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Winter Pruning

Originally published in LLL US Western Division’s Connections, January/February 1997

From my dining room window, I look out on the creek that drains into Morris Lake. I love the bleak view out that window of the naked birch trees and thin sheets of ice on the lake. This time of year is when I can really see the contours of our glaciated hills, notice the basic botanical structures, and admire the ducks and blue jays who make the pine trees and bank rushes in this icy lake habitat their winter home. This is also the time of year when I make basic decisions about my life.

In the austerity of the winter landscape, the techniques and considerations for pruning trees have relevance as I look at my life tree. This is the time when I:

Prune in the winter when the sap is down. I can see the shape of my life tree better when the leaves are gone. It can be difficult to cut down on activities during a summer flurry of baseball games or a marathon of holiday parties. During the slower pace of January, I can make some considered decisions about organizations, activities, and projects.

Cut off limbs that are weak and not growing well. Trees are healthier without them.

Keep the branches that support the nest. Family life needs to fit in with the things I do.

Cut off the branches that rub and irritate.

Allow the sunlight to reach all parts of the tree.

Prune so the tree is approachable. Am I available to people? Are there too many time constraints and schedule interferences for basic family activities and fellowship with my friends?

Trim off the broken branches. An activity that isn’t working for me any longer takes time and energy away from truly pleasurable efforts.

Prune to allow new shoots to thrive. New interests and new friends need time and space to grow.

Make the tree appealing to the rest of the orchard. Are other people curious about what I do? Do the thins I’m involved with look like fun?

With a gardener’s eye and mental shears, I wonder, do all the things I did in the last year still fit for me this year? Is this the shape of my dream tree? Is my life the way I want it? There are many things pulling on my time as my sons grow older. But I have actively chosen to keep my energy limited to the things I truly enjoy. And winter pruning is one of the ways I stay involved in La Leche League.

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