiny sprays of green peppercorns. The next day they had swelled and within the next two days, the earliest little berries were just beginning to split and show promise of the purple inside. We whispered what they would soon look like: clusters of fairy size royal robes hanging like grapes, soon to be joined by more and more until our Secret Place would be dripping with deep purple, draped in beauty.
Skye is not here this week. I walked alone yesterday on the path by the lake and started to smile when our treasured spot came into sight. As I drew near, I fleetingly registered some difference in the foliage, but only after I went inside and sat down, thinking about the little girls and our pleasure in visiting this nook, did I frown and take in my breath. I looked for the several budding clusters of flowers we had tracked for progress of bloom. There were none. Then I saw the amputated stubs of branch and vine, the telltale withered leaf clusters on the ground. I understood that the crew that keeps our neighborhood mowed and trimmed had vigorously pruned the vines. Tears welled up as I realized the precious jewels in our treasure box had been chopped off and discarded.
I know pruning is necessary. At times branches must be sacrificed for the health of a growing thing. My sadness is for the undeniable fact that we may not know whether something we so easily dispose of has brought joy and beauty for another. By what do we measure the dispensable? What nest in fence corners, what frame for someone else’s view do I damage? In the garden of my soul, do I trim with care?