To prepare yourselves for this post, contemplate this statement, and envision a hand, indicating a height:
“Cut it to about here.”
For a while now, I’ve been involved with designing a seating area on the Benedictine Monastery campus in Mt Angel. The Sisters offer spiritual walks with members of the community, and the walks culminate near the giant 130′ tall Sequoia that was planted in the late 1800’s by one of the very first Sisters to join the order. The seating area is designed as a place of contemplation and meditation, and will focus on the installation of a new Peace Pole. The work is set to begin in about two weeks, at the end of March. To date, an overgrown red-twig dogwood that was eating the existing flag pole had been removed.
I will show you more about the project in a later post, but for the purpose of this Vignette, suffice it to say that a prominent part of the design are four 40′ x 12′ bermed beds, planted with carefully selected plants that will provide year round color and fragrance. Part of the past few weeks have been spent procuring all these plants, and I have made several trips down to the convent to drop them off. On the last of these trips, I had an errand to the offices. When I got to the top of the stairs, I looked toward the future site, and….. GASPED!!!!
The cause for my semi-heart attack was one of the grounds workers, merrily going about cutting back a magnificent Bayleaf (Laurus nobilis). The large shrub was adjacent to one of the four beds, and my plans called for limbing it up. Several of the Sisters had mentioned the Laurel, and wanted it to remain. In my design, I had worked it in to serve as an evergreen backdrop to the fiery branches of a Midwinter Fire dogwood in winter.
The miscommunication, according to the worker, was that he had been told something along the lines of that sentence I asked you to ponder, at the top of this post. I can see how that might have been misunderstood, but jeez-louise…. I wasn’t there when the instructions were given, and I’m not going to pass blame. There are always two sides to each story – at least! No, I just want to make a note of how damn important clear communications are to e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g we humans do. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that others can read our mind, or to overestimate the notion that others really know what we mean. I’m as guilty of that as just about anyone else. From the receiving end of that scenario, I also want to stress the importance of asking all the questions you need answers to, and eliminating all doubts before making assumptions. Yup, I admit – I can be guilty of that, too.
I went home and emailed my pruning god – Mike at Joy Creek Nursery – to see if there was any hope for recovery for this poor decapitated shrub. He promptly returned a detailed email filled with disbelief, instructions, and – thankfully – some encouragement. It will take some work, and it will take a few years, but there is a chance. We’ll proceed with the project as planned, but – obviously – the limbing up of the Laurel will be postponed for a while. That wounded thing needs to be allowed to grow some new branches first, before we take off the few it has left. Time will tell…
So, thoughts and prayers everyone, that the rest of this project goes off without a hitch. Ironically, the massive Sequoia was once topped by some local pranksters who were determined to use the top few feet as a Christmas tree. This was decades ago, and the tree has recovered fine – at least as far as I can tell from my vantage point far below. I’m going to keep that in mind as I watch the injured Laurel try to heal itself. Communications, or the lack thereof, can indeed be life-changing – for better and for worse. Mishaps like this are the kinds of things that should keep us all humble.
The only beauty in this travesty was that the entire area was filled with the most wonderful fragrance. I took some of those severed Bay branches home to use the leaves in my cooking, all the while musing that if the Sisters could sell all those downed leaves at market rate, they could pay for this project many times over.