The beautiful ten foot Colorado Blue Spruce suddenly took a turn for the worse. Something was killing it and the groundskeeper asked me to have a look. The usual causes of sickness had been eliminated; the soil was tested, the fertilizer checked, watering evaluated and common pests researched. Whatever herculean effort was extended to find a cure was minimally effective and at times the decline appeared to accelerate.
As I scooched on my side under the boughs I noticed the tell-tale sign of a narrow bulge around the base of the trunk. Scraping off the mulch and pulling back the ground cloth my suspicion was confirmed; a piece of hemp wrapped around the trunk had not been cut free from the ball when it was planted several years ago. The tree had been girdled.
To kill a tree or shrub doesn’t take a lot of effort or chemicals. It is a rather simple task, one that a mouse can complete in a matter of hours by chewing through the bark in a ring around the trunk. This damage to the vascular system stops the flow of nourishment from tree to root and starvation is imminent.
A more frequent form of girdling is caused by carelessness. I have seen it too often. Hardwoods that were added to the landscape years earlier show sudden signs of decline. Often it is the crown or a major branch and sometimes, as with the Blue Spruce, the whole tree is affected.
This type of girdling is a result of something barely noticeable. It can be a nylon string, wire or band left behind on a branch when a tag is removed. Or as mentioned, a simple piece of rope cut from the burlap but not unwound from the trunk. As the trunk or branch grows and increases in circumference, the cord left behind will strangle this otherwise healthy specimen.
I think of how careless words can girdle the hearts of children, as when they are made to feel insignificant or worthless. A simple phrase spoken with meanness can stunt a portion of their development. When the same harsh words are repeatedly spoken they twist into a rope that, when left undiscovered, destroys what looks to be a sound and vibrant being.
A fortunate few seek to find the mental constriction. When they discover the forgotten band or twisted rope of words that had lain hidden for years, un-girdling their hearts is liberating. The binding is removed and if not too late nourishment once again flows, slowly at first and often with fits and starts.
Like the tree or shrub a scar will always remain where the constriction had occurred, becoming less pronounced as healing takes place. If the damage is deep and nourishment blocked for too long, thriving will never be an option. One cannot recover what has died and I worry about those whose hearts have hardened. I wonder if like the Blue Spruce they too will wither away.
I scan the landscape to spot the tell-tale signs of constriction. When I can I do what I can to promote healing, even if it is simply to pray. The first step is to pull away the debris.