Thursday, 14 June 2018

The creative power of the clean chop 14th June 2018 by Susanne Irving

The end before the beginning
Deep down you knew you were merely dabbling,
ripping off a few blighted leaves here and there,
snapping off dried twigs,
feeling heroic when you finally pruned that branch.
You willed your hollow tree to spring back to life,
but the last leaves fell.

Everywhere around you winter's barrenness
made way for green revival,
promising the bliss of summer blossoming.
Yet your tree has missed the changing of the seasons.
There is no harvest to look forward to.
Cut the tree at the base”, the master gardener counsels.

Deep down you know that you have to stop dabbling.
Only a decisive severing of dead wood
will make room for growth.
You swing the axe - the trunk is gone.
No more pretense of life
where there is none.

Yet your roots go deep
and need to grow deeper still.
A manifold harvest is promised to those
who drink the living water
and expose themselves fully to the light.
One day you will flourish again.
This end is not the end,
but a new beginning.

It is an ongoing challenge for me to say “No, thanks” when I am asked to take on a new responsibility and even harder to let go of a project once I have taken in on, even if I am no longer convinced of its value.
Learning about coppicing has helped me to say no to some projects and to let go of a committee role I had for several years. 
During a visit at Mottisfont we were told that coppicing (cutting a tree at the base) encourages multiple stems to grow up from the stump. As light can now reach the forrest floor, seeds which may have been dormant for many years begin to sprout.
So cutting back doesn't mean loss, even though it may feel like it at the time. Interestingly, the poem above almost wrote itself as soon as I made space in my life - I had not written poetry for many years and considered this stream of creative expression dried up...

About the author: Susanne Irving is the co-ordinator for the Creative Communicators in Petersfield. She has co-written a book with her husband John about their experiences when climbing Kilimanjaro. It is aimed at both trekkers and those who are going through a dark time in their lives. How to conquer a mountain: Kilimanjaro lessons is available as a paperback and an e-book on Amazon, with all proceeds going to charity. The German translation Wie man einen Berg bezwingtWas der Kilimanjaro uns gelehrt hat was published in June 2017.

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