RTW: In Training

I have some espalier apple trees in our yard. Espaliered trees have been pruned and trained to grow into a specific shape. There are many varying patterns that espalier trees have been fashioned into. Some are beautiful works of art!

I didn’t know anything about espalier trees when one of our home teachers told us about his trees. When I heard him say that he had fruit trees that were growing well and producing fruit against the sides of his home and garage, I thought, Presto! That solves one of our problems for where we can grow some fruit trees! We went over to see his trees and they were lovely. He told us that they needed some trellises to support them and train them on, and we could see that would be true.

I knew about the importance of training trees from a story that President Hinckley told. He recalled how, being responsible for the landscaping of their yard, he planted this one tree and then “largely forgot it,” and how it grew so quickly and bent the wrong direction. He explained, “When it was first planted, a piece of string would have held it in place against the forces of the wind. I could have and should have supplied that string with ever so little effort. But I did not, and it bent to the forces that came against it.”

After the trip to my home teacher’s house and successfully persuading my husband, we planted the fruit trees. Our trees have grown, also with not too much attention. My husband and I have pruned them a little here, a little there, each year, and fertilized them a little. We have missed sprayings. They began to bear fruit last year, and we were so excited. But we have never provided a trellis to support and train them yet. And the trees keep growing, thicker and stronger each year. Without the trellis to fix them to the wall, they are growing away from the wall at about a 40° angle. I am hoping that this year we will be able to anchor them in such a way as to correct the problem.

In searching online for this post, I could hardly believe it had been nearly 20 years since I originally heard President Hinckley tell about his tree. It was October 1993! How quickly time passes! Check out what he said back then about the state of our nation and world:

“We in America are saddled with a huge financial deficit in our national budget. This has led to astronomical debt.

“But there is another deficit which, in its long-term implications, is more serious. It is a moral deficit, a decline in values in the lives of the people, which is sapping the very foundation of our society. It is serious in this land. And it is serious in every other nation of which I know.

“Some few months ago there appeared in the Wall Street Journal what was spoken of as an index of what is happening to our culture. I read from this statement:

” ‘Since 1960, the U.S. population has increased 41%; the gross domestic product has nearly tripled; and total social spending by all levels of government [has experienced] more than a fivefold increase. …

” ‘But during the same … period there has been a 560% increase in violent crime; a 419% increase in illegitimate births; a quadrupling in divorce rates; a tripling of the percentage of children living in single-parent homes; more than a 200% increase in the teenage suicide rate” (William J. Bennett, “Quantifying America’s Decline,” Wall Street Journal, 15 Mar. 1993).

“The article concludes with a statement from Alexander Solzhenitsyn:

‘ ‘The West … has been undergoing an erosion and [an] obscuring of high moral and ethical ideals. The spiritual axis of life has grown dim.’

“One need not, of course, read statistics to recognize a moral decay that seems to be going on all about us. It is evident in the easy breakup of marriages, in widespread infidelity, in the growth of youth gangs, in the increased use of drugs and the epidemic spread of AIDS, and in a growing disregard for the lives and property of others. It is seen in the defacement of private and public property with graffiti, which destroys beauty and is an insult to art. It is expressed in the language of the gutter, which is brought into our homes.

“The endless sex and violence on network TV, the trash of so many motion pictures, the magnified sensuality found in much of modern literature, the emphasis on sex education, a widespread breakdown of law and order—all are manifestations of this decay.

“What is the answer? Is there any way to change the course of the ethical and moral slide we are experiencing? I believe there is.

“What is happening is simply an ugly expression of the declining values of our society. Those who are concerned with the problem advocate more legal regulation, large appropriations for increased police forces, tax increases to build additional jails and prisons. These may be needed to deal with the present problems. They may help in the near term. But they will be only as a bandage too small for the sore. They may help in taking care of the fruits, but they will not get at the roots. In searching for remedies, we speak of a greater work that must be done in our schools. But educators have largely abdicated their responsibility for teaching values. The Church is looked to—this and all other churches. I am grateful for what the Pope recently said in Denver in warning against moral pitfalls. I am pleased to note that the Baptists have begun a campaign for chastity. We as a church are doing much, very much, and I think we are accomplishing much. But it is not enough.

“When all is said and done, the primary place in building a value system is in the homes of the people.

“I read the other day of a father who pleaded with a judge to lock up his son because he could not control him. I do not doubt that he has tried. But it is now too late. Attitudes have been fixed. Habits have become rigid. If we are to turn this tide, the effort must begin with children when they are young and pliable, when they will listen and learn.”

I am grateful that I heard him speak twenty years ago, just days before I found out I was pregnant with our first child. I had a huge desire to learn how, How, HOW to “train up a child in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6).

In the twenty years since that day, I’ve focused constantly on motherhood and training children. I may not be a great gardener–I’m certainly no expert on espalier trees–but I have learned a few valuable lessons about training children. What have I learned since then? That is a post for another day. And another day. And…

Happy Training,

Liz 🙂

P.S. What is one of the most important lessons you learned since you had your first child?

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