Cronjé Chronicles

Expect No Dress Rehearsals

The Beauty and Resilience of the Bent and the Broken

Wonderful and humbling, the thoughts that come to you while you are gardening. I find myself mourning once again for all the beauty I neglect to see.

"You want one that's all windswept, not nice and straight?" The arborist at the greenhouse could hardly contain his delight when we declined several carefully pruned-to-be-acceptably-straight specimens he suggested as suitable for the front garden of our new home seven years ago. "I believe we have several of those," he said, after carefully scrutinizing our faces, "but they're all out back."

No longer 'out back', the bent and wind-formed Wild Olive has thrived, growing tall and strong, even under the assault of the Chinooks that regularly blow well over a hundred kilometres an hour around these parts. Two years ago, a fierce hailstorm stripped and killed part of a tree that stood in the shelter of the shop in the back yard, but the exposed Olive didn't seem to notice. In fact it grows so well that I need to trim the sharp-thorned new growth from the lower boughs every spring, otherwise we would not be able to walk under it.

Weeds don’t perish
— Afrikaner folk saying, originally probably from the Dutch

Not everyone was impressed with our choice. "Well, the Wild Olive is really only a weed, you know," one said, as if that somehow made it less notable.

It reminded me of a phrase from my childhood.

The Afrikaans 'Onkruid vergaan nie' can be roughly translated into 'Weeds don't perish'.

Probably my favourite poet, our very own Leonard Cohen speaks of this in his quintessential 'Maryanne', of the brokenness of Jesus, and how he 'sank like a stone' beneath the wisdom of the world.

"I suppose you guys are kinda different," another critic said, doing his best to be kind, "it suits you."

Yesterday, as I pruned the overgrowth from the bottom of the now tall and strong tree, I found myself unconsciously tending toward cutting the growth to make the 'weed' more 'tree-like'.

It was an agony to witness the fantastic extent to which the wolf had learnt to belie his nature; and I stood there with my hair on end.
— Steppenwolf - Herman Hesse

The words of Herman Hesse describing  his protagonist Harry Haller's reaction to seeing a tamed wolf on stage came to me.

And it struck me again how bent and broken my reality is if I feel that this wonderful piece of art conceived by nature and the elements is the one that is bent and broken.

"I think I'll stop now," I said to Lizzy who was clearing the fall from between the rocks and shrubs. "Anything more will only make it worse."

I wondered if my newbie attempts at pruning had done more damage than good. But then I stepped back, and a thorn from a newly removed branch poked into my heel.

Perhaps I took away just enough to be kind. I sure hope so.