Lime Tree Lessons

Often our greatest teachers come in the most unexpected forms.

Top view of a key lime tree seedling

I have a key lime tree. If you’ve followed my blog, this is nothing new to you. I started it from seed on a whim this June. The little seedling grew well, gaining leaf after leaf, until all of a sudden it stopped growing. I tried repotting it a few times. I tried fertilizing it with different fertilizers. I tried watering it a lot. I tired barely watering it. I even tried moving it out from under the grow light to see if I could get any response. Nothing happened, no change at all. It stayed in this state, not growing yet not dying, with its four little leaves, for months.

I distinctly remember telling my mom how frustrated I was at the lime tree for not growing, that something was wrong with it, and that I should just throw it away. Then I stopped, realizing that I was in the same position as my lime tree was in, in limbo, not getting better but not dying. I felt horrible about what I had said. I realized that when I looked at the tree a part of me saw myself, which is why it bothered me so much that I couldn’t get it to grow. It was also why it was so important for me to keep trying.

Recently, a month ago, I decided to try changing the lime tree’s soil. I removed all the dirt from the pot and knocked as much off of the roots as I could and put it in a different potting mix. I didn’t expect it to make a difference, but it made a huge one. The little tree started growing at a rapid rate, nearly doubling its leaf mass in the first week. It has continued to grow at this impressive rate and shows no sign of slowing down.

Now what’s the lesson in that, other than that I’m a weirdo who identifies with plants?

Close up of Key lime tree leaves

Well, what my lime tree taught me was perseverance. I clearly didn’t give my lime tree the optimal environment for its growth, but it grew the best it could until it couldn’t anymore, then it stayed alive. While it couldn’t have been happy, the tree never gave up and died, it did the best it could with what it had. I kept trying things to make it grow, and they wouldn’t work, so I’d try something else, and it wouldn’t work, so I’d try something else. The trial and fail pattern was eerily similar to what has been going on with my health. Some times I want to stop trying, but then I remember the lime tree. Even in times when I ready to give up on the lime tree, it kept living, waiting for me to try the next thing and eventually the next thing worked. It taught me that it’s important not to give up, because sometimes things take time, and that sometimes the things you least expect can make all the difference in the world.

Since I’m the lime tree, now I just need to figure out what’s my dirt.

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