We went for a walk on Boxing Day, the first day in a while we all were up for it. It’s been a difficult year and an especially difficult fall, complete with several viruses passed between us for the holidays. We’ve joked we still need holiday rituals to make our own and, since Oliver’s birth we’ve spent the last 3 Christmases and New Years Eves under the weather, the gallows humor has set in and we’re hoping we have haven’t established an ongoing tradition.
On our walk we went a different direction than usual and came upon some old walnut and cherry orchards that sit just below our land in the valley. I would guess many of the trees are at least as old as we are, and though the brush around them is obviously mowed from time to time and they’ve had some pruning here and there, neither orchard is thriving, clearly. My first thought was “What a shame. It’s so beautiful here. What great unrealized potential! It would only take a little more effort to see them really take off.”
I’m going to come back in the spring and seeing how the trees are getting on, because actually even though they’re not flourishing I can still see signs they bore fruit. There are also squirrel nests in the nut orchard and a hunter’s blind among the cherry trees, so various animals are finding their way and using the space there. Even if the orchard is not appreciated exactly how I think it should, am I prepared to show up from nowhere and impose my sense of what could or should happen each passing season among those trees? Could I really take on this project too?
It brings to mind an image my brother the arborist shared as I talked about this year:
“Trees are relatively easy to plant, but they take a LONG time to grow, and to bear fruit and thrive they need a fair bit of pruning, watering, and care over time that is at least partly outside the control of the planter. There is no way to predict weather conditions decades from now, nor the amount of water available, or sometimes even who will be around to take care of that tree. But, nevertheless, we plant seeds all the time in that space of not knowing, and it’s still a worthwhile effort. It is basically a prayer, and while we do our best to create favorable conditions for our plans, we have to recognize that the outcome is really beyond us. That’s where God comes in.”
Our lives have borne fruit this year, despite the challenges and occasionally frustration with the yield. We’ve also had great opportunities to share in the joy and bounty brought by others. We’ve not always taken the greatest care of ourselves this year but we’re still standing. We have also attracted various animals and friends to the farm, sometimes unexpectedly, and learned a lot about ourselves and what we need to thrive.
I don’t think we’re prepared to offer a final moral or complete pearl of wisdom for 2016, but let’s say no matter how you look at it, we planted seeds. We don’t know what 2017 will bring but we certainly hope it’ll be a little gentler…on ourselves, those around us and the world. Even if we do aim to be a little gentler though, the final result is really outside our hands. Our prayer for each of you all this time of year is that you also have a chance to walk through those unappreciated orchards in your lives. Accept that your first reaction might be one of judgment, harshness for the unmet expectations or unrealized potential, but then decide on what narrative you want to carry forward. What will you choose to plant in 2017? Perhaps we can all make that question a New Year’s tradition.
10 thoughts on “Nurturing Traditions”
Happy New Year, Evan.
You and your lovely family remain in our thoughts and we wish you a wonderful bounty for 2017 – in every form that can take. Your words are deeply felt. Thanks for continuing to share such meaningful sentiments. Take care…
Happy New Year to you too Gordon! I think about you and your family quite frequently. I do still hope one day we can organize a way for you all to come here and stay with us. Know that our door is always open to you guys… Blessings on 2017!
thank you for this thoughtful material. Chandra is leaving us today for Job Corps, a kind of seed-planting-potential. My bare-root cherry had 3 cherries the 2nd year, I’m waiting to see . . .
Thank you Callie! We just finished the last of the peanut butter but Fede is still going strong on the coconut body butter. Seeds and nuts abound! Good luck to Chandra and your cherries in 2017!
Good on all of you my dears. Great way to start a year reflectively. May this year be full of unexpected blessings.
‘What are you going to plant this year’ sounds a very good question! Thinking forward to what might be.
I was reflecting last night on how the seeds we sow (metaphorically as well as in reality) might germinate in ways we couldn’t have predicted. It is therefore important not to lose hope (talking of myself here), as we never know what is round the corner.
It would be great if the nut trees flourished.
Thanks for your thoughts Helen. It would be great if they flourished, but they are not even on our property and there’s so much for us to do here. I suppose that’s a part of the message to myself: there are so
many worthy causes, but only so much energy and so much control we have over how many of those causes we actually touch in a day, a season, a year.
Just a brief comment now that both Bronchitus (what it was we didn’t expect with this year’s holiday) and overall weakness seem to be taking wing. Let me say how much my life seems changed this year. Changed, for the better ?that’s still questionable. All I know is that the change is both good and bad, and was inevitable. I’m getting closer, though to making a decision that I want to take The Way of the Spirit. It is a good thing for me, I’m sure… And thank you Evan for writing about what you’re thinking about and letting me sift though with you what thee changes mean. How lucky we are that we’re all mulling things through with sharing. HOw I wish Jack were with us. Maybe he is… Love you…Judy
Thanks for your thoughts Judy. I know it’s been a really big year for your too, and I can entirely understand the continuing adjustment. The folks I know who’ve participated in Way of the Spirit have really been enriched by it, so I hope for the same for you. Love and hugs