Lessons under a tree

March 5, 2014 § 8 Comments

We moved into our house in winter, with a three-week-old baby and two dogs, so I didn’t pay much attention when the previous owner’s gardener told me there was a peanut tree in the back yard. Besides, I reasoned, peanuts grow underground; perhaps I’d misunderstood.

But the following year, in late February, I noticed something lying on the grass, patiently waiting to be discovered. We didn’t have a peanut tree, we had a walnut tree. And every year it rains down it’s bounty on the lawn and I have to race to gather up all of the nuts before my dogs eat them all.

I love my walnut tree, not only because it is so predictable in its deciduous life cycle, helping me to mark the seasons as they pass, but because it holds a valuable lesson for me.

Walnuts, you see, arrive on the tree inside a green, round ‘fruit’, for want of a better word. It’s more like a round, hard pod encasing the nut and its armour. And if you pick one of those fruits, you can break it open, and you’ll find the hard walnut shell inside. But if you crack the shell and eat the walnut, you’ll find that it’s bitter and tastes horrible.

So you have to wait. And it’s not enough to wait until the pod cracks open and reveals the nut within. No: you have to wait for the shell to fall out onto the ground before the nut inside is edible. You can’t rush it – it has to be ready.

And that’s the lesson in a world that runs on instant gratification. Some things you have to wait for. Some things you just can’t rush. Some things need to go through a particular process to be perfectly palatable, to be at their best. They have to pay their dues.

Sometimes, you just have to wait for that walnut to hit the ground. But it will always be worth the wait.

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