Monday, November 22, 2010


In Birdland we are still teetering on the edge of Autumn. Some days seem to want to spill over into Winter like a sudden slide down a snowy hill, and I regret not digging my mittens out of the closet before leaving for work. But no snow in Birdland, yet. Just when I thought apple picking season was over, I visited one of the public trees on my route and picked nearly a bushel. The little bites of frost we've had so far seem to have done these apples good. They are sweeter than before, and still crisp. This tree is badly in need of pruning. Next time I visit, I'll bring a pruning saw. Meanwhile, back in Birdland I'll take advantage of the weather--cool, but still nice--to continue the job my friend, Brian, helped me begin last year--pruning my own long-neglected fruit trees.

Pruning seems to be a theme for my life right now as I clean out closets and rooms with the goal of filling boxes to donate to Willow Tree or Goodwill. I look at all I've accumulated over the years and realize that this stuff might do someone else some good, but the only thing it's doing for me is adding clutter to my closets and my life. I need to prune deadwood and growth that's gotten out of hand, but some things need to be nipped in the bud—cut off before they even begin to grow.

We'll cut our Christmas tree this weekend. That, and all this pruning talk has me thinking about my plans for Christmas shopping. I never was one for the Black Friday frenzy. They can Deck the Malls all they want, but I won't be there. Instead, I am planning a buy nothing Christmas. My list will consist only of things I make, things I buy second-hand, consumable gifts (baked goods, candles, special soaps, lotions) things people would need to buy anyway (school supplies, socks, underwear--sorry kids), or virtual gifts, like a Heifer donation of a hive of honeybees or a flock of chicks. In this way, my Christmas list doesn’t clutter my conscience, and I don’t contribute to anybody’s closet clutter. Well, my handmade gifts might end up in someone’s closet, but I’ll try to make them useful, consumable, recyclable, or at least biodegradable.

There. Making that decision has me feeling better already. I have nipped that little bud of guilt that always accompanies my plans for holiday shopping. What is the point of it, anyway? To let our loved ones know we love them? I think a modest, but colorful knitted dishcloth could do that, a plate of cookies, a little jar of pear butter. Is the point of holiday shopping to drive our economy by fueling jobs where people make lots of plastic stuff that travels from factory to store shelf to shopping cart to a brief stay under the Christmas tree to closet shelf to landfill? No thanks. I’d rather send a hive of honeybees somewhere out into the world to pollinate the flowers and give honey to fund some child’s education. Black Friday may get Wall Street excited, but this year, I’m opting out. is a site maintained by some Mennonites in Canada. It encourages discussion about the issues surrounding gift giving and consumerism and religion. It has downloadable music, posters, a comic book, study kits, printable coupons (to give instead of store-bought gifts), and even a kit for putting on your own musical. The comic has inspired a lot of spirited discussion from diverse perspectives.

Heifer International is a charity that grants not money, but gifts of livestock or crops that can grow and multiply on their own to enrich a whole village. I’m partial to honeybees, since I worry for their welfare, and the devastation of our planet if bee populations continue to decline. The Heifer website gives the example of one hive enriching not only one family (who would benefit by the bees’ gift of honey to eat and sell, and pollination of their crops) but a whole village. Bees fly right over fences, so one hive would also pollinate crops on neighboring farms. According to Heifer, “Placed strategically, beehives can as much as double some fruit and vegetable yields.” In fact, while they’re at it, the bees would also help maintain botanic diversity of any wild flowering plants, helping to restore health to an ecosystem.

As the winter approaches and the trees sink into sleep, I’ll prune them for health and beauty. I’ll also make judicious cuts to my pile of possessions, and nip in the bud the kind of stifling growth that threatens my clarity and peace.

Prune in Beauty; Opt in Peace; Blessed Be.

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. She still doesn’t have a beehive, so she will pollinate vicariously through Heifer International and send bees out somewhere into the world. She still has kittens to give away.

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