We were lucky to move into a house a few years ago with an established Meyer lemon tree. The tree has been prolific. Once I invited a friend to collect some lemons for her daughter’s school event. She stopped by when I was out and filled a bag. I couldn’t tell she’d been here. The lemons were delicious in that sweet-fruity way that Meyer lemons are.
I write “were” because last winter the tree’s leaves went limp. They were thin and curving in on themselves. My neighbor, a gardener, explained that even though the leaves looked dry, this was a symptom of too much water. We have a creek running under our house, and the water table had likely gotten too high from recent heavy rains. Despite her usual optimistic attitude, she told me frankly that the tree probably wouldn’t survive. I also am optimistic, and extremely persistent (that’s what keeps me in the children’s book writing business), so I confirmed there was a chance it would make it and decided to do what I could to help. What I could do wasn’t much, just restraint from watering. But I recalled the notion that talking to plants helps them grow and that singing is even better. It couldn’t hurt, and besides I knew the perfect song. Well, it was perfect after I altered Peter, Paul, and Mary’s lyrics and stayed away from the verses.
Lemon tree, very pretty, and the lemon flower is sweet.
Lemon tree, very pretty, and your fruit’s so good to eat.
(It was that second line that I altered. The verses pertain to a tragic and cynical love story, which my tree did not need to hear about.)
I made my musical visits and stayed hopeful as long as the leaves stayed green, but once they turned pale yellow and started falling off, revealing a tangle of branches and moldy lemons, I began to think we’d be moving on to something else in that space soon. The tree remained, a sad sight out my office window and a reminder of a task lingering on my to-do list.
Then last weekend a friend stopped by while I was working in the garden. She has a way with plants. We took a look at the lemon tree together. She said, “I wonder if pruning might help.” Why not? We gave it a go—a fine activity to pursue with good company on a bright, spring afternoon. With a few clips we discovered that the branches most certainly were not dead. As we opened up space, removed moldy lemons, and let light get through, we found we couldn’t help but say, “Ahhh.” We both had the sense the tree would say that too, if it could. I decided it will stay in that space for a while, and we’ll see what happens.
Now when I look out my window, I see a lovely bare-branched tree. The lines are graceful. The shape is pleasing. But it’s more than that. I love that whether green grows on it ever again or not, right now it is beautiful. It is a sweet reminder to enjoy the moment and the possibility of pleasant surprises.