When my parents bought their farm, a ragged and worn Bartlett pear tree stood in their yard. Busted limbs. Rot in the base of the trunk. It had given many pears over the years, but it appeared that it didn’t have much more to offer. My mother gave the tree five years to live.
The tree blossomed on, defying her prediction, and delivered bountiful pear crops every two to three years and somewhat sparser crops in the years in between. As a kid, I looked forward to each September when I would walk barefoot around the tree and pick the ripened fruit from the ground. It remains my favorite fruit.
As you can see from the photos taken a few weeks ago, some 55 years later, there’s not much left to the Bartlett tree. The trunk has almost completely rotted out. Two-thirds of the tree’s branches have come down in various storms over the years. Yet this year, with just a few of its branches remaining, the tree produced 600 pears! Just as it has for decades. Against the odds. Despite appearances.
I am in awe of this ravaged, relentless tree. This fall, especially, it stands as a symbol of perseverance. A tree shouldn’t be the impetus for creativity, yet it is. I am juggling many flaming torches this year, but I doggedly work to wedge in novel-writing time and hold that time and space as sacred. A picture of the tree in my office is my reminder to slog on.
Some day a great wind or unseasonably wet snow may come and knock over the tree’s remaining branches or its trunk may crumble under the weight of another season of fruit, but it won’t go down without a fight.
For all of us, in innumerable and varying ways, 2020 has been perhaps the most challenging of years. We’ve been tested. We’ve allowed ourselves to get sucked into negative banter from all sides of all issues. Yet if we can block out that noise, we'll notice that we’ve endured. We keep fighting on.
There are exactly seven weeks left to this strange and unusual year. If you decided to bloom right now—to sleep, to carve out time for creativity, to care for your creative soul throughout the holidays by making your creative projects your top priority—what could you produce? The Bartlett whispers, “I bet you can’t top 600.”
Although this book was published three years ago, Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness crossed my radar for the first time a couple of months ago. I instantly connected with Brown’s voice and skillful storytelling, her research and content, and her advice for making changes in how we live and interact with others. I read it three times in the course of six weeks! In short, it was a revelation.
Braving the Wilderness addressed the uneasy and nagging feeling I had had for several years…if we’re all so connected—24/7, in every technological mode possible—then why are we no longer connected to each other in meaningful ways? Brown, with years of social research backing her up, discusses how being true to ourselves with respect to our beliefs and our emotional and spiritual needs will set us free. But before we can be free, we will likely cross into the wilderness and stand alone because we can expect to be mocked, shamed, or ridiculed for our positions and actions by the very people who claim to have our backs. But it is not until we brave the wilderness that we truly belong—to ourselves and to others.
Enlightening and uplifting, Braving the Wilderness is a must read for anyone who has felt ill-at-ease with how our culture handles dissension of thoughts and ideas, has experienced disconnection or loneliness, and desires a sense of belonging to oneself and the world.
For more blogs, check out Francine's past blogs on goal setting and other writing topics at www.24carrotwriting.com.