On a warm June morning, my family and I met Marsha, a volunteer guide, just inside the front gate of the Portland Japanese Garden. We paused beside a large Japanese maple. Marsha explained to us that a Japanese gardening technique called “open center pruning” was responsible not only for the sculptural appeal of this maple, but also for the uncluttered space and serenity in the garden as a whole.
When a Japanese gardener “prunes open,” Marsha said, he or she cuts away not only dead branches and foliage, but also a number of perfectly healthy branches that detract from the beauty inherent in the tree’s essential structure. Pruning open enables a tree to flourish by removing complicating elements, simplifying structure and revealing its essence.
I’ve come to understand this as a beautiful metaphor – one I’ve looked to for guidance in my life and along my spiritual journey. In moving toward smaller and less, in cutting back in order to open up, we uncover who we are at the very center of our God-created selves.
This message is excerpted from “Pruning open” by Michelle Derusha in the January/February 2021 Gather magazine.
Copyright © 2024 Women of the ELCA. Inquiries for permission to reproduce should be directed to [email protected].