Shahriar Shahriari

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Message of the Month

March, 2002

Dead Wood

Back in late January, a gardener was pruning my neighbor's trees. I thought he was cutting the branches a little too much, and I was wondering if this was actually healthy for the tree. So I approached him and shared my concern.

He replied: "what I am doing is cutting the dead wood. This tree has not been taken care of for a while, and has got a lot of dead branches. So long as these are here, new branches will not get the chance or the room to grow. You must get rid of the dead wood and then let nature take care of the rest."

Now, with the inevitable arrival of spring, I already see signs of life on that tree. And judging by the position and vitality of the budding branches, it is going to be livelier and bushier than last year.

And this reminded me of the roses that everyone in my neighborhood was pruning back in January. A month and a half ago, most of the gardens looked like battlefields. But now, the roses have come to life. Leaves and stems are growing fast, and I have no doubt that before long, the neighborhood will be as colorful as last year.

While pondering these, the words of the gardener kept reverberating in my mind. "You must get rid of the dead wood and then let nature take care of the rest."

I was thinking about all the different kinds of "dead wood" in my life. And by god, there is a whole variety of them too.

Some of the dead wood is mundane and insignificant, like the stuff in the freezer that has not been touched for more than a year or two. Or like the shirts in my wardrobe that I have not put on for at least a couple of years. Or the books that I bought but never found the time to read. Or the stuff that I have stored in my garage, with no prospect of ever using them.

Other dead wood may be more significant, like the apologies that I have been putting off. Or the relationships that have not been receiving the attention that they deserved and have turned stale. Or the projects that I have been devoting a little of my time to, without giving them the vital energy that they need, in order to get anywhere.

Maybe in my spring-cleaning this year, I should cut away some of the dead wood in my life too.

Perhaps for too long we have been living the "hunter-gatherer" myth, accumulating stuff. Perhaps it is time to switch to the "agricultural" myth - even if it is for a brief time - and get rid of the dead wood, and let nature take over and take care of the rest...

Shahriar Shahriari
Los Angeles, CA
March 2002

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