If you traveled five miles outside the city limits of my town, you would find a lush valley, overtaken by a prolific orchard well known for its delicious and manifold fruits. A master gardener, Piers Planter, tended the surrounding well-manicured landscape, along with the fruit trees. Old Piers, as the locals called him, could turn a neglected, stagnant garden into a work of art.
“It’s all in the prunin’, don’t you see?” he would comment while showing off his store of pruning shears and cutters of various sizes, shapes and designs. And then visitors would be offered samples of the oranges, grapes, apples, peaches, or any other of the exotic-tasting concoctions grown there.
One spring day while riding my bike at top speed and trying stunts like I was Evil Kinevil and happy to be on a school break, I crashed in front of the valley. Dismounting in a scramble at the edge of Old Man Planter’s property, I thought I heard voices coming from amongst the trees, grapevines, and bushes. This was odd, because tourists did not frequent the area this time of year. Stealthily, I crept through the orchard, only to see that all the trees and bushes and vines were conversing with Old Man Planter as he pruned them!
“Ouch! I don’t like this one bit, Piers! That hurts!”
“Stop squirming, Skippy Stalk, you know it’s for your own good,” said he, continuing to lop off some of the bush’s dried-up branches.
“Hey, quit picking on him! Why don’t you go tend to Thelma Thicket? I noticed some of her arms aren’t budding the way they should,” exclaimed one of the peach trees.
“Thank you for your advice, Sister Switch, but before I do that, it’s your turn.”
Picking up a larger apparatus, the old man approached the huge tree and began cutting away several of its decaying limbs.
“Ow! That smarts! Must you be so rough? Hey! Stop, I say! My peaches will be plentiful enough without your interference.”
I jumped when a voice behind me whined,
“Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! I just know I’ll be next. How will I ever stand it,” the weeping willow tree was crying.
“You’re right about that, Susie Spray,” as Mr. Planter ambled up to the massive tree, “your branches are dragging again, lassie.”
“Hey, not that one, it’s my favorite!”
I watched in awe as, slowly and methodically, the old man continued his work.
“Yikes—stop it! I can’t take it anymore! I thought you loved me,” wailed a little scrawny bush over in the corner.
“Now, Twiggy, how many times must I remind you that it’s BECAUSE I love you that we go through this.”
“That’s right,” agreed some shrubbery surrounding her, “which is exactly why he’s so concerned about Hedgie’s blight.”
“Hush up, Brother Bramble! Can’t you see that you’re scaring our newest fledgling, Sissy Stick?”
Mr. Planter now stood at the base of a mulberry bush that indeed, looked like she was shivering, her tiny buds beginning to sprout.
“There, there, child, don’t be afraid. Remember, I’ll always be here to help you—you’ll never be alone.”
On and on walked the horticulturist, using his various shears and cutters in succession on Lanky Limb, who suffered in jaw-clenched silence; Sylvester Sprout, who grumbled under his breath (“Ow, ow, owh, oh”); and Sammy Shrub, who nervously giggled when Piers blew some stray leaves off his chest before snipping. Then, turning toward my hiding place,
“Here, laddie, come and meet my oldest friends over this way.”
Meekly, I followed him, feeling for all the world like I had been caught with my hand in Ma’s cookie jar.
“This here’s Hanging Henry and his best friend, Harry Harwood. They’re the wisest of my flock.”
“Happy to meet you, boy. Bet you noticed pruning season is hard on our gardener.”
“We keep tellin’ him that all our orchard family will come to thank him for it in time, just like we have. We bear marvelous bounty for humans as a result,” Harry chimed in.
“I’m glad you stopped by, son. But remember one thing from your visit. Just as I prune these, my children, causing them pain in the process, so does God sometimes discipline us to strengthen our character and faith. No good thing ends with Him because He makes all of our endings into new beginnings.”
I woke up from my fever-induced coma with those wise words echoing in my heart.
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