A Very Cut-Throat Year

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Battle-worn, weary, with barely a fight in me left, I stare out at the late spring afternoon sunlight pouring into the backyard. The overgrown branches of a pair of mockorange bushes threaten to close off the view, which is mostly just a panoply of bright green, backlit by the sun. They are only beginning to come into bud now – summer is still a couple of weeks away. We can pause for a moment. Still the night, still the moment. After they bloom, I will prune them back hard. This is the year of cut-throat rejuvenation. If I can tame a thirty-foot cherry, I can topple a fifteen-foot mockorange. The gardener must be ruthless.

I just cleared an overgrown viburnum, and with little room left in our yard I had to let it go completely. After pruning the branches back to the main stumps, they wept, spilling their treacly sap in perfect emotionally-manipulative form. I almost felt bad, until my back felt how stubborn their roots were. Then the battle was ON. And it was heated. A few earthworms may have been innocent casualties. A whole bunch of sweat, dirt, blood, and tears later, and one very unhappy but finally dislodged little tree, and the day was done.

Not that I’m entirely heartless. In fact, the reason for all this effort was to make a better home for a prized Japanese umbrella pine, which had finally outgrown its underneath-the-cherry place in our backyard (as deep down I always knew it would). For something as rare and graceful as the Japanese umbrella pine, some coddling and pampering are warranted. Fingers crossed that the transplant does well. The ghost of a vicious viburnum may spurn anything that tries to follow in its path. In this world, no one is entirely innocent. The blood of trees is on all of our hands.

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