A woman who lived down the street from us had an old and large tree in her front yard. It was a healthy, full, beautiful tree, and provided a lot of shade. Because it was in the Southwest corner of her yard, it probably cooled her house enough to save money on her summer utility bill. Because this species is a fast grower, it was one of those trees used to line the streets of neighborhoods about 40-50 years ago. There was just one problem with this tree, and perhaps that influenced what happened to it. Some Silver Maples produce a lot of seeds in the spring, unofficially called "Whirly Twirlies," or "Helicopters." Sometimes those seeds embed themselves into the lawn and flower beds and start to grow, as well as sometimes clogging the gutters on a house. Because of that, a lot of gardeners and lawn aficionado's hate these trees. Nevertheless, a mature tree, even one that litters the yard, is a valuable one to me.
One hot, summer day as I was taking a walk in our neighborhood, I noticed that tree had been completely cut down. My neighbor's yard was now sporting a stand of grass from corner to corner, and the house and yard were in full, hot sun. I was aghast! I love trees so much that it is hard for me to comprehend someone intentionally cutting one down unless it is diseased, interfering with utility lines, causing damage to a house, or it causes allergies. Another neighbor was out in her yard, so I asked if she knew about the tree. She told me that our mutual neighbor, "likes grass, and because there was so much shade, grass wouldn't grow there." I admit, I made a judgement about that. I thought, "How could anyone choose grass over a huge healthy and beautiful tree, even if it gets messy in the spring?"
About a week later, my kids and I went to visit my parents for a weekend in Kentucky, a place of many beautiful trees and woods. In their side yard were five large, beautiful, old Sugar Maple trees, the kind that turn breath-takingly vivid gold and red in the fall. As Mom and I sat out in a swing under those trees, she remarked that Dad wanted to cut them down. "Why??" I asked. "Because he can't get grass to grow underneath them since there is so much shade." Again, I was aghast! I loved those trees! When I was a child and we first moved into that house, those trees were not much more than little twigs that Mom and Grandpa dug up from the woods on his property and planted in our yard. Through the years, they had grown into huge, gorgeous trees so dense that if we were sitting beneath them during a light rain shower, we would not get wet.
Since Mom loved to garden, I quickly suggested she consider creating a shade garden under those trees rather than cutting them down. That idea resonated with her, and she immediately started imagining little stone paths under and around the trees, with Ferns and Hostas and other shade-loving plants all around. Well, that is exactly what she did, and by the next time I visited, she had created a tranquil, peaceful garden underneath those five Sugar Maple trees. She had also added two picnic tables and two more swings so there would be plenty of places for the family to sit together when all the kids and grandkids came home for a visit. On those rare occasions that my siblings and I were at home at the same time, it became a new tradition to sit outside in Mom's shade garden in the evening after dinner to talk and laugh together.
As I contemplated all this, and I compared my Mom's approach with my neighbor's approach to dealing with shade and grass not growing, I knew that each had to choose what was right for them. And then I suddenly realized that in life, yes, both choices are legitimate. Sometimes it is the right decision to take one's current situation in life and to work at making it better, not giving up on it, reinventing, re-purposing, or re-investing in something that has potential. Yet, sometimes it is a wiser decision for your life to simply cut down something...whatever harms you, demoralizes you, limits your growth...and to completely dig out its roots and plant something new. There are benefits and challenges to both approaches, and only you can decide which direction is right for you.
So, what is happening in your life right now? Is there something you need to cut down, root out, and get rid of it? Is there a relationship or job that brings nothing but toxicity, frustration, and pain, and adds no value to your life? Is there a habit or behavior that undermines your potential or your credibility? And what is the new thing you would like to plant in your life in its place? What do you think might happen if you were to just cut something down and get it out of your life? What first step could you take to make that happen?
Or do you need to re-build or re-invest in something that already exists in your life, but something you may have taken for granted or ignored or neglected? What kind of time, energy, or money would you need to dedicate to it, so that it can grow and reach its fullest potential, so it can become more life-giving? What do you think could happen if you were to make that commitment? What could be the ramifications if you choose to not go in this direction? What first step could you take to bring this into being in your life?
Yes, admittedly it might be a difficult decision to make, whether to cut something down and get rid of it, or to rebuild/recommit to it. But how will it affect your life if you do nothing but continue on the same trajectory you are currently on?