Ripening

Nothing great is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig. I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.
Epictetus

With the ripening of the fruits in Autumn the leaves begin to wither and the trees, taking up their sap from the earth through the roots, recover themselves and are restored to their former solid texture. But the strong air of winter compresses and solidifies them.
Vitruvius

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(the ripening fruit of a calamondin tree, wintering in the basement / Julie Cook ? 2014)

Is it ripe yet?
The coloring is not exactly consistent.
It’s neither green nor orange.
Somewhere in between.
Time ran out.
Gone are the days of bright sun, balmy breezes and star filled nights. . .blessed with the perfect amount of humidity.
Winter’s wrath quickly descended, waving its cold barren hand, dismissing all living things.
Life is now banished from the landscape.
However this particular journey of life, that of progression and ripening, is hell bent to continue.
It is a process that cannot be stopped, only unless Death is allowed to take part.
Out of desperation this ripening, this season of growth, is now relegated to a place less than ideal, albeit safe and protected.
A process which began nine months ago on a warm May day.
A day of flowering and bees, a day of the appearance of tiny green orbs.
The day of completion is finally coming to fruition during the empty chill of December–hidden in the depths of an isolated basement.
Drying, light deprived, with the gradual dropping of leaves, this process of life must see itself through.
As some invisible force, unbeknownst to watchful eyes, continues to will the completion of life despite the now forced hardships.

Parallels exist.
Cycles of life, with the beginning, the ripening and eventual decay, each follow along the same paths taken since the beginning of time.

Many years ago a young couple once found themselves forced to take a journey at a time that was less than ideal.
A cycle of life, which had started nine months prior, was quickly coming to fruition, despite the less than desired conditions.
Traveling alone day and night, exposed to both heat and cold, wind and rain, this young couple is compelled by an invisible force to continue moving forward as their own cycle of life is now racing against time.
Sleep deprived with barley any food or water available, anxiety and worry heap insult upon misery. Weary, with the time of delivery at hand, a safe harbor cannot be found.
Desperate and burdened under a heightened sense of urgency, a dark dung pungent stall is hesitantly offered and thankfully received.

No longer does choice fit into the equation.
The ripening of a couple’s young lives had long been set in motion and they were helpless to stop it.
Process
Cycles
Maturation
Destiny
The circuition of life must see itself to completion.
There will always be a beginning, a middle and an end.
The only way in which the process may be broken is if Death intervenes before expected.

Ripening is not easy nor particularly ideal. It is a time consuming act which is most often agonizingly slow. It is a process that sets its own time and parameters. There is no rushing or speeding up the unfolding of events.
Yet it should be noted that the process is only a smaller component to a much larger cycle, a cycle which must see itself through despite any and all surrounding circumstances or events.
The setting is not always ideal.
The circumstances are not always easy.
Yet an unseen force wills each time of ripening to continue to fruition.

May your own time of ripening bear much appreciated and welcomed fruit. . .

There must always be hope

“There is neither happiness nor misery in the world; there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more. He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness. We must have felt what it is to die, Morrel, that we may appreciate the enjoyments of life.
” Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart, and never forget, that until the day God will deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these two words, ‘Wait and Hope.”

― Alexandre Dumas

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Bumble bee nibbling on a calamondin leaf / Julie Cook / 2014

Ok, so I’ve been on a bit of a global tear recently. . .what with the all headlines these days being troubling, frustrating and indeed frightening.
I have had my small epiphany.
This as I was out watering my small Meyer Lemon tree and Calamondin Tree.

As troubling as the times may indeed be, there is one thing that I know to be true.
There is a concrete anchor in the sifting sands of uncertainty.
No matter how dire our lives may become, there is one thing which must always remain a certainty.

And that is Hope

As we trudge forward carrying on, as carrying on is what we must do, it is the thought, concept and idea that all is never truly lost which is what will propel us forward.

And now you might be asking as to where one would find this obscure ideal of which I speak. . .
Thankfully, we need not look far. . .
for Hope is constantly around us.

I was a most fortunate observer of this concept of Hope yesterday afternoon as I was watering my two little fruit trees. It was here where I found my epiphany.

You may remember several months back, when we were all just emerging from the winter from Hell, I posted a couple of pictures of my two little fruit trees which had wintered in our basement during the course of the long winter.

An onslaught of spider mites had stripped both trees of every single leaf. I had put two seemingly healthy trees up for the winter in November at the first frost—with each tree being full of leaves and ladened with ripening fruit. Yet as the winter wore on and as I picked the ripening fruit, the spider mites devoured my trees. I did everything I could do. I pulled them out on warmer days hosing them off, hand rubbing the leaves in a vain attempt to rid them of the nearly invisible parasites. I couldn’t spray them with any poison as they still were bearing fruit.

Finally when the weather folks sounded the all clear for no more destructive deep freezes, I pulled the small trees back outside to bask in the warm Spring sun. Next I bought an insecticide soap and oil. I sprayed down the remaining sticks–as that was all that remained of my tress—brown sticks.
And then I simply waited— and I hoped.

I rolled the two trees, in their massively heavy pots, back to their familiar place on the front walk, fertilizing and reapplying the oil on a regular basis. As Spring continued to work her magic, the brown sticks began sprouting small leaves. Soon more and more leaves emerged. And eventually long tender new stems began to grow outward.

Today, amazingly, both trees are once again looking like healthy green, full leafed, lush fruit trees.

Each tree is sporting beautifully fragrant blooms accompanied by tiny new fruits.
And there are bees.
Lots and lots of happy pollinating bees.

There was a time several months back when I really thought I’d have to scrape the trees, sending them to compost heaven. I figured I was not a fruit farmer as citrus trees are not hearty here in Georgia and I was just fooling myself thinking that I could resurrect green leaves from dead wood.

But the waiting paid off.
My small efforts of oils and fertilizers, coupled by the warming days of sun and the refreshing spring showers, worked their magic.

For the time being, all is well with my little trees—and I know that there may be some new maladies waiting for my little trees somewhere down the road, yet for today, I will relish in the intoxicating fragrance of their tiny white blooms, marvel at the myriad of busy bees and butterflies helping to bring about new life in what was once brown dried up sticks, and lovingly watch my tiny little fruits grow plump and ripe.

Hope—
without it, we have nothing—with it we have everything.

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Snowbirds

A snowbird is someone from the U.S. Northeast, U.S. Midwest, Pacific Northwest, or Canada who spends a large portion of winter in warmer locales such as California, Arizona, Florida, Texas, the Carolinas, or elsewhere along the Sun Belt region of the southern and southwest United States, Mexico, and areas of the Caribbean.
Snowbirds are typically retirees who wish to avoid the snow and cold temperatures of northern winter, but maintain ties with family and friends by staying there the rest of the year.

(a lovely Wikipedia explanation)

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(watering time out back for the three snowbirds)

Meet the snowbirds:
One kumquat tree, which just might just have an identity crisis as there is question as to whether or not it might just be a calamondin tree.
One recovering meyer lemon tree—recovering not from addiction but rather from a near death experience.
And a bare naked small peach tree.

This threesome is “over wintering” in my basement. Do you recall the post back in September “Don’t you know this isn’t southern California?” The post in which I was near sheer panic due to the fact that the kumquat / calamondin tree had really big nice round green fruit and that in just a few short weeks the first frosts of the season would be upon us?

And as fate would have it, those pretty little green orbs were not about to change before the frost hit—therefore sending me and the trees on a wild race of transportation down to the depths of the basement. Ever tried lifting giant potted trees into the back of a small trailer which is pulled by a Four wheeler, then lowering them down on mini dollies all in order to “roll” the trees inside for the duration of winter? Do you know what a hernia happens to feel like?!

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Well today was a lucky day for these little winter birds—the temperatures were such today that the trees could actually be rolled outside for a bit of much needed fresh air, a good hose watering minus the watering can, as well as the pleasure of actually enjoying a little bit of warming sunshine. According to the forecast, I think it’s safe for them to remain outside until later in the week—when freezing temps return. Boo hiss—please remind me to bring them back inside!

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All of today’s in and out business has made me mindful of the importance the sun plays for all of us living creatures. Not only will a little time outside, in the sun and fresh air, be beneficial for my little trees, it is certainly beneficial to me and my own winter blue mood. There is much truth about this sun business, especially for those who suffer from S.A.D. or Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Be it a very real Vitamin D deficiency or simply the blue mood feeling of a tinge of depression that you just can’t put your finger on or pin point exactly why. . .
A lack of sun and fresh air is vital to the well being of most living creatures–with the exception being, perhaps, the naked mole rat, but I digress.

Nowhere else do we see the important role sunlight plays in our lives more poignantly acknowledged than in the small Norwegian town of Rjukan. A small town similar to other small towns worldwide but it is here in Rjukan where the mayor worries over the overt paleness of the town’s children.

For more than half the year, the 3400 residents of this small town, nestled deeply in the Scandinavian mountains, are without any direct sunlight as the sun rays are blocked by the tall lumbering mountains. Day in and day out the residents of Rjukan live literally in the shadows.
If townsfolk want to see and feel the sun, traveling out of town is the only remedy.

It wasn’t until 3 large reflective mirrors were installed that the residents of Rijukan realized just how much they’ve missed the sun. As the reflective mirrors redirect sunlight down onto the town’s central square, residents have noted how much they are not only warmed physically, but more importantly they are “mentally warmed.” There is even a YouTube news spot showcasing how the mirrors work—

But to me, what is notably telling about how well the mirrors are working is most strikingly observed by how local residents are now congregating in the square just to sit, feeling the sun warming their faces—relishing in the simple act of enjoying the sun which so many of us take for granted. Young mothers now push baby carriages into the sunny area of the square as older couples come to just sit together basking in the warmth as they rekindle their own warm memories. . . all while the sun beckons the weary eyed individuals to come find a warm spot of color in the otherwise grey world of shadows.
(here is a copy of an article appearing in The Guardian:
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/06/rjukan-sun-norway-town-mirrors )

So if you’re finding yourself a bit out of sorts, feeling overwhelmed by this never ending winter of snow and ice or if you simply feel as if you’re living too deeply in the shadows. . .take heart— remember the sun will shine again, there will be warm days ahead and if all else fails. . .find a sunny spot, turn your face skyward and soak in a little vitamin D.

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Fruits of my labors, still gathering kumquats / calamondins in February!! Crazy tree!!!