At the Scent of Water

Planting fruit trees is not something done lightly. They represent a long term commitment to nurturance and stability of site. Once I felt established in my house, a semi-dwarf Johnagold apple and dwarf Bartlet pear were planted.

The dwarf pear tree grew along the west fence that framed the back yard.  It had begun to branch wildly the year after it bore its first fruits. In a short time I couldn’t ignore its adolescent growth spurt and was tired of dodging branches when I mowed.

It was mid-summer, peak season for disease spores of all types, and the wrong time of year to prune.  But one afternoon after a particularly nasty thwack on the face, I lopped off the offending limbs, and clipped short the suckers around the graft. My aggravation dissipated as I piled the limbs behind the shed.

And that was that, or so I thought. Because of my impatient behavior and improper pruning, within a few years the little tree was badly infected with Crown Gall.  It had to be cut down and burned. All that remained was a four inch stump just above soil level. The stump was, and still is, a constant reminder of the consequences of my choosing wrongly out of frustration.

Two years had passed since the tree was removed when I noticed a vertical growth in the garden bed. A closer look revealed the pear stump had sent up suckers. Nippers in hand, I cut them off. Every summer—I’m waiting to see what this season brings—the shoots continued to grow back. I smiled at the Biblical persistence of the rootstock.

For there is hope for a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease. Though its root grow old in the earth, and its stump die in the ground, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth branches like a young plant. (Job 14:7-9)

I saw the analogy to my life, and in friends’, in that through losses much of who we were at the time of the disaster was cut away. The loss of employment and dignity, the death of loved ones, accidents and disability all created a dying to self. Our stability was shaken, our ever self-sufficient selves were cut low. Yet at the scent of water—the scent of hope—new shoots emerged, new life grew from stable roots. There remains in our hearts a persistent longing for God.

That little tree was still bearing fruit—just not pears.

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