It’s the tail end of the brief but sweet mulberry season here in the Gila, an appropriate time to share this piece with those of you who have never read it:
By Jesse Wolf Hardin
There’s no greater repository of instruction and inspiration than the natural world. Search and you will find examples of courage and compassion in the acts of animals, contentment in the embrace of shifting clouds or a turquoise sea…. and enlightenment in the lessons of a single wild mulberry tree:
Well managed orchards are impressive, but the rareness of wild mulberry trees make them extra special:
Seek friends and lovers, causes and careers, places and moments that embody character and meaning— not those that conform best or produce the most.
Hikers that were busy talking, have been known to walk right under a tree’s branches without noticing its berries:
The entire natural world is constantly trying to engage, instruct and nourish us. There are lessons, gifts and miracles all around, if only we’d wake up and open to them.
Turn or duck your head even the slightest bit, and you may spot berries you hadn’t previously seen:
In life, the slightest change in perspective often bears fruit.
The sweetest berries nest high in the tree, and it can be risky getting to them:
Special rewards come to those who are willing to risk a fall.
At the same time, we often overextend ourslves in order to pick what looks like a special berry, only to find sweeter ones right under our nose:
The distant and exotic look good from a afar, but often the greatest treasures in life are close at hand.
We’d likely hurt ourself if we tried to get out to the berries nested on the end of some slender branch. But then again, we may be able to pull the branch closer instead:
It can look as though the things we want in life are out of our reach. But sometimes by staying true to our values, beliefs, assignments and purpose we can pull closer those people and situations we desire.
When high in the tree, the careful gatherer keeps a firm hold with whichever hand isn’t busy picking:
When taking risks and making changes— when projecting into the future or reaching an arm out into the unknown— it’s wise to hold on with the other…. maintaining a grip on the here and now, the real and reliable, the tested and true.
Test the branch that you take, before putting all your weight into it:
If we don’t want to fall hard, we should carefully consider any forks in the trail of life before fully committing ourselves.
If the tree gets no rain it will die— but if overwatered, its fruits turn out colorless and bland:
A person, whether a child or an adult, needs sustenance and attention. But those who are fussed over and smothered, who never learn to do without, are often the least interesting and effective people.
From a single branch, broken by the snow, two new branches grow:
If our lives are rooted in truth and place, trauma brings about new awareness and growth. We branch out in response to each broken effort, doubling the number of approaches and attempts.
Some wild foods spoil more quickly than others. This is why ground squirrels carry most of the acorns they gather home to their nest, but eat all berries they can find:
In life, there are times to store and save, and times to gorge.
For every season of giving, there are months of preparation:
The mulberry only produces berries for a brief three week period, while the rest of the year it rests, draws sustenance from the Earth, mends its wounds, and replenishes its vital sugars.
Sometimes the smallest mulberries have the most flavor:
In a culture that claims “bigger is better,” it’s good to notice how much character can be found in the small, the near and the accessible.
The softer the berry, the sweeter it usually is:
We don emotional armor and cultivate strength, but hardness brings with it a certain bitterness.
It takes a lot of roots to hold a tree upright through the heady winds of Spring:
Family, community, history, tradition, and relationship to place are what keep us grounded in the face of disruption and change. To keep our balance, requires as many roots as branches.
Thinking about a previous year’s bountiful harvest, makes it harder to appreciate what is found on the tree today:
Dwelling in our minds, in the past or the future, can make it hard to fully taste the fruits of the present.
Mulberry seeds somehow live through the process of being eaten and then passed by birds, and the trees are spread in that way:
We spread the seeds of insight that survive our lengthy digestion. Those that remain viable are the ones we pass on. And as it is with the birds, we may never get to see what sprouts from them.
Birds and squirrels come from far and wide to feast on the berries, and snakes and owls arrive to feast on them:
In the hunt for love, it is wise to stay close to that which love seeks.
Some of the tastiest berries can be found lying on the ground:
Along with the sugar, comes a little grit. And while some gifts require we stretch up on tip-toes to receive….. the ripest insist we get down on our knees.
There are only mulberries on a wild tree for a short time, and the conscientious gatherer will make sure they don’t miss it:
We’re each only healthy and savvy for a brief and glorious season. It is thus unwise to allow ourselves to be distracted from the fullest living of life, even for a single day. Nor should we take advantage of its fruitful bounty unless we can give it our complete attention…. honor it with our gratitude, and repay it with our acts.
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