Trim Time: Weave in the Good

Here in Beaufort, South Carolina jasmine grows naturally. Its little white and cream flowers perfume the air in spring, and spring has begun. I’m already pleasantly drunk with its scent as I walk Jasper through my neighborhood, where almost everyone has a living fence. (A living fence is a wire fence with vines planted below that climb up through it until the wire and posts are completely obscured by lush greenery and, in spring, bright fragrant blooms.) I have two of them.

One fence surrounds a patch of yard on the side of my house with a gate at the front and a gate in the back. My dog can play safely there and you can smell the jasmine, which also creates a very nice view, from my deck.

The second fence is at the very back of my lot, bordering a public area and our community’s mail kiosk building. This living fence was planted at least 10 years ago when the very first houses were built. It’s technically on my property, but it’s been treated by previous owners like community responsibility and completely ignored. Fairly large trees and at least 20 or 30 invasive vines had taken it over, and the old, established jasmine was being choked out.

I’ve had a long winter struggling with some very bad health issues since October, and I’m just starting to feel normal again, so rather than tackle this big job, I paid my lawn guy to go in and cut down the trees and pull out the invasive vines. He did ok, but he’s a lawn guy, not a landscaper, and I was asking a bit much of him. Still, he got me over the hump with the most physical work, and I’m feeling well enough to try my hand at the little bit of work left. I decided to take this beautiful spring day – 75 here and sunny – to tackle the remaining details.

After pulling out all of the tiny tree seedlings along the bottom, and the dead vines and branches which revealed themselves with brown leaves, now 6 days after my lawn guy came, I stood back and took a long look at what might further be done to complete the rehabilitation.

I took the time, starting at one end and working my way down the 20 feet or so, to weave in the jasmine vines that were lying along the ground or hanging out in the air without any guidance.

As I worked, I discovered more invasive vines and dead sections of jasmine that had to be removed. I learned as I went, how to quickly distinguish a living vine of jasmine from a dead section, and an invasive vine of this or that type, by looking at the vine itself, even without the leaves. Leaves make it easy, but large sections of living jasmine vines had no leaves. They’d been choked off by all of the invaders. I could follow a naked jasmine vine for four feet and then discover a sweet cluster of leaves at the end of it, maybe even a flower or two. It was alive.

Jasmine vines are dark gray, almost charcoal gray, so they seem like they might be dead. How could I learn to quickly tell whether that vine was alive or dead without following every single one to its end? Flexibility: living jasmine is very flexible. So I did a lot of wiggling and shaking. If the branch didn’t bend, but was brittle and snapped, it was dead and I would pull that section out. I identified invasive vines by color. If the vine was green or reddish, it was an invader, especially if it had thorns, and I’d pull out as much as I could.

But sometimes I had to leave a little section of an invader in. The jasmine had become so tightly entangled with it that it would damage it if removed. So I cut above and below, following the invasive vine to where I could cut it off at the ground or pull it out by its roots. That little section, which had to be left alone to spare the Jasmine, would continue to serve its purpose.

Nature can present beautiful concepts to us if we observe her principles in action. As I quietly worked away in the spring sunshine some poignant thoughts came to mind:

  • Surviving a bit of shaking reminds you that you’re alive; be flexible and adapt.

  • Cut out whatever is harming you or blocking your light.

  • You might have to live with some little piece of an invader. Maybe that interloper has been around so long that you’re inextricably tangled with a piece of it. Cut out everything above and below, and let that little piece die on its own rather than hurting yourself by yanking it out.

  • For you to survive and thrive, the beauty in you needs to show. Self-doubt, fear and anger are invasive. Learn how to recognize them; the telltale signs are there. Once you can see their influence clearly, you can pull them out and let the sun shine on your best features. Your love. Your empathy. Your intelligence. Your talent. Your hard work.

Cut out the invaders and weave your love, and glorious talents, into all that you do. Pick up the parts that don’t have direction, lying on the ground or hanging in the air, and give them purpose. Weave them into your daily life with intention.

I already have a pressed jasmine flower in my Safe String. Tonight I’ve added a piece of an invasive vine. Why? Because we have to recognize what’s choking us and blocking our light in order to pull it out. I honor that process with a Safe String reminder. Self awareness, time to meditate and contemplate... another isolation silver lining.

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