I've lived in this house for 18 years, and just this summer did I first notice a lime tree growing in my neighbors back yard. I guess it just got tall enough for me to see the tiny green balls sprouting above the fence line -- some of them even hanging OVER the fence, preciously perched on my side.
Now, I'm sucker for edible plants. It started last year when I bought some spindly herbs in tiny plastic pots at HEB. I'm one of those gardeners with great intentions, but poor execution so when I transferred the little plants into big clay pots on my patio, I had realistic low expectations. But with regular watering, all of my herbs flourished and soon I enjoyed fresh basil leaves & clumps of dill in salads and baked vegetables. Twigs of sweet mint leaves made nighttime hot tea an aromatic little treat. I was hooked. I sprouted ends of celery in tiny dishes of water around my sink. I planted garlic pods and onion bulbs. I researched foraging and looked for edible weeds and medicinal herbs in my yard grass. My big discovery was identifying a random Purslane that sprung up in a flooded, dirt-filled pot after a hard rain. I proudly plucked off it's salty leaves for salad with dandelions. I was the suburban farmer, eating what I grew-- at least as garnish.
So when the limes on that backyard tree started getting larger, the conscientious grower in me got miffed : my neighbors weren't taking the bounty! The limes got larger and greener and still they weren't picking the fruit. One night, I couldn't stand it anymore. I grabbed my gardening shears and clipped a small branch that was heavy with four limes hanging over my side of the fence. I felt vindicated. I brought the limes inside and imagined tart, sweet meringue pie made from their juice, or maybe I'd blend up a batch of tangy salty, fresh-from-the-vine margaritas. That night, I cut into one, to squeeze some juice into my iced tea. But it was dry. The flesh was tight and pale; the little juice I could get out of it was tasteless, bland. I was deflated.
BUT, mystery solved, I thought. No wonder they ignored the sagging fruit, the neighbors knew the secret: those limes suck. For the next few days, I'd glance over at the tree and shake my head... what a shame, maybe they should just cut it down.
So days went by and I watched the limes continue to balloon, getting larger and larger, their deep green skin started to fade; but none seemed to fall. Doesn't ripe fruit just fall off the vine and rot on the ground if it's not picked? (well does it ? because when push comes to shove, I actually don't know a darn thing about harvesting or plants or fruit trees or gardening at all. This will be come clearer as the story progresses.)
It was about this time that I realized it was a lemon tree. I'd look over at the pale yellow fruit and chastise myself, I shoulda known. Lemons are even better, I thought. And just like that, I was excited again, paying attention with anticipation.
I started to think about that tree a lot. I wondered what it says about me that I picked the fruit before it was ready . before I even knew what it was . even when it wasn't really mine. and then I turned away from it, before it's real time had come.
This whole thing with the fruit and the tree got me to thinking about expectations and patience ; and assumptions. and hope.
I have a knack for researching things--addresses, previous owners, court documents, private investigating--I love to snoop out facts. But I never questioned my own judgement on that tree. A quick google probably would have told me that those weren't limes, heck I could have asked my neighbor--at least if I could pick some. But I made plans and even took action, without checking out any facts beyond what I saw, (behind a fence). I wondered how many times had I done the same thing with jobs or relationships and how many of my life's decisions were tainted with false assumptions, or worse, how many of my regrets could have become precious moments with a little patience on my part ? Is God using this backyard tree to teach me about myself ?
My first job after graduating from college was a fun job. I worked at a tiny record label, with business trips to blues festivals and breakfast meetings at noon. I met semi-famous people and got into shows for free. Like I said, it was fun. About three years into it, the label folded and I was approached by one of the executives to start a new publicity company, with him as the Founder and President. At the time, I didn't know much about the music business. In retrospect, I didn't even know the circumstances of why our label was folding, but from the little I saw, it looked like an unorganized mess, and I didn't know this guy very well. He'd come to label right before the shut-down so I had no background on him. I declined on the spot. I wasn't going to take my chances, I went on to work in an office, answering phones and doing the 9-5 for the next 20 years. Not Fun Job. Turns out (you knew this was coming, right) that the guy who approached me turned out to be one of the founders of the South by Southwest Music Festival. Even if his company didn't get off the ground (which it did) the contacts and connections from that job may have set me on a different career course for life. Or maybe I would have just become a secretary 5 years later than I did. There's no way of knowing.
I can think of other examples where a little research, patience and honest assessment could have carved out an opposite life for me, but analyzing what's already done is just a way of ignoring what is.
As a single mom ten years ago, with a newborn and a four year old, I didn't even fantasize about the life I live now. I'm married to a hilarious, generous, great-looking guy, who shows his love to me as much as he does my children and my parents. My path has had some deep scary caves to explore along the way, but for now I'm flooded with bright, loving light and allowing myself to finally let go of the critical, broken girl that used to live in my body. I'm learning to embrace this story of the lime tree as a new way to see my spectrum of possibilities, recognize a tendency to jump to judgement and remind myself to pay attention when things don't go as expected, life gives you limes but you may end up making lemonade.
The other night our neighbor's little girl peeked through the back fence pickets to talk to us while we had wine on the patio. She told us that her name is Amelia, she's almost three and she likes our dog's name: Lulu. She likes bubbles and oranges, especially the oranges from their tree--but they're not ready yet, she squealed, we have to wait for them. Yep. it's a dang orange tree. Good one God.