Cut Deadwood

Len and I live in a carriage house (circa 1865) in the Warm Springs historic district of Boise. The main house and carriage house are separated by beautifully landscaped grounds that are lush with flowers, foliage, and trees. 

This year, one of the trees enjoyed a pair of peregrine falcons as residents. They subsequently had babies. It was fun to listen to their screams for “food, Food, MORE FOOD!”

All of the human observation to potentially catch “flying lessons” and other fledgling antics, caused the owners of the main house to notice some dead branches and decide to have the deadwood removed. But not until after the feathered family had safely flown the coop.

Deadwood — before and after. In the top photo (before), notice one of the peregrine parents perched on an upper-most limb.

Deadwood is a threat to tree health. Infestations thrive in the decaying wood, which can ultimately lead to the death of the tree—not to mention, it can make a tree structurally unsound.

Deadwood pruning is the removal from the tree of the dead, dying, or broken branches and diseased branch wood. This can be significant for the health of a tree—allowing the tree to flourish.

Certain people, places, things, events, and opportunities can drag individuals down—deadwood. Maybe they’re time or energy thieves, or perhaps they’re a financial drain. Regardless, they can weaken an otherwise sound structure.

What deadwood needs to be removed from your life so you can flourish?


52 thoughts on “Cut Deadwood

  1. I am in Ottawa where a tornado this past weekend took care of a lot of dead wood for us. (Our house is fine and we are one of the lucky ones who got power back after only 24 hours.) Perhaps if we don’t take care of our own deadwood, Mother Nature comes along and gives us a hand? These events do seem to awaken us to what is important and helpful and needs to stay and what is unimportant or harmful.

  2. Your post reminds me I should do some deadwood pruning of my own self–embrace,accept,clear mental cobwebs,discard unproductive ways and habits and open up new paths.

  3. I like the fact that the deadwood served a purpose for the falcons and for you, the human observers and listeners below. But when it was no longer serving life, it was time to go.

    I hope I have that much wisdom in returning home and finding the new normal. With travel and renovation, I still have not found it. But I will! In the meantime, may all the flowers grow. And old branches hold their precious cargo.

  4. A few days ago I pruned a crepe myrtle tree. Already pink shoots have sprouted from dead-looking branches. A miracle!

    As we speak, dead wood is being pruned from my manuscript. A miracle will happen when fresh new words appear, my own or my editor’s. I agree with Darlene about pruning to flourish!

  5. What a privilege to have that in your own backyard, Laurie. We got rid of dead wood often in our garden and also rejoiced in the many birds that nested there.
    We unburdened ourselves of so much ‘luggage’ last year prior to our European trip that there is little left to shed; only kept the essentials and just a couple of decorative items which I will share in my blog tomorrow.

  6. Wonderful metaphor, Laurie. We have two trees to trim this fall to promote healthy growth. My manuscript could use pruning as well! So good to meet you at the Wisconsin writing conference. You are an inspiration. Today is my 6 month blogiversary for Fake Flamenco!

  7. I’m still working on reducing clutter so that’s probably the main deadwood I need to deal with. It feels like a neverending battle…and then there’s the dead broken limb in our front yard tree. But it’s easier to call the tree folks to take care of that than it is to tackle another closet.

  8. What a meaningful metaphor…deadwood of life has never plagued me as I keep pruning those branches that threaten to poke harder. Much of the ammunition that I gather goes into igniting my poetry. 🙂

  9. I think I’ve cleared a lot of deadwood in recent years. I think I’m (finally) beginning to recognize what it is I need in my life, and to work towards having it. The actual, physical clearing of some of the deadwood taking up space on shelves and in closets is another thing. I need to be in a “ruthless” mood to do that – and that mood recently lasted long enough for me to sort out and reorganize kitchen drawers. Still on the list – closets and shelves on which reside far too many “things”.

  10. Yikes, this is a tough one, Laurie. Getting rid of deadwood is not easy; I equate it with editing as Darlene described earlier. Or getting my hair trimmed. I’m always scared to let the stylist start snipping, but my hair always looks better when she’s finished. I’d like to deadwood the ‘dead’ time I use up on social media. Better to open up the space for reading or writing (or editing). 🙂

  11. Hi Laurie,

    Yes, sort of.
    Looked at purely from the perspective of the tree, deadwood is, well, dead.

    Looked at in a wider ecological context, it provides a home for many different species, fungi, bacteria, worms, insects, reptiles, birds, mammals – all making a home and a living from the decaying tree matter.

    So it really is a non-trivial question, about how much our narrow focus and simplistic models of complex systems lead us to make changes that fundamentally alter systems that we have little or no knowledge of the long term importance of.

    And yes, we must each make our personal journeys, exploring ourselves and the contexts within which we exist; making and expanding our models, appreciating what is, and creating what might not have otherwise existed (in so much as we do).

    I think I have reasonably clearly identified at least 20 levels of complex adaptive systems within me.
    Yes I can influence the development of any of them, and I can only work on one at a time, and each level is far too complex for me to do anything other than consciously make a simple sketch and essentially make a best guess as to how to proceed and why and to what purpose.

    In that context I love the Walt Whitman quote “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”

    Some of those multitudes might consider others to be “dead wood”, but the “dead wood” might consider itself to be very much alive. ‘Tis an eternal debate and enquiry.


  12. Laurie, well, that question opens the door to a myriad of answers, so I will give space to one. It appears we will be moving back to Georgia sooner rather than later and things are suddenly catching my attention. I too like Carol’s term “ruthless mood” and I am priming myself to get ruthless when the comes to start the selection process of “Keep-Donate-Toss” We hope to be well on our way before Christmas and now even that date seems to ushing towards us. Whenever, we plan to travel light and travel fast and the Pod can come trundling after…

      • Sandi I have been thinking about you and your partner a great deal these days and have included both of you in my meditation circle Tuesdays at 1pm. Wishing you well Oh one of Ruthless Mood!

  13. Love the photo and your illustrative story! I like Rose above have been immersed in writing and editing (returning to themes and structure and assessing against both). Letting go of the extraneous to let the heart of the story surface in a vivid way is rewarding. In my personal life, I wrote recently here about clutter removal and the lift that follows. And, I continue to focus on weight loss with an intention to improve energy and health. There will be other pruning ahead and all in good time.

    • Audrey — I enjoyed reading the examples of deadwood that you’re cutting: editing (letting go of the extraneous to let the heart of the story surface), physical clutter in your space, and bodily weight that doesn’t serve you well. Bravo! 👏👏👏

  14. Three and 1/2 years ago I fell and severed a nerve in my spine. Surgery happened and I am now growing a new nerve ( 1mm) per day! I walk with a condition called drop foot on the right side (hard to drive) About a year ago I started to gain control of bathroom needs and that was very exciting indeed – nearly totally recovered in that department now. Last Tuesday, I discovered that 10 points of nerve endings are now igniting in my right foot. (Also I had a pedicure for the wedding and that told me that there was progress as it was so painful) About 30 points to go….Ah I am dropping that dead foot soon!
    Thank you Superman, Christopher Reeves, for all the research and experimentation you left this world. I am grateful
    My partner is now exploring Stem Cell Injections for his arthritic disintegrating knees. He does not want to give up cycling or hiking for one minute of his lifetime. Exciting times indeed.
    I do not want to give up my Medicare after having no health insurance for 40 years….I am alive and actively teaching about that problem being perpetuated right now….I just want to say: “Medicare and Social Security” are fully funded and Congress must not remove $600 Billion from the funds”
    We need to drop the belief in the myths being repeated incessantly.

  15. I think I’ve cut nearly all of the deadwood out of my life, but not by choice. Push came to shove and whatnot. Gradually, now that that deadwood is gone, I’m growing in healthier directions. My recent literal deadwood tackling involved taming my butterfly bush. It’s a beast and needs a good trimming about every three years.

  16. I have been pruning a few people lately …people I thought were friends and had my best interests at heart . Turns out it was all for self gain . Hey ! Laurie shaking my feathers makes me feel a whole lot better .
    I love the birdies ❤️

  17. I loved hearing about your falcons, Laurie. I posted a few days ago about our need to remove a mature tree and my concern for the birds who called it home! 😦 Dead wood…that’s a really interesting way to make a few assessments and personal adjustments. I am very concerned these days about some old friendships that aren’t fitting too “neatly” these days. I may have to consider if “dead wood” applies here.

    • Debra — It’s difficult when we have to consider pruning people from our lives, but sometimes necessary for one, if not both, parties concerned. Best wishing as you move forward with your decision.

  18. Hey, Laurie, I thought I’d throw a different spin on this and say that someone’s deadwood can become someone else’s lifeline. Clothes and books seem to be things you can turn over regularly, especially if you actually read the books you have instead of stockpiling them and using them to hold up your roof.
    Best wishes,

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