Today was the first Saturday in a long time when the weather was nice enough to work outside, and it was nice not to be sick.

We moved into this house about a month ago, and the one thing that has been bugging me is the strip of overgrown rose bushes along the driveway. They had to have been at least 9 feet tall, and they were all twisted and snarled, with smaller shoots woven into the larger, mostly dead ones.

Not only were the rose bushes ugly (it’s winter, after all), but you could not get in and out of the car without snagging your clothes on a thorn.

So, armed with a new pair of hand clippers and leather gloves, I started on the bush closest to the house. Before I started, I read up on rose pruning (thanks, Google), so I knew that you had to cut just above a new bud on each branch.

It was slow going, and even with the gloves, my wrists and forearms were soon scratched and poked. The first bush took almost 45 minutes to prune. There were so many small shoots that were tightly wrapped around the larger branches and each other, but I wanted to get it right. So I looked carefully for new buds, the small red bumps standing out from the green stems. But for a lot of time, I just cut at will on the dead brown branches, the dried leaves and shriveled orange-brown rose hips drooping sadly toward the ground.

A neighbor had told me he makes rose hip jelly, but I thought these were way too far gone. As I was finishing up the first bush, an elderly woman walked by, pulling a wagon with two small boys. She stood in the driveway for a good 15 minutes telling me about her daughter, who had herniated a disk in her spine, which explained why she was caring for the two boys.

“It’s going to take a couple of days for you to get these bushes cut,” she said, and at that point I thought she was probably right. But when she left, I started back in on the roses. A few of the branches on the driveway side had little tufts of polyester batting and small shards of fabric, evidence of kids who hadn’t made a clean exit from the car.

Three hours later, I was done, and my green-waste can was filled to overflowing. The roses now stand a more-or-less uniform 18 inches or so, and they no longer look like the final scene of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty (parents like me will know what I’m talking about).

I was pretty pleased with myself, and when my sister called from California, she said I sounded happier than the last time we had spoken. She brought up religion, and she said that I seem to have gotten to a good place regarding Mormonism. “It’s OK to be angry or hurt about the church when those feelings are warranted,” she said, “but you don’t want to be angry and hurt all the time. It doesn’t sound like you are anymore.”

No, I’m really not. A friend sent me a rather scathing letter the other day about my religious beliefs, and I think I would have reacted rather badly had I received that letter a couple of years ago. As it was, I just politely responded that I did not wish to discuss religious issues with that friend anymore.

Imagine that: just saying and thinking, “I don’t want to talk about that anymore.” Maybe the thorns in my life, many of them of my own making, are clearing away. It will take more than an afternoon, and definitely more than a pair of hand clippers, but I can see the roses amid the thorns. That’s a good start.


7 Responses to Roses

  1. mcarp says:

    A scoutmaster told me recently that after every activity, he does a reflection with the boys and asks them for their “roses, thorns and buds.”

    Roses: What did I especially like about this activity?
    Thorns: What did I not like? What things snagged me up?
    Buds: What promises for the future does this hold for me?

    You could apply that to your rose trimming activity, or your experiences with the church, or about anything you can think of.

  2. OutontheFarm says:

    All that hard work will pay off in a few months. Roses don’t grow so great where I live now, and I miss being able to pick fresh ones and have a few inside.

    “I don’t want to talk about it” works so well in so many situations, especially when you can say it with a big smile.

  3. Stephanie Davis says:

    That was a beautiful way of describing your journey. I remember planting hundreds of bulbs the year my son died. I didn’t care about the flowers when I planted the bulbs, but I hoped I would be able to appreciate their beauty again by the time the bulbs came up. That next spring, when the tulips burst out all over my yard, I was stunned by the contrast between how I felt when I planted them and how I felt a few months later. The pain is always with me, but the happiness and hope gradually came back to me too. I’m happy to hear you are moving forward and can now feel alot more peace in your life.

  4. aubuchon says:

    You are such a great writer! I loved it.

  5. Odell says:

    This my be very unartful, but in the words of Bill and Ted “Rock On!”

    Okay that was stupid but I still enjoyed it. I hope you are progessing. I think I am finally past those last hurdles of feeling trapped by the religion I once loved and admired. It actually feels very free for me.

    I hope the best for you. You are really one of the best people I have ever met. And I hope the best for your beautiful wife and children and you find a tomorrow that you can all savor.

  6. Simeon says:

    I just chopped the crap out of some unruly rose bushes in my backyard the otherday. Cut em clear down to about six inches above the ground. I guess I just didn’t have the patience to deal with them. Still not many roses for me. Maybe I should switch up my approach.

  7. Bull says:

    The lingering thorns in my life regarding Mormonism are the result of simply not being able to deal with it openly with my family. It has become a taboo topic since the programming doesn’t allow them to discuss the topic constructively at all. Like you I’ve basically had to say, “Let’s not discuss religion any more.”

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