Going Pro Like an Amateur
When I lived in California and Hawaii, I spent a lot of time pruning trees, climbing trees, harvesting trees, standing back and looking at trees. I was the fruit fairy, I was Ela-treela. Ultimately, I'm not built for it--too small and undermuscled, fast track to carpal tunnel and lumbar spine disabilities--and in order to do it "professionally" almost anywhere, I'd have had to adopt tools and a style of working that wouldn't suit me, and, I think, don't really suit the trees either.
But I'm glad that I can continue to do the work as an amateur, which truly means a lover, working with sincere intent to treat the tree in best possible way. To my last post's point about taking the time to stand back and contemplate the task without being in a rush toward the next thing, working trees taught me a lot about standing back and looking--with all my senses.
If I had a whole orchard of mesquite trees, I'd probably wield a chainsaw and run the branches through a chipper-shredder.
Since I only have the one tree, I wield a small folding saw, my ratchet pruners, and my smaller snips.
If I had a whole orchard to get through, there would probably be pressure to get it all done right away, get 'er done, and quickly, and no sniveling about back pain or thorns in the face.
With just the one tree, I can stop when I notice I'm being careless or starting to get zingers or cramps in my muscles.
With a whole orchard to do, I'd have to wade in and start as close to the trunk as possible, hack out whole boughs and chip the lot up as mulch.
With this one tree, I start from the outside and work my way in, snipping fine the younger tips and early beans (mesquite being a legume tree) to be mulch for my beds and leaving the larger pieces for slower decomposition. I unravel the puzzle of the tree's life, working my way into the best angle for each cut so my saw conforms to the bark's contour, deciding the best style of cut in each case.
In this slow, loving process of reshaping the tree, reshaping the time-vessel of my day, I may also discover that I'm going to do things differently than I thought I would. Yes, I'm mulching my plants as much as possible in the intense heat, and yes, mesquite debris is wonderful soil-building. But would it be too dry, and would it be too much nitrogen on the plants? And so evolved the idea that rather than spread it straight on the beds, I'll wet it down first, even get it fermenting some, and then apply it. Experimenting, building soil. And onward for the bigger experiment: what can I actually grow that the bunnies won't just eat up?
When I stand back and feel in, watching with all my senses; when I start from the outside and work my way in; when I can set aside this constant urgency to rush to the next thing, this constant frustration that I get nothing done despite constantly rushing to catch up to the next thing, I often discover that I'm not doing what I thinkn I'm doing but something else. I'm going to ferment the mulch before putting it on the beds. I notice a patch that seems to get mid-afternoon shade even these dog days of summer; perhaps I can dig a bed there.
I want to go pro, but I want to do so with this lover's, amateur's, mindset. Feeling into the situation, concentrating, focusing. Where, and on what? So many things I love to do. So many things I have some ability with.
That's why I'm such a good editor: I take on someone's project and pour heart, soul, and love into it, and because it's someone else's project the work satisfies my avidity for breadth and constant expansion. I affirm myself in this way to state that I am a professional already; it's an oddity that I still feel like I haven't yet "gone pro." There's also the fact that I do many other things as well, from writing to herbalism to in-betweens. And I believe it is posible to be professional and do several things--the best in the biz usually do.
But now I'm yearning for depth too. Perhaps it's not a coincidence that I cut most of my hair off right around the same time I have this metaphorical insight from pruning the tree--working inward from the outside, pruning off excess and finding what's within. Perhaps it's not a coincidence that I'm suffering with swelling ankles and feet again, when there's absolutely no reason I should be. A physical manifestation of being spread too wide? It's uncomfortable and scary, and as such it's tempting to push away or blitz with herbs or overwhelm with caffeine, but perhaps I need to stop and look with all my senses. What's the lesson here? And how can I narrow things down and deepen?
Two constant prayers these days:
Use me for the purpose your wisdom chooses
My conscientious soul, consider your responsibility sacred.