Recently we snuck out of the city in favour of three nights in the bush.
En route to Skukuza, we drove through Nelspruit and Google Maps’d our way to 33 Ehmke Street, where my dad grew up and where my grandparents lived all their lives.
My dad planted the avocado tree to the right of the house, when he was younger than our youngest son. It’s still there. It’s been giving shade (and avos) to people for about sixty years – people my dad could never have envisioned – people he would never meet or know – when as a kid he coaxed life from an avo pip and proudly settled it in soil.
A coral creeper also grew in this lowveld garden. My mom loved it. Decades ago, she took a small offshoot and planted it in our garden in Pretoria. The coral creeper grew up with me and my sisters and was re-replanted in a new garden when my folks moved house.
Six years ago, I took seeds from that creeper and blanketed them in cottonwool on our kitchen windowsill. One volunteered a radicle and I planted it out with something that felt like radical faith and it looked like it just might make it. Then it looked dead. The trans-provincial, cross-garden, coral creeper legacy had died with me.
Except, one day this year during Lockdown Level Awful, when I’d kinda lost hope for the world, never mind the creeper, I glimpsed it through a tangle of aloes, in full bloom.
Our friends Matt and Jess also have an avo tree in their garden. A couple years ago we came home from visiting them armed with green gold and determined, once we’d smashed all that creamy goodness on toast, to plant the pips.
For weeks – months – we nursed one particular oval of hope, wedged as it was between toothpicks and partially suspended in a jam jar of water in our kitchen just like YouTube said it must be. We spoke to it, sang to it, just about prayed for it. It grew fur and started falling apart and the water turned to pond scum and we relinquished all guacamole-flavoured dreams.
We chucked it into an empty pot of soil on our kitchen stoep. Compost.
Until one day we were, like, ‘Hey I don’t think that’s a weed!’
After a few months we released the mini tree from its pot and dug it into soil far enough away from the garden wall, with an optimistic view to massive future growth.
Again, our hopes flagged. The tree was sulking. It dropped its leaves, disgruntled. We thought it would never recover.
Until it did.
The apple tree growing in our garden started life as a happy Granny Smith discovery in Scott’s lunch. Peeping out from a black seed at the core was the tiniest shadow of a whisper of a green breakthrough.
It, too, was sweet-talked into something more, under soggy cottonwool on our kitchen windowsill, and finally planted out. It grows straight and skinny and leafy. It hasn’t yet flowered or given even the hint of an apple. But I’m pretty sure, in time, it will.
A few years ago, during a December holiday, we made marmalade and several of the lemons we cut open to boil up and simmer in sugar had seeds already sprouting inside the lemons. Again, us with the cottonwool and the windowsill and the hope.
A few keen seeds germinated properly and at the end of that year, the boys’ school teachers got tiny baby lemon trees in pots as Christmas presents, with the story that, while these teachers had been nurturing Cam and Scott all year long, Cam and Scott had been nurturing the trees.
One of the lemon seeds had put in a solid effort to become an actual plant, but tragic botanical death throes ensued, and it was written off as a shrivelled disappointment.
I tossed it into the planter just outside our kitchen, where it died.
Because not long after we were, like, ‘Hey I don’t think that’s a weed!’ And ta-daaaa, we had a lemon tree. It’s never flowered or fruited, but I have faith that it will.
It’s likely we’ll never enjoy the fruit of our avo, apple or lemon trees, because it’s likely this garden will be gifted to other people, for their enjoyment. Just like my dad isn’t the one enjoying the avos off a tree he planted on a humid Mpumalanga day, a generation ago.
This is life.
Sometimes we get to enjoy the fruit and the flowers of seeds we plant.
(And maybe, before we move on, I’ll save some seeds from that coral creeper, to replant for our enjoyment somewhere else, remembering how we only get to enjoy these saved seeds, because someone else first saved them for us.)
But mostly, all of life is a planting of seeds for the enjoyment of others.
Mostly we don’t plant seeds for ourselves. We aren’t the beneficiaries of the growth we kindle. We plant trees to keep the air on for planet-dwellers still to come. We plant seeds for those coming after. Fruit trees and coral creepers – all these we leave as an inheritance. They’re our investments in the futures of others.
Even if the seed you’ve put in the ground (or the cottonwool) looks lifeless, hopeless, pointless: the One whose whisper ignites cells to split and multiply sees and knows, He seeds and nurtures, and His purposes cannot be thwarted.
Somewhere, somehow, you’ll reap.
Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.
. . .
Happy weekend, friends! Go plant something?
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