watching the tree

by Kristen

One tree in the backyard captivates me.

A few weeks after it surrendered its last orange of the season, a new cycle began. Tiny, white knobs elongated into plump furled buds. Clusters of buds became clusters of blooms on slender stems no thicker than a toothpick.

But then the forecast changed. A storm was coming.

I fretted over the blossoms: how would they withstand the wind and the rain?

If the flowers fall before the fruit sets, there won’t be any oranges next year. Unlike lemon trees which produce year round, orange trees take ten months to bring one annual crop to fruition.

So when the skies cleared and the winds subsided, I took stock. Some blooms littered the ground, but the little tree held onto most of its flowers. Delicate petals that brown or wither from the lightest human touch weathered a thunderstorm with aplomb!

I continue to check on the tree each day, and I remind myself that hundreds of buds lead to dozens of flowers, which lead to tens of immature oranges. Only some will finish the long course and ripen into edible fruit.

But I can’t tell today which those will be. I can’t predict which bud will be knocked off before blooming or which flower will fall without an orange setting in behind it or which teeny piece of fruit will hold on for months and months and mature into a juicy navel orange next winter.

And as I ponder the wonder of a solitary orange tree—as I revel in each tenuous stage in the cycle—I start to wonder where I am in the process. What is budding in me today? How many buds will bloom? How many blooms will set in fruit? How many of those will survive and ripen over many months into meaningful produce?

Somehow I overlooked the stages of maturation. I expected fruit to appear in an instant. I watched for ready-to-pick peace and joy and gentleness and self-control in my life.

But maybe I should stop searching for fruit and start praying over each bud and blossom—not knowing which ones will make it but confident that as I tend to each through the storms and the sunshine, fruit will come.





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