Pruning Time

I realize that I haven’t written for a while on this blog.  I came back from Cairo and jumped into teaching our Earth Activist Training—for me that’s two weeks of twelve-hour days, with setup and cleanup at the end, and no time or energy left for writing or anything extraneous except coping with the physical demands of life.  This year, they more demanding than usual as we had major storms in the midst of the course—a week of rain so intense that at times I wondered how we could still breathe.  The air itself seemed to be mostly water.



During that time, it seemed like the whole world fell apart.  I know it’s just my inflated ego and tendency to be codependent with the universe that makes it seem like somehow my lack of personal attention to the issue had anything to do with the Democrats losing Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat, not to mention the Haitian earthquake and the even more horrific response to it.  Or the Supreme Court decision affirming that corporations are people.  Father Louis Vitale, in the pictured in my last post on hunger strike in Cairo, has now been sentenced to six months in prison for protesting at the School of the Americas. Hell—I step out of the room for a moment and the kids trash the place!

Be that as it may, while I ponder what to do about it all, I’ve been pruning more than writing.  Here in Northern California, it’s pruning time—winter passes in a flash and already buds are swelling and trees are about to break dormancy.  The narcissus are popping up and the hills are green.  We’ve needed this rain, after years of low-level drought, and the land drinks it in.

Pruning and writing have a lot in common.  The key is decisiveness—at least, if you want to get the work done.  You can’t stand dithering for hours over every twig or potential rosebud—you’ve got to hold in your mind a firm intention, know what you’re doing, and snip.  Those hybrid tea roses need to come down to five main sticks—everything else goes.  Those climbers take more thought—just get the dead sticks and the crossing branches and the ones that will poke you in the eye as you come in the garden gate.  The apple trees and the Asian pear—take them down, open them up, let them breathe and be sure you know what a fruiting bud looks like.

Writing is much the same.  You create a structure—then you prune.  Take out what doesn’t work, what holds the thing back.  The crossed references and the entangling complications.  Let it breathe.

And then know when to stop.  When you’re pruning, you can fall into a kind of trance, and keep snipping and cutting and trimming until you’ve pruned the tree back to nothing and possibly harmed its vitality.  When you’re writing, at a certain point you always have to say, “Enough is enough,” and let it go.

Like now.

6 comments to Pruning Time

  • In gardening and in writing, what you take out is as important as what you leave in.

  • Suddenly i have this urge to become a gardener so i can learn about editing

  • dragonfly

    Happy to have found your blog; struggling with questions this week of what to cut out and what to keep. From an organisational / group level, how do you know when it’s time to move on? I have learnt so much in the last few years but have been unable to really transform the activist group I work with. The other members seem too stuck in their own stubborn cynicism to change much and the culture doesn’t give us much room to play with our existing but dysfunctional hiearchical structure… should I just keep trying or should I walk away and start again? How to know and how to leave without feeling like I’ve given up?

    • Ah, those are questions I can’t answer for you. Sometimes it helps, however, to get clear on what you want, “I really want to be working for what we want, as well as against what we don’t want” or whatever– try asking the group for it. If you don’t get it, or at least a discussion that shifts the energy, maybe it’s time to create something new that will attract the people who also want to work in the same way you do.

  • Lynn Carlile

    Just wanted to say hi and thanks for the way you see the world and live in the world Sister – I just got around to reading your Solitice Blessing which was very hopeful and grounding (I’d been saving it and saving it in my inbox, lol) and then came across this lovely piece, so true.

    Hope you are doing well and taking some good time for yourself Star,
    hugs, Lynn (in chilly Ottawa, starting work on the G20 Alt Summit)

  • I’ve been a fan of your work for a long time, but I just wanted to say that this post struck a deep chord with me.

    My main problem as a writer is the pruning, and I’m not a terribly good gardener (yet). Mayhap the two are related.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>