In November 2019, we signed a lease for the home that we are currently living in. After signing the lease we stopped by the house. In the backyard, all the trees were already bare with just one persimmon hanging from one of the trees. I was excited that the following fall we would have home grown persimmons to eat. We were in for some more surprises, along the fence were passion fruits and the summer brought loquats, pomegranates and apples.
Even before each of those began to grow, in February just before COVID a small and nondescript tree began blossoming. It was a magnolia tree. I was fascinated by the magnolia which seemed to grow its beautiful petals seemingly out of nowhere and then shed them almost as quickly as they grew. After that initial magnificent bloom, I looked forward to seeing the magnolia continue to grow. The following winter the only surprise it had in store was that it did not blossom at all. This was a disappointment and I found myself looking out as I walked or drove near our home for other magnolias. One of my favorite magnolias to is the one at Blake Garden which looks spectacular when in full bloom. The following year ours did indeed blossom, and I now find myself officially tracking the magnolias in my neighborhood every winter.
A few weeks ago while driving, I noticed a magnolia tree in full bloom, the lush pink petals in stark contrast to the other trees around it that were bare. The sight of this tree threw me off. Wasn't it a little early for the magnolia to blossom? What was this tree's secret to its early growth? When I got home, I checked on our magnolia and as I suspected the only signs of growth were a few small green leaves and the beginning of some buds. The next time I was at Blake Garden I checked in on my old friend and she was even more bare than my magnolia.
All of this got me thinking about our perception of growth, the timing of its cycle and how we value it. The same way that I track magnolia trees there are many other things that I track, albeit more subconsciously. These include growth in other people's lives from their careers to their family life, the appearance of their home, level of activity and apparent happiness.
Somehow it is easy to understand and believe that each tree has its own life cycle, is on its own timing and doesn't always follow the predictable rules of growth. At times there is something that the tree needs whether it's pruning a change in soil or watering, most often it is doing what it needs to do at that moment. What we see growing on its branches is not always an accurate measure of its overall health.
With people, although we know it to be true it is somehow harder to believe. Falling into the trap of measuring another by their apparent success is a difficult habit to break and one that doesn't serve anyone. My work and lesson from the magnolia trees is to trust in my own timing and to stop trying to measure my own and others growth by external appearances. I hope to cultivate patience and presence to be with what is right now without feeling jealousy, shame or guilt. I know that just like the magnolias, I will have seasons of quick and breathtaking growth and beauty and others of bareness where nothing on my tree grows at all but the work is happening internally.
The following is an entry from the book Hayom Yom, a collection of daily teachings compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
The Tzemach Tzedek relayed the following teaching of the Baal Shem Tov. “It is written, ‘For you shall be a cherished land, declares the G‑d of Hosts.’ Just as the wisest minds will never be able to grasp the vast natural treasures that G‑d has hidden in the earth, to grasp that ‘everything came from dust,’ so, too, no one can appreciate the treasures that lie hidden within Jews, who are G‑d’s cherished land.”
The Baal Shem Tov concluded: “I want to bring Jews to the point that they will yield the kind of harvest that G‑d’s ‘cherished land’ can yield.”
Some treasures are closer to the surface of the earth and some require more digging to be unearthed.
This week's thought was inspired by this post as well.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,