Our garden in Malawi was pruned while we were away. The photo above shows the result... persecution not pruning. This is just one of the half a dozen or more lush, leafy, six foot high bushes around my garden. Or rather, what is left of it!
The savagery of the 'pruning' left me shocked and savage it was. I was reminded of that this morning when walking around a neighbour's garden which, despite being pruned had not been reduced to stumps in the way that ours had. And that made me ponder the symbolism of it all, for everything is symbolic and nothing happens without a reason, whether that reason be known or unknown.
Everything is energy and everything is connected and everything which happens in our lives, all manifestations of our material world, reflect what is happening at an inner level. That is what I believe. And interestingly I could see that the elements of being 'savagely cut back,' 'harshly pruned,' 'reduced to the 'bare minimum,' left 'naked, bare, vulnerable and ugly,' by circumstances beyond one's control had been at work in my life on other levels.
'Reduced to the stub of one's self' applied both to person and to plant. If foliage 'dresses' a plant and allows a soft and beautiful 'face' to be presented to the world, then being 'laid bare' means it is taken back to the very substance of itself and in that place, until new growth begins, it will be revealed as the 'least of itself.'
And it is with the prunings that we get to 'see' who we are behind the facade, behind the foliage. Often it is not a pretty sight but unless we know the 'roots' and 'core' of Self then we do not truly know who and what we are.
The fact that the gardening 'party,' and I am sure there was vigorous enjoyment of the 'laying waste' to leaf and branch, should so reduce my garden when they have not done so in any of the three other gardens in the complex, is also a message that one has happened has meaning beyond mere twig and leaf.
I can only hope that the savage cutting has not taken the plants back to such a vulnerable state they cannot recover. But perhaps that too is a message; that we can be 'cut back', we can be 'reduced' to the 'stump' of ourselves; we can be 'laid painfully bare' and yet we will recover. Although it is a reality, that some do not, whether plant or person.
'It will grow back,' the head gardener said when he came to inspect the devastation. 'When the rains come it will grow fast.'
And if so then I have had and at times continue to have, to a lesser degree, my own 'wet season' of mammoth proportions. And that means my 'growth' will be fast and it will be strong.
With plant as with person, the ability to withstand such 'attacks' will be sourced in how strong and stable our root system is; how well we are connected with the earth. In mystical tradition being 'cut back' is something which is required if we are to be well shaped, true-formed and vigorous. In the alchemical tradition it is about being reduced to the dross of Self; being burned black before we can become bright once more.
Gardening is so symbolic of a spiritual life and even here, when it would be a stretch of credulity to call the pruning, gardening, it is a reminder that even when things are done in ignorance; even when we are damaged or almost destroyed, we can still 'grow back' and blossom.
I believe that to be true of the plants in my garden and I know it to be true of myself for I have been 'cut back' before and no doubt will be again.
And perhaps in a personal sense, it is more important to be 'trimmed back' regularly so we may remember our inner 'shape' and learn to trust the process of 'healing', for that is what new growth is. We are formed and shaped by such prunings and perhaps they come in savage form when we have not taken the time to do it ourselves.
Love sends 'shoots' bright-green from the most mutilated 'twigs' of self. My garden will rise again from the dust and cut of suffering and so too shall I for that is the nature of life.