Last month we felled ten trees on our property. It broke my heart to do it. These trees were tall and beautiful and were one of the main reasons we bought our house. They were always there, from the day we first saw the house, providing shade and serving as a barrier of sorts between our neighbours and us. I could not imagine our garden without them.

As beautiful and comforting as these giants were, they also had long wide roots and were lifting the pavement in parts of the garden. Two of the larger trees were eroding each other’s trunks. If a strong wind came our way, both trees were in danger of snapping off and causing serious damage to our home. Some trees had been planted close to the boundary wall and now their sturdy trunks were leaning perilously on the walls. While these reasons justified cutting the trees, it was still a difficult decision as many birds lived in those trees. I was so sad that we were destroying their habitat. I enjoyed hearing the birds every morning when I woke up.

All in all, no matter how much I loved the trees, they had to go. It was heartbreaking to watch the felling. First, the tree fellers cut the branches and then the trunks. As the trees fell, they revealed the spaces they had once occupied. It exposed areas of the property we had not seen this way before, and I was not happy with the vacant spaces.

Sometimes we have to make brave choices to protect ourselves and those we love. My recent tree felling experience reminded me that this was similar to how we must deal with some relationships.

For the first week after the trees were gone, I felt unsure about whether we made the right choice in felling the trees. Over the next few weeks, I noticed a bird we had never seen before. After some research, I learnt that it was a type of Starling. Soon I noticed there were more birds of different species. For years I saw one lone Hoopoe visit our garden, and now I see about four or five Hoopoes at a time. There are also new birds with red feathers and some with yellow feathers. The garden still abounds in melody every morning. The most beautiful change is that when it rains, the rain reaches the plants that were shielded by the trees which are now flourishing and growing much faster than before.

Our lives are sometimes like a garden. We have relationships like those trees that have become part of our lives yet we can’t recall choosing them. For those of us who survived trauma; holding onto familiar relationships is sometimes a coping mechanism. Often we hold onto relationships out of fear of being abandoned, or because we need the validation or familiarity. We sometimes do not see until it is too late that like those trees, the roots of those relationships erode our lives. We may find it impossible to accept that what and who remained after those frightful times, were just that – what and who remained! They may not have been what and who we needed to heal, to grow and to become who we were meant to be.

Trees are the earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heaven.

Rabindranath Tagore, Fireflies

Choosing to change those relationships, or remove them altogether is painful. Uprooting or felling is messy, and it hurts. Yet, we are not stagnant creatures. Like trees, we were created to become more, not just for ourselves but also for all those who come into our sphere. As a created being, we learn, we change, we become who God intends us to be. If the relationships we keep inhibit us or becomes a barrier or blocks us from receiving everything we need to thrive, then we live stunted lives. We might yet bloom but we will always bloom in the shade of another. We might be described as healthy and thriving, but like my little plants that grew below the trees, we never reach our full potential.

It would be helpful if those trees, sometimes moved over a little to allow the sun to shine directly or the rain to splash on the ground below for the little plants. It would help too if the people who we were left with after a traumatic event learnt how to bend a little or step aside instead of becoming a barrier that needs to be differentiated by a boundary or be removed completely. If you need to do some felling, this is for you:

  • May you be courageous in acknowledging the role of the trees in your garden.
  • May you know the difference in relationships that serve as a gate and those that serve as a barrier in the garden that is your life.
  • May you know that letting go of relationships that have become a barrier does not make you a bad person, it makes you………..well YOU.
  • May you know that true love steps aside and trusts that the same elements that caused its growth, will nourish you too.
  • Heaven is listening out for your voice.

Trees are the earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heaven.

Rabindranath Tagore, Fireflies

Sharing my womanhood and motherhood journey of faith, hope and love as a woman who started out as a teenage mother to a daughter with a disability. I write on topics about womanhood, motherhood, disability and assistive technology (Journey to Communication). I am available as a motivational speaker within the South African region.

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