During the Corona Virus Crisis, also known to many as the Stay-at-Home Crisis, I was doing some work on a house that I am getting ready to rent. This particular house has been in my family for decades.
Getting outside for an hour or two a day really helps me forget about the crisis that permeates our world and our culture right now. It shifts my focus from a massive challenge that I can only do very little about to a more manageable one where I can see the impact I’m making.
The back half of the back yard was a vegetable garden many years ago. Over time, and lack of a gardener, it had grown over with weeds and vines. Last year, I cleared out the weeds and vines so that the grass can grow.
More recently, actually only a few decades ago now, someone planted an orange tree right in the middle of what used to be the vegetable garden. Every year, when the sweet citrus fruit ripens, we pick as many as 500 oranges off the tree to enjoy and to share with friends and neighbors.
I even have an orange picker. It’s a long pole with a small basket on it that picks the oranges in the top of the tree. Once I pulled an orange with a stubborn stem away from the tree and accidentally catapulted it over the privacy fence into a neighbor’s yard. I didn’t hear anything break, so I never said anything about it. Neither did the neighbors.
Here on the Gulf Coast, oranges ripen in the last days of fall. Since winter technically doesn’t begin until December 21, it would be accurate to say “the last days of fall.” Early December, to be clear. We are at the same latitude as Northern Florida, so the weather doesn’t go below freezing often. If we have an early freeze coming, those of us with citrus trees scramble to pick our fruit before the cold ruins it.
Through the summer, the little green orbs that will become juicy oranges a few months later grow and begin to ripen. Someone once said that ‘Faith is when you plant a watermelon seed and your mouth waters for watermelon.’ I don’t know who planted that orange seedling somewhere back in the 1980s or 90s, but if they could have known what delicious fruit their work would one day bring forth, I’m sure their mouth would have watered.
Every year, the tree grows. In the summer, the fruit ripens; in the fall, it matures and is harvested; in the winter, it sits idle, preparing for another spring.
But I had never noticed what happens in the spring. That is, until a few days ago. I walked by the tree while doing some other work in the yard, sprucing it up for my new tenants. Then it hit me: an amazing, sweet smell.
I looked at the tree, and yes, it was the smell of orange blossoms. Now, if you have never smelled orange blossoms, you are missing out. I can’t describe a scent for you, but I can tell you that this smell is undoubtedly worthy of the naming of the song “Orange Blossom Special.” Now I know the song is about a train, but at least the train was named for orange blossoms.
For decades that tree has blossomed every spring, but it took me this long to notice the smell of the blossoms. And while it was worth the wait, I am a bit sad that it took me this long to notice it.
It wasn’t many weeks ago that the tree was barren and cold. It has followed the same pattern for years. Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter. So does life.
The crisis and the shutdown right now places us in a winter season of life. Businesses are closed, and the streets and highways are empty. But spring will come. It always does. And it never fails to make things that looked like they were dead come to life again.
It is likely that I will not be able to enjoy the oranges off my tree this year because someone else will live in the house. But I know there will be oranges to enjoy. But this year, I enjoyed the sweet smell of the orange blossoms and was reminded that there will be a harvest again when it is time.