A Parable Of Boxwoods

When I was a teenager I spent a summer on Edisto Island, SC, where I worked as a landscaper (yard boy) at a very old southern plantation known at the time as the Dodge Plantation. Dating back to 1810, it was a cotton plantation used as a Union hospital in 1862. I used to go upstairs and read old writings on the walls put there by the Union soldiers. The beautiful mansion is on the market for a little over 8 million dollars if you’re interested. Back then I worked for $1 an hour as did the old Gullah man I worked alongside whose family had once been slaves on that island. The experience of listening to him was far more valuable than any monetary compensation I received. The double wide brick walkway to the front porch was lined with beautiful old boxwoods that were immaculately manicured. The old Black man never let so much as a single leaf grow out of place on those hedges, which I thought was ridiculous at first but later came to appreciate. I can still smell the distinctive fragrance of the ancient boxwoods.

I was thinking about those boxwoods the other day  and what a stark contrast they are to the rows of vine I now spend time tending. To put it frankly, the vines are a mess of twisting, intertwined, random looking ropes. They drive the OCD streak in me, however small, nuts! I sometimes catch myself actually trying to untangle, sort out and somehow bring a sense of order to the rows – as if that could be done. The temptation is there to get my snips and cut back wayward branches but I would probably lose fruit, which is why I have the vines in the first place. Growth that bears fruit is messy. I nurtured the vines to the point of growth and I have to let them grow. For everything there is a season even if it looks messy. I can tolerate the mess now because the vines are loaded with fruit. I keep my eyes on the fruit so the mess doesn’t seem as messy.

The wise old gentleman on the plantation kept those rows of boxwood hedge in perfect order and conformity. Now that I think of it however there was no fruit. Everything was decent and in order but there was no fruit. Growth was kept trimmed back so everything would conform but there was no fruit. John Kennedy said, “Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.” Growth is messy but…. no growth, no fruit.


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