Stefanie Dell'Aringa

Freelance Writer

Category: Nature Blog

Now Cut That Out!

In another two months, it will be cutting time. It’s a dreadful event and something I hate doing. But without cutting, something precious will die.

I’m referring to a large tropical plant that I place outside in springtime. I have no idea what kind of plant it is, only that it grows without much care at a crazy fast rate right after I place it outside. It sprouts new leaf clusters in all directions, increasing its width and height so drastically that by the time fall and the danger of frost come along, I can’t fit it through the door opening to bring it back inside. So I cut it.

I’m one of those weird people who is convinced that plants can feel, so cutting it is just an awful thing for me to have to do. I love gardening and I spend a good amount of time looking at my plants and flowers trying to determine what it is they need. They speak to me, not in words, but in texture, height, firmness, color. Every October, this plant screams vibrancy, so it’s a terrible loss to cut off healthy growth. I’m removing perfectly healthy baby shoots, performing an abortion of sorts, and the plant doesn’t know why.

I try to remove only enough babies to get my beloved plant to fit through the door, and I do it as quickly as possible. If someone were cutting off two or three of my fingers or toes, or an arm, that’s how I’d want it done. Quickly. Once I do that, I drag it in and tell it how very sorry I am. (Yes, I talk to my plants and my husband thinks I’m bats.) Then, I give it a good dose of water and walk away to dispose of the remains of the plant’s family. Ugh.

If plants could talk, I’m sure this one would tell me how cruel I am, how much it is hurting, and how dare I just cut it like that without even some anesthetic first? It would say for me to leave it outside, leave it alone, not knowing that it will die if I do that. It would think it knew what was best for it, but I know more than a silly plant.

Season after season proves that this repeated action is actually beneficial. The plant always rebounds. It’s healthier after the hack. That got me thinking about humans and the things we hack.

Some stuff needs to be trimmed, and other stuff God hacks for us for whatever reason. Bad things, relationships, habits and addictions that we choose to cut out, kill or allow to fade away can help us to get better, be healthier. We’ve seen this and we understand. It never feels good in the moment, and oftentimes we think we know better than God, but in the end we’re better for it.

What we don’t understand, whether we’ve lived on this earth for a few years or several decades, is that God can hack in mysterious ways. There are things we just can’t comprehend, like how can a benevolent God rob a sweet man of his wife, leaving him to raise their two toddlers alone? Suffering is our greatest struggle and we often just shake our heads or fists at God and ask, “Why?” We do this because we think we know better than God.

Maybe, just maybe, hacking leads to growth. Perhaps suffering can lead to beauty. The neglected child who grows up to be loved by her husband unconditionally appreciates that love so much more than if she were loved properly all along.

The middle-class man who grows wealthy, loses everything, declares bankruptcy, and then grows his business again delights in his ability to purchase a new home. He has a greater appreciation for it.

The wife whose husband cheated and left learns to rely fully on God and trust through countless prayers and tears that He will cause her husband to return. When he does – three years later –  there is forgiveness, a reconciled marriage and faith perfected.

And the gifted musician, who loses his finger in a car accident and has to go through several surgeries to repair it, relearns his instrument with a renewed tenacity, musicality and fervor that spreads joy to every listener.

The lesson learned from our own and others’ struggles is that there will be new growth, the proverbial sunshine after the rain, the light at the end of the tunnel, the silver lining in the cloud. We just have to be okay with the “hacking” that comes first.

My plant will continue to live. It will grow. It will thrive. And how will it do this? Through a natural reliance on a single source of light. God is light, and we can do the same.

Life Lessons from Trees

Welcome to The Nature Blog!

This is the first of many, I hope, blogs about lessons from nature. I’m constantly observing the details when I’m outside. A flower’s stamen, mossy bark on an aged tree, or patterns on the river made by wind are all fascinating to me. I often find some lesson in nature just by watching nature and how it behaves. So I figured why not talk (or blog) about what I see and what I can learn from it?

For this first post, I’d like to talk about trees since they’re my favorite. Trees have been the subject of many poems I’ve penned over the years. One poem, in particular, was written for my friend and neighbor, Bill Schumacher, who died of cancer a few years ago. Bill was an arborist who trimmed trees and bushes all around the neighborhood. He called himself a tree surgeon and lover of nature. Oftentimes, Bill would trim a tree and then sit underneath it to just enjoy it. He was one of those rare individuals who took time out to really look at things.

When he first told me he was dying from cancer, I could scarcely believe it. But the look in his face told me it was true. And there was not going to be any treatment. He was too far gone.

To cheer him up, I wrote the following poem. It was something he truly cherished, according to his wife, Patty. And he touched my heart by asking her to include it in his memorial service program. I was asked later to read it in front of a group of people who were dedicating a tree in his honor. I absolutely HATE public speaking, so that tells you how much I loved Bill.

I hope you enjoy the poem as much as I enjoyed writing and dedicating it to my favorite free-spirited tree surgeon, Bill Schumacher.

Life Lessons from Trees

Sometimes, life’s most poignant lessons can be learned from quietly observing a tree.

After all, people and trees have a lot in common.

No matter what season, keep your feet firmly planted.

Grow in all directions possible, but always keep yourself pointed toward God.

The most drastic changes are often the most beautiful.

It’s okay to bend or even break when life sends a storm.

Calm comes after suffering through it.

Give to others the protection they may need, and all the beauty you can possibly display.

Love unconditionally, and shelter those who have no home.

Wait patiently, though you may feel dormant. And when it’s time to let go, freely let go.

Because like a great tree, we leave behind many saplings. They, too, will grow.

And with each long-awaited spring, there is the promise of hope and new life.

©2011 Stefanie Dell’Aringa




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