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Garden Variety Musings

Kindly contributed by John Alger


I was in the backyard today, working on wrestling order out of the chaos of life that continues to flourish back there. Like us, it continues to grow with abandon when subjected to occasional but judicious pruning. I had been working in the sun most of the day, mowing, edging, weeding etc. Enjoying the warmth of the sun, the breezes in the trees, and the smell of raw earth as I stained my hands with soil. Later in the afternoon, I was up on a ladder, cutting back and pruning a few of the pepper trees which have flourished with such abandon. I had been cutting, tossing branches over my shoulder, searching and cutting some more for quite some time. I was involved in the task, but detached, my mind wandering.

As I was tossing a branch over my shoulder, I noticed something, without initially realizing what it was. I stopped the toss without thinking, almost unbalancing the ladder. After a few wobbles, balance was restored, and I looked at what I held. It was just a branch from the tree, one of many I had already tossed. One of many, but like us, an individual in a sea of life. What caught my mind's eye, I think, was the diversity of life present before me. What occurred as a flash of insight then, now takes me some time to express.

The base of the branch was hard, dark and firm. It was quite long. The rigidity and firmness giving it the strength to support many other, smaller branches, allowing them to benefit from its strength and seek the light. Although the lower portion was firm and inflexible, the upper portion, I observed, was bright green with new growth. It was pliable, bending with the wind, growing fast before it too, became firm and stuck in its ways. Much like us, I mused. One silly branch, mirroring life's struggle, and the quandaries therein in a quiet and unobtrusive manner. There for those with eyes to see, hidden from those who refuse to look beyond themselves.

Many have commented over the years about the benefits and rewards for those who adhere to either version. Many state you must be firm and inflexible, a pillar of strength for those around you, just as many others say flexibility, the ability to bend and adapt, is the key. Both views try to polarize what should be, in my eyes, a Balance of the two. If the firm lower branches did not continuously sprout newer, more energetic and flexible versions of itself, it would remain stunted, in one spot, never gaining its true place in life. On the other hand, if it started, and remained, a thin flexible thing, able to bend with the diversity that life throws it, but without the stable base, pushing it ever higher, like a parent, forsaking his or her own pleasures, to insure his son or daughter could reach the light and succeed, it too would suffer, never able to reach the heights it deserved or desired.

I think our need to be both firm and flexible, a pillar of strength and a young sprout seeking new life, should not be a decision, once made, that is permanent or related to age. We must, or so it seems, be able to balance the two seemingly opposite ideals, shifting from one to the other at a moment's notice, as life and events demand. We have an opportunity that plants, in all their beauty don't. We can consciously decide which is the better path, and change that path as demands warrant. We can revel in the joy of new things. In learning and loving, we can be young and flexible. At other times, as needed, we can be a pillar of strength, supporting those around us, and helping others to reach the light. The difficult part it seems, is realizing we have a choice. We do not have to stay in one mindset, once chosen. We are free to be either choice, knowing that with the power of our desires, we are free to choose again and again.

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