Garden Truths: What a pair of hedge trimmers has to say about life.

There’s an ache to my lower back as I stoop and stretch for the next dead branch with my hedge trimmers.

Waste bins and brown recyclable bags checker yards up and down the street. 

Interspersed between each bin, neighbors gather dead things, heaving last year’s baggage away so summer can begin again. 

Together our bodies speak in a shared kind of litany: pruning, bundling, dumping, returning. 

I attack my bushes in a frenzy, snapping off every dead offshoot. At times, the results get a bit severe, yielding shrubs that resemble a twelve-year old’s faux-hawk erupting from a stubby tuft in the ground. 

The intensity of my work makes me pause—perhaps who I am in the garden reveals more than I can yet put words to… 

A drip of sweat beads down the center of my chest, leaving its unwanted residue of salt. 

I halt from my clippings and turn to my own pile of dead branches.

Tossing my work into the dumpster, I take in the landscape and notice the soft rumblings of the now grey-soaked sky—signs of a spontaneous thunderstorm promising to break. There’s so much left to accomplish, and today has been enough. 

I flex my mulch-caked hands in pride, and turn towards the indoors.

As someone whose fingers feel most familiar with a laptop and who tends to roam the land of ideas, I don’t often find myself tied to the earth: her dirt, flowers and thistles.

Yet the rhythm of the earth seems to be something we all inherently understand: life comes in seasons, it surrenders to death, and it is cultivated back again. 

The story of my hydrangea bushes runs deep within our stories as well.

If my garden self has truth to reveal to my deeper self, perhaps it is this: I struggle with the pruning required to welcome life again. The clearing of deadness feels empty, and often, making room feels vulnerable. 

Besides, if you don’t look too close, the deadness isn’t too bad. There are other things to focus on, and to keep me busy.

At least, that is how I feel right up until the moment I snap that first dead branch. With that crack, a different part of my brain awakens, and I wonder how it is I’ve lived among dead things for so long. 

Summer is here again. The time has come to once again drink deeply of new life. Life that may not happen in the rush and activity. I took to the garden with a vision of rest this summer: room to write, talk, and be in kind, outdoor spaces. 

It turns out, my body is hungry for a bit of emptiness. It wants to let good things grow. And, I am determined to cultivate the soil of my heart in ways that make room. 

Where are you being invited to clear away busyness this summer and just be?


Katy Johnson lives, dreams, writes, and edits in a messy, watercolored world.  She’s a 29 year old, discovering her hope, her longings, and the wild spaces in her own heart.  Her favorite creative project right now is called Will I Break?, and someday, that manuscript may see the light of day.  For now, she shares her thoughts here.

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