the trees are shaking off what is dead

The trees are shaking off what is dead to make room for the living. 

This is a weird one. That statement isn’t quite true yet. The trees are still green. Fall hasn’t begun to touch their edges. They are clinging to the last vestiges of summer while we wait in eager anticipation of cooler days and cozy nights.

But in the transition between winter to spring, this is what happens. The trees begin to shake off what is dead to make room for the living. The brown leaves of decay lie on concrete, and slowly but surely, we see new life spring up in the form of bright, green leaves. There are two tales here and one tree.

One tale is pruning. The other is murder.

Now before you go off thinking I’m some crazy lady with a little too much time on my hands, remember that I’m a college student and that I really don’t have that much free time. As for the accusation that I’m crazy, well, that remains to be seen.

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There are two sides of every story. (At least, that’s how the saying goes. It’s always a little more nuanced than that.) In this case, there’s pruning and then there’s murder. What does it mean to cut the dead parts of your life off? What is that supposed to look like? What is that supposed to feel like?

It’s easy to tell when a plant has stopped growing. Their color changes. Their leaves fall off. They aren’t as vibrant as before. Their physicality is telling a story about how they are really doing. But it’s not as simple for us humans. There’s self-medication in the form of over-consumption of media and food and alcohol. We can easily connect with people 24/7 (here I use the word connect loosely) so we don’t have to sit with ourselves in silence. We can be so productive in the name of accomplishment while something in us is off. The avoidance of looking to the reality of our growth is so real. William Bortz, a poet from Iowa, wrote “count it all as luck to be born in an age in which there are so many distractions one has to remind themselves that they are wilting.”

Pruning is active. It requires a choice. To grab some scissors and start looking for dead parts. And maybe pruning is just a pretty way to say murder. In cutting off dead things in ourselves to make space for change and growth, we’re killing off what was once there for something new. 

 There’s also a conception of pruning in terms of cutting away what no longer serves us – bad habits, toxic relationships, should-haves and must-dos, and the expectations of others that wear us thin. Hanging onto what is dead is inviting death to shape us. If we never stop to prune away, to actually identify what brings more chaos than peace, we will go about our lives searching for solutions to the wrong problems. 

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Dead leaves on trees need time. So do you.

Any sort of murder needs a plan. Or at least any good one. Does anyone know if Google’s gonna flag me for my SEO on this blog, or what?

As I was saying, you can’t just willy-nilly cut off what you want. That’s how you get in trouble. You need some practices to reflect in order to navigate this time from winter to spring. For me, that looks like journaling. I have a daily one and a weekly one. What themes or patterns are recurring for you? Do you find yourself drained by the same activity or person each week? Are you moving towards frustration and anxiety instead of peace and joy? Is there a gnawing sense of dread when something comes up and a sense of relief that accompanies the idea of it falling apart? If so, this might be the time to train yourself to be an axe murderer and start being on the offensive in your life.

Journaling may not be for you, but maybe it’s a weekly meeting with a mentor or a therapist. You could keep a blog of your thoughts and experience. Or you could even create a finsta for venting. Find your method and use it well.

Is there a sense in which murder is a little bit more shocking than pruning? 

If I’m pruning away some self-imposed expectations with the guidance of a mentor but I’m murdering a toxic friendship, is it more chaos-inducing or surprising once that relationship ends? Does murder involve the ability not to see it coming? Pruning, for me, implies a sense of time to be taken. It’s a more careful consideration of what needs to go versus what is actually beneficial to stay.

I don’t feel like I’ve murdered myself but I’m definitely not the girl I was three years ago, let alone 5 years ago. Experience seems like a subtle murderer, slipping in day by day, altering our perceptions of the world, until we wake radically different with a deep sense that something has changed. Maybe our only job is to prune. To delicately remove the pieces of our lives that hold us back from our potential. Maybe experience steps in to do the harder, scarier work of molding us to new people that we can’t always recognize. 

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While the trees shake off the dead to make room for the living, we prune the external parts of life that keep us from the next level of progression. Experience, a kind but firm teacher, steps in to do the internal work, the shift that feels almost astonishing and yet happens before our eyes. 

In order to make room for what’s growing inside us, we need to follow the two tales of the trees: pruning and murder (seriously, should I be concerned that I’ll be on the FBI watchlist?) It takes intention to prune away what isn’t good for us, but it takes a level of acceptance and understanding that something greater than what we can see on the surface is happening. Like spring, what has grown will invite beauty into our days and into our lives. Prune and murder well, my friends. 

John 12:24 – “Unless a grain of wheat fall into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

(Hi FBI agent, hope you’re doing well out there! You mind not telling my parents about this? Cool? Cool.)

Stay safe and healthy, friends!

Signing off, 


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