From the Editor—Friday Reflections

The Fruitful Tree

The Friday Reflection by James M. Kushiner

September 18th, 2020

After mowing the lawn last Monday after supper before sunset, I watered a few plants in the lingering summer garden, filled the birdbath, and surveyed the backyard before stepping into the house. I had put my hand on the door-handle when I something caught my eye across the yard on the paving stones between two of the raised beds: someone had etched a cross into the payment. As I puzzled at this, I figured it had to be an optical illusion abetted by the shadows of early evening. Yet there it remained, not just two crisscrossing perpendicular lines, but two thick dark lines perfectly proportioned to form a traditional Christian cross.

I walked across the yard to see what was causing this illusive cross, and found that overhanging leaves from my wax bean plants, a slight rise in the edge of one paving stone, and other stray leaves and various shadows all conspired to create the optical form of a cross of the right proportions, with even the arms being the same length, and the upright of the correct length and cut off top and bottom so that it really looked as if someone had embedded a dark cross in the pavement. What may we call such experiences?

I told this to my wife, noting it was September 14, the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. I said it was strange to see this on September 14 and took it only for what it was: I was reminded of the Lord's Cross on September 14 by a unusual configuration of light and matter in the garden.

I am reminded of many things in the garden. One is that man goes bad without patience. Many eager new gardeners this past spring ruined seedlings by planting them before the final frost. An impatient gardener will ruin an asparagus bed if he harvests all the asparagus that comes up in the second or even third year of setting the plants, which can live for decades. The roots take a few years to establish; most of the asparagus shoots of young plants must be unharvested so that the roots will develop.

Our plum tree has warranted patience. While my youngest son and his wife were in Scotland on their honeymoon in October 2013, I bought a skinny plum tree that I could fit in our sedan; the upper branches reached the dashboard. I dug a generous hole, set in the tree, added compost and enriched potting soil designed for young trees, and hoped for the best.

It started growing that very fall, sending on fresh shoots and leaves. It took a few years, but we've had some good crops. In October last year I was planning to harvest the plums but noticed one day that there was not a single plum on the tree. Where did they go? They seemed to have vanished overnight. Thieves? Squirrel looters? Raccoons? We're still mystified.

Determined not to lose a superabundant crop this year, we've monitored the tree to stay ahead of any thieves. This year has been unusually warm, and the plums have ripened early. Lately, we had a week of rain, overcast, and more rain. On the day the sun finally returned, the tree was swarmed by yellow jackets; some had burrowed into rotting plums. Yet most of the plums were fine, ripe or near-ripe. We sprang into action, wearing gloves to avoid bee stings, and harvested hundreds and hundreds, possibly a thousand small plums.

Our grandson (born nine months after that trip to Scotland by his parents during which I planted the tree) was delighted with a box of fresh plums last week. We've shared the plums with neighbors, friends, and family. Such abundance, but it didn't happen overnight!

The Lord God planted two trees for the new man and his wife, the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They impatiently harvested one tree and became enmeshed in death. To pull them out, our patient God eventually planted a third Tree on Golgotha. Instead of a serpent, it bore his most patient Son, who spoke true words of eternal life and crushed the serpent's head. It takes patience to remain under his Tree, to become fruitful as we are sustained by its life-giving fruit. Yes, God has said, 'Taste and see that the Lord is good.' And that's no illusion.

Yours for Christ, Creed & Culture,

James M. Kushiner
Executive Director, The Fellowship of St. James

—James M. Kushiner is Executive Editor of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, and Executive Director of The Fellowship of St. James.