Years ago while working in the garden, the spirit of a tree in my backyard spoke to me. It was through impressions, and was very clear in its directives of what should be pruned and what not. While working in the garden I sensed a beautiful cooperative effort between the soil, insects, plants, all playing their parts with perfect grace and attunement.
The tree impressed me with the idea that a certain branch was to be left alone, for there was an important purpose in its being draped as it was. I followed the impression and noted as I sat inside looking out that its shape was beautiful and added to the garden rather than detracting from it. Another aspect of my impression was to make sure that my housemate did not cut that branch either. However, since she never gardened, I didn't remember to tell her what I felt from the tree.
The next day, I came home from an outing and was immediately aware that something was wrong. As I walked to the patio doors, I froze in horror. The beautiful branch on the wonderful tree had been cut so that the little tree was shaped like a bowl, not in the artful natural flow it had created on its own. I felt its pain, and sat in tears as I realized I had not followed through with the full directive I'd been given.
When my housemate came home, I asked her why she had cut the branch on the tree. She said it offended her idea of order, and she decided to cut it so the tree would look perfect. I was very emotional at the time and told her what I'd received. She didn't seem concerned, and thought I was being overly sensitive because I hadn't wanted the branch cut. My reaction was surprising even to me, but I knew I had done something to jeopardize the tree's health. I felt deep grief, and went out to "speak" to the spirit of the tree. I apologized and told it I would listen and act upon what I heard from that time forward. There was no answer from the tree, just a deep feeling of sadness.
As the year progressed, the little tree began to wither. Leaves and berries that previously came forth in profusion did not appear. By the following year, it was clear that the tree was dying. I knew that somehow cutting the branch for the purpose of making it look "perfect" contributed to its death. There was nothing I could do.
As I reflected on that tree and the message I'd been given, I saw how we as humans have the capacity to be part of a harmonious flow with nature. But when we allow our will to supersede nature's direction, we become unconscious perpetrators of destruction. We need to develop a capacity to listen as we walk into the garden. Then we can expand our awareness to a feeling level of what the garden has to communicate to us. Truly fine landscape architects know this. They walk the land they are to design. They feel the needs of the garden. Their purpose, like that of a great artist, is to liberate the essence and vibrancy within the land. By working WITH nature, a symphony of beauty is created. Through the imposition of our will alone, we lose the benefit of nature's wisdom.