"Let the gratefulness overflow into blessing all around you. Then, it will be a really good day." Louie Schwartzberg
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Lost in Thought Amongst the Harakeke

posted by Susan Dominikovich on , ,

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I spent the morning in my garden.  Digging and trimming and composting.  Thinking.  Analogising.  Time spent with God and my own solitary thoughts.  A worthwhile time.

Working my away along the border, I came to my wee struggling blueberry plants.  One had died and needed to be pulled out.  Two were in flower, but looking quite weak.  The other looked as is if I could easily flick it out of the soil, as if it hadn't taken root.  Yet this was their third season of growth.  

I took a step back to assess the situation.  I stood back and really looked.  What I saw was a very crowded border.  There wasn't much room and there certainly wasn't enough light.  I remember when I had planted the blueberries, they were in a perfect spacious and sunny spot, sheltered by the flax growing behind them.  

Aha. The flax had grown.  Overgrown.

The New Zealand flax is also known as harakeke and has many uses.  I must admit, when I first moved to this country, in my ignorance I thought the flax was ugly and would try to rip it out if I found it in my garden.  The flax always had the last laugh.  I had not yet developed my appreciation for native flora and fauna.  Now I get it.  Now I will tenderly take a baby harakeke and transplant it.  I have increased the harakeke population along our stream considerably and I am proud of it.  And if you know New Zealand harakeke, you know it is a tough plant.  You would be a fool to try to get rid of it; rather, you appreciate it and respect it.

However, my baby harakeke that I had once transplanted, had grown...and grown and grown and multiplied.  And they were putting my blueberries into shadow.   It was unlikely that they would grow or fruit if the status quo was allowed to remain.

I had two options:  I could try to move the blueberries to another spot.  I considered it but had already lost one plant and didn't want to lose the others.  Ask Paul about the daphne and he will confirm it; I have a big heart for plants...one loss is one loss too many.  I shed tears.  I wasn't willing to take the risk.  The second option was to cut the harakeke back, knowing of course that it could not be moved.  And that is what I set about to do.

I remembered my playcentre days and time spent on a marae.  The harakeke needs to be respected.  You don't just hack at it with pruning shears to cut it back.  There is a protocol to follow.  You must use a very sharp knife.  And you must cut the leaf at an angle away from the heart of the plant so as not to induce rot.  And you must never ever ever touch the baby or the parents, the young growth at the heart of the plant.  Only the grandparents and the generations around it.

As I was working away, I noticed that the oldest leaves, the spotty brown great-grandparents, were actually really hard to cut away.  They were soft but extremely fibrous and tough.  A quick slice with the knife was not possible.  I had to saw and pull at the stubborn leaves.  Interestingly, the younger green leaves were easy to cut through and could almost snap off in your fingers.  It showed me that despite the strength and vitality of the harakeke, the baby and parents--the new growth--were actually quite fragile.  They could be easily broken.  I understood why there was a protocol.  The grandparents growing either side of the parents and so on, were there to protect and nourish the new growth.  There came a time when the old leaves withered and died; they had achieved their purpose and new leaves were taking their place.  But instead of falling off the plant like a dead branch on a tree might, they hang on and create shadows.  It was these old sinewy leaves that were crowding and shadowing my blueberries.  And so I sawed away at them with my very sharp knife and created space and light for new growth.  Hopefully, an abundance of fruit too.

Of course I spotted an analogy.  We all have old fibrous sinewy harakeke leaves in our lives. It may be a routine or a habit.  Perhaps it was something once quite useful but now has no purpose.  A ministry of ours that was once vital and fresh but is now floundering and pointless.  There comes a time when old harakeke leaves need to be cut off.  We need to respect their role and what they may have contributed to our growth and purpose, the protection that they once provided, but eventually we need to get a very sharp knife and cut them off.  Make room for new growth to take root in our lives.  Make room for light and fruit to flourish.  Otherwise, the dead harakeke will continue to hang on and crowd out or overshadow any potential for something new.

The blueberries needed more than just light though.  They needed some compost and fertiliser. They needed feeding.  In the same analogy, we must feed ourselves on the Word of God.  Meditate on it.  Meet with Jesus day and night.  Worship.  Also, feed ourselves on good company with spirit-filled people who recognise the fruit we are producing and value it in us.

And don't forget to spray for bugs.  We need to protect ourselves.  Don't allow anything in our lives that might impinge on our growth or fruit-producing potential.  There's no point growing nice blueberries just for the nasty little critters to feed on and destroy.

Those grandparents and great-grandparents that I cut off the harakeke...they still have a valuable use, but apart from the plant.  They can be woven into rugs, kete, and korowai. 

They can even be made into a pretty flower. 

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