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Pruning the Tree of Life

As I walk through the redwoods, I feel the stories of the souls who have gone before me. They hang collectively from the branches, informing my own Tree of Life.

The man walks ahead of me, head hung in shame, shoulders slumped under the weight of burdens left untended. As we approach the forgiveness sanctuary, a slight breeze ruffles his hair, exposing the face of an innocent little boy who saw far too much, far too young. We stumble upon an open area. Tree stumps are set in a circle, buttresses in waiting. Each one holds its own story of unexpected descents and non-negotiable surrenders. Nature is like that. She demands relentless submission. Transformation isn’t a choice in this neck of the woods.

As the stumps ground our energy into the forest bed, I reach out and lay my hand on the man’s hunched back. I can feel his little boy lean into the safety of my support. After a moment, or what feels like many, the man’s shoulders begin to convulse. His tears fall faster than the forest bed can absorb the salty sadness. The redwoods won’t allow grief to puddle here.

‘I was never enough,’ the man cries, ‘never strong enough, never smart enough.’

Between sobs, he gulps at the soggy air. Leaves rustle as the tips of the redwoods lean in.

‘I worked so hard to make something of myself,’ he continues as the branch of a tree snaps above us, and lands with a nearly silent thud at our feet.

Our eyes meet with wonder.

If a tree falls in the forest…. Will we hear its message of redemption? Will we embrace its fall from grace? Will we believe its promise of renewal?

The man and I take a step back, widen our view, and witness the growth of the dense forest. A salve of gooey sap begins to form in the open wound the fallen branch left behind. All around us, tiny, mighty, saplings sprout out of decaying trunks. As far as the soul can see, the forest defies death with regeneration.

In this place, pruning is a rite of passage. Mother Nature transmits a deep reverence for the sacrificial branch, and its potential budding. She has no time for resistance or second guessing about when, and which, branches must be sacrificed. When it is their time, they must go. Vows to change, promises to conform, to’ing and fro’ing dangle impotently within the quiet of the woods. There is only the here and now, devoid of excuses, full of hope and renewal.

The pruning of my Tree of Life commands both a reckoning and blossoming as I shed the dead weight in a sacred exchange for an abundant, lush life.


Barbara Anne Klein

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