Last Fall, I noticed that my prize apple tree was struggling. New neighbors had built a house next to mine, and the backhoe clipped the roots, causing my tree to lean precariously. Worst, though, the apple tree was diseased. The leaves were covered with dark spots, and while the tree had a huge yield of apples, they were all small and full of holes. By the end of the season, I couldn’t find a single edible fruit on the tree.
Prolific artist Pablo Picasso said “Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction.”
Having nothing to lose, I chose destruction. I have several other fruit trees in my yard to consider. One diseased tree can easily spread to the others. Once it spreads, I risk losing all of them.
So I cut the tree back to its core. I left the trunk and a few spindly branches. I used some commercial spray per the directions in an attempt to kill the invisible eggs that ravaged the trunk. I sprayed the remaining stump with a light coat of white paint to seal the pores of the tree, to suffocate any remaining blight. And I bandaged the fresh cuts with black tar. Then I waited.
Do you hold on to things long after they have outlived their usefulness? Do you keep holding even after you see warning signs, signs indicating that there are damaging, irreversible problems? Do you keep things in a “holding pattern”, making no changes, while hoping against hope that the outcome will magically change to something better?
Let’s say you have a bad tooth, one that the dentist tells you must come out for the health of your mouth. You have three real options. One, you can risk leaving it alone. It’s been bad before. Maybe the problem will go away on its own. Two, you can ask the dentist to remove it. But because you don’t like pain—or because you have a hard time letting go of a tooth that has been with you through countless corn-dogs and slices of pizza—you can ask the dentist to tug gently, slowly. And the procedure can take all day. In the end, you’ll give up the tooth. But you will be forever scarred and damaged in the process. Or three, you can decide to have the tooth removed, and ask the dentist to do it quickly. It still hurts, but once the initial sharp pain subsides, healing begins immediately.
Checking my trees this morning, I saw that the mulberries are in full bloom. The pear trees that I trimmed last Fall have more blooms than I’ve seen in years. Trees need to be trimmed. Otherwise, they use all of their energy forming nonproductive growth, growth that produces no fruit. The pear trees seem to be thanking me for removing the dead wood. They show their gratitude by displaying colorful, bursting flowers, signs of future fruit.
And my stump of an apple tree? That tree is thanking me, too. Slowly. Scattered across the trunk and remaining branches are signs of new life. The tree, once dying, is starting over. It is fighting to overcome damaged roots and a diseased core to form something good, something productive, and something healthy.
French poet Paul Valery said it best: Every beginning ends something.
Are you afraid to start over? Are you afraid to let go?
Don’t let your fear prevent you from the possibility of new life that lies within.