Have you ever seen a Lemon tree? When the tree is in full bloom becomes overgrown with Lemons. The branches bend and sag under their weight, but never snap. Sometimes, the lemons fall off the tree before they are ripe enough to pick; fragrant little balls are scattered all over the ground as if placed there intentionally as decoration.
Every year for the last three years or so, I have harvested my parents’ lemon tree. I’ve picked hundreds of lemons, suffered countless cuts by the tiny thorns on the branches, and juiced so many lemons I could probably fill a bathtub. We’re coming to the end of the lemon season here in the southwest, and as I was searching for the last few lemons still clinging to the tree, it got me thinking about my own life and how much life can be like the lemon tree and the fruit it bears.
Take the tree. It’s pretty. Before lemons ever start to emerge, it is full of bright green leaves. The leaves have tiny green buds that slowly grow into little green balls and finally, the bright yellow lemon emerges. The fragrance of the tree is crisp, fresh, and sweet. Not just the lemons, but even the leaves of the tree are soaked with the sweet smell. Sometimes, before I start picking the fruit, I press my nose directly to a leaf and take in the fragrance with one slow, giant breath.
I’ve gotten so lost in the fresh scent and the pretty bright lemons that thorns have caught me by surprise. Every branch of the tree is covered with thorns so tiny that they can’t even be seen as if protecting the lemon. Although they are tiny, they prick you with the might of a giant needle. Is life unlike that? So full of beauty but not without its thorns.
Now, take the lemon. To me, the lemon is an uplifting fruit to look at, with its smooth round shape and fun yellow color. The lemon makes me think of all things bright and clean. Don’t be fooled by its cheery appearance and sweet smell, though! We all know the sourness hiding inside. But, here’s the best part: the lemon can be made sweet.
Having picked lemons for the last three years, I’ve turned the sourest lemon into the sweetest candy. I’ve made marmalades, butter, jams, and pies. I’ve even used the juice of the lemon to make homemade cleaning solutions and air fresheners. There may not be another fruit as versatile as the lemon! For all its sourness, it can be changed into almost anything. Wouldn’t it be great if we could learn how to do that with our own lives?
Life, like the lemon tree, must be tended to or it can get out of control. Just as branches sag and buckle under the weight of too many lemons, so our lives will get bogged down if we don’t tend to the things which need tending. No matter how beautiful or perfect life looks there will always be thorns, but despite its thorns, our life should always be bearing fruit. Sure, some fruit will fall off the tree and other fruit will harden and stick before it can be picked… but the majority of the fruit will ripen to its peak. Here’s the thing though: you have to do something with the lemon once it’s picked or it will not mature beyond its natural bitter state. So many possibilities the lemon has, but it’s up to us to use it.
I strive to bear fruit like a lemon. How do you look at life? Do you see just a lemon, bitter and sour? Or do you see a lemon for all its possibilities?
Patricia Bodry at Vertikal Life Magazine