Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Palm Tree in the Roses

I had something of a writer's insight this morning.

I have 13 rosebushes growing outside my house. They are a lot of work but produce the most beautiful, fragrant blooms. During the most active growing season, my house is filled with fresh cut flowers, I give vases of flowers to friends and family. So, while they take up a lot of time, I couldn't imagine not having them there.

Elsewhere in our yard, we have a cluster of goliath-sized palm trees. They may not smell as nice, but they beautify the place in their own way. They give variety to the landscape, provide a home for dozens of birds, insects for the woodpeckers. They also are absolutely laden with seeds. Any time there is a decent amount of wind, the yard and street and most of the neighbors' yards are covered in seeds. Which means, inevitably, little baby palm trees pop up all over the place. Some of them we have left and allowed to begin growing.

A few weeks ago I noticed a tiny blade sprouting amongst my rosebushes. It was tucked between two of the most thorny, gnarled, twisted bushes I have. I knew what it was, I had seen a palm tree sprout many times. But it was hard to get to and tiny. So I left it, figuring I'd get around to it eventually.

Weeks passed, as they often do. And it slowly grew. Until what was once a tiny sprout had become a multi-branched miniature tree. The rosebushes had been an inconvenience before, but now stood as a hinderance. Getting around the sharp, snagging thorns of the roses to pull up the fledgling tree was an overwhelming prospect. But I knew that if I didn't, the palm tree would eventually overtake and kill the roses. And, given enough time, even the palm tree would die, because it was growing too close to the house.

So this morning I put on my heavy gloves, literally climbed into the bed of bushes and pulled and pulled and pulled. The tree eventually came out, but the undertaking left its mark. My hands are scraped and cut, my arms hurt, my back aches.

And as I was pulling, my mind shot back to the book I am working on now. It has been a struggle, being so entirely different from all the others I've written. There has been a lot of painful cutting and I have found myself getting discouraged. I liked what I had written; in and of itself, it was good.

But, I am realizing, it is like a palm tree in the roses. Both plants are good and have beneficial and beautiful qualities. Both serve their own purpose. But each has its own place and its own role. Pruning is necessary for both and, in the end, is the only way they would survive.

So, I plan to approach my next series of vicious rewrites like that rogue palm tree. Cut early. Cut often. Save the roses.

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