EATIN' CHERRIES AND SPITTIN' SEEDS
"If you wish to be happy for a year, plant a garden. If you wish to be happy for a lifetime, plant a tree ." Jim Morris
One of my favorite snack foods is cherries. I love their sweetness when they are plump and dark red, almost black. Mmm-good!
I became addicted to cherries early in life. I grew up in a place called Fruitland, New Mexico, on a farm with acres and acres of fruit trees, as well as a small dairy. Apples, peaches, and pears were our cash crops, but we also had several other varieties of fruit, mostly for personal and household consumption: cherries, plums, nectarines, crab apples, etc. Fresh fruit was a big part of our lives then, especially cherries when the season was right.
Cherries get ripe in the middle of summer, long before the apples are ready. In the heat of the day, we boys would sometimes shirk our chores and sneak into the orchard to see if the cherries were sweet enough to eat. When they were, we’d climb up to a tall branch where the ripest fruit was within easy reach, make ourselves a little perch, and spend an hour or so just chilling, eatin’ cherries and spittin’ seeds.
The deep red juice would stain our fingers and our lips, and perhaps the shoulders of our T-shirts where we would wipe our faces without thinking when the juice ran out the sides of our mouths. (When we later arrived home for supper, there would be no hiding where we had been all afternoon.)
As children, we gave no thought to how those cherries — and the cherry trees on which they grew — came to be.
It never occurred to us to realize that they must have been planted decades earlier by our grandfather when he first bought the farm. It was beyond our comprehension that he, along with our father and our aunts and uncles as youngsters, dug the holes into which the saplings were planted, and gave them fertilizer, and made sure they were irrigated during those hot, dry New Mexico summers. We didn’t recognize that they were strategically hidden deep within the apple orchards, far from the road so those passing by wouldn’t be tempted to stop and snitch a few.
No, the only thing we thought about was how plump and sweet and juicy and dark red the cherries were as we spent hours perched in the tree, just eatin’ cherries and spittin’ seeds.
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As we go through life, how often are we like those little boys, sitting in a cherry tree enjoying the fruits of another’s labors, totally unmindful of the legacy others have left us? How many times have we been unknowingly blessed because of our predecessors’ past service and sacrifice? Warren Buffet said, “Someone's sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”
My brothers and I were able to eat cherries because Grandpa Farnsworth and his children planted and nourished those trees. I grew up in a comfortable home that was built and maintained by my parents. I attended schools established and funded by others. I was taught and mentored and encouraged along the way by a host of others looking to plant seeds in me they hoped would sprout and grow in the future, perhaps even beyond their lifetimes. I was born in a country richly blessed with freedom, opportunity, and abundance because many brave men and women gave their Lives, their Fortunes, and their sacred Honor to build and protect the greatest nation the world has ever known.
When we become aware of how indebted we are to those who came before us, we also recognize how impossible it is to adequately repay their sacrifice and generosity. It is beyond our puny ability, as Abraham Lincoln said, to dedicate, to consecrate, to hallow, what they have done.
But we can do at least two things: We can express our gratitude, both in word and deed. And we can pay it forward.
We can thankfully, appreciatively, plant trees and tend them, not for ourselves, but for those who will follow us. We can make sure our children and grandchildren — or even someone else’s children and grandchildren — have the chance, literally or figuratively, to perch themselves in the top branches of a mature fruit tree and spend hours and hours just eatin’ cherries and spittin’ seeds.