As much as I hate to admit it, one of the most dreaded sentences to ever reach my ears came from the mouth of my lovely wife the other morning as we backed out of our driveway. She said. “That bush needs trimming”. The only reason those simple words seem so ominous to my ears is not her fault. It is my own attitude toward such a chore that is the problem.
It sounds funny to say it, but with all my perfectionist tendencies, when it comes to landscaping I am always the first to say, “That looks good enough to me”. For my lovely wife, the opposite is true. The point was proven when I finally did get around to trimming that bush, and just as I was about to put away the trimmers she appeared at the window and began to sweetly point out spots that I had missed, or where it needed “more shaping”. She was right, of course. The job wasn’t perfectly finished, but I was. It was “good enough” for me. I trimmed for a while longer, until it finally passed her specifications, then I lopped off a couple more branches just for good measure. Admittedly, she has a good eye for this sort of thing. My eye may be just as good, but at the time it was being struck by too much debris to be objective.
I don’t really mind being the general laborer for my lovely Delilah of pruning, but I do try to be a voice of reason to a woman who seemingly hasn’t seen a tree branch yet that wasn’t worth a bit of hacking on. I, on the other hand, tend to lean more toward letting trees grow up and out the way God made them. I know my philosophy doesn’t work too well in a residential area, and I don’t mind giving our bushes and trees an occasional trim job now and then. I’m just not as into complete limb amputations as she is.
I remember one early instance, when she called my attention to a bush at the edge of the yard of one of our first homes. Actually, it was a bush with a different bush growing up inside it. “I’m going to trim that thing, and get rid of that other bush”, she said. “Okay”, I said. When I returned home from work that evening, both bushes were completely missing, with nothing left but a couple of stumps sticking out of the ground. She said, “The more I trimmed, the worse it looked, and so I went ahead and cut them both down”. I was probably a little overly concerned about it, but only because we were renting the place.
Last year she decided that most of our trees were in need of serious pruning. I knew she was probably right, but I still had to fight a feeling of dread as soon I heard the words “trees” and “pruning” in the same sentence. We started on a Saturday morning, and by the middle of the day, we were still only halfway through the first tree. “Haven’t we taken off enough?” I asked, looking around at the truck load of limbs covering the ground. “This tree is starting to look really....open.” That’s when she informed me that according to tree experts, the branches of a fruit tree should have spaces between them open enough to throw a cat through. I’m not much of a cat person, but the thought of tossing a cat through a trimmed tree just to determine if we were finished sounded a little cruel. Still, at that point I was willing to go look for one, if I knew what size cat were we talking about? I saw places in that tree that you could easily toss a mountain lion through. All in all, when she finally declared the project finished, the trees didn’t look half bad. That is, it didn’t look half bad to me. To this day, she still wishes we had pruned off more.
She comes by this love of horticulture naturally, having inherited her father’s interest in growing and maintaining plants. I come by my complaining naturally too, but I’m working on it. To make a marriage work there are compromises, tolerance; and in my case, the freely giving of manual labor. I couldn’t care less if a few branches on our ornamental fig are crossing each other. However, I will pull out the saw or the limb cutters and help her with the high branches because it makes her happy. Besides, she’s not any pickier about the shrubs and trees than I am about keeping the cars clean or how the grass is cut. We just have different priorities. Thankfully, this particular priority only pops up once or twice a year, and all it costs me is some time, patience and a little sweat. Well...okay, a lot of sweat, but I still think she’s worth it.