The heart wisdom of the plum tree

Life here at Casa Saraswati is full of plums. About two hundred kilos of them.

The Plum Research Team have been busy making plum crumble, plum jam, plum compote and getting drunk on the nectar that is pure plum juice.

While plums can be deliciously fun in the kitchen, there is also much wisdom to be learned from the old plum tree.

Last week, I went to the big plum tree in front of Casa Saraswati with my fruit net and my baskets and my ladders and learned many lessons from that gnarled, wise tree.

Here´s what I learned.

When picking plums, a good technique is to look for the most golden ones and tug on each fruit gently to see if it wants to come away.

Lesson #1: The ripest plums won’t fight the plum-picker.

Ripe plums will readily come away in your hand. Sometimes, we want plums but they are not quite ready for us yet. Pick an unripe plum and bite into it and you will find your action both strenuous and dissatisfying. The unripe plum requires much more energy to pick. And it tastes awful.

When we want something, a conversation begins between us and what we want. Let us say we want a hug from our partner. If we don’t get the timing right, if our partner is not willing to or ready to hug us, we waste our own energy and create bad feeling between us. When two people come together to hug, there are two different energies wanting to unite. This is very important. Two energies – not one, not just our own energy. If we want to hug, we must open our arms and wait for our partner. We must be clear that we want a hug and then wait, to see if they want to hug us back. This is caring. If we grab onto them, like grabbing onto an unripe plum, and tug at them hard when they are not ready, we will not receive the hug we want. The hug will be shoved away, or won’t feel right. There will be no loving exchange of energy. If our partner cannot or will not hug us right now, we must accept this. We must accept and simply hug ourselves, and wait for our another time for our hug.

Not all of life’s plums want to leave the tree when we want to pick them. Listening and accepting is the key. To benefit everybody and get the juiciest plums, make offers gently and with good humour, and good timing, and not by forcing your way. Otherwise that plum won´t come, or it will leave a bitter taste.

One morning, after two hours work, I thought I had collected all the plums from the tree. My basket was full. I sighed and had a sense that my work was done. I was pleased, as I was thirsty and wanted a cup of tea. When I turned around, I saw that there were still more plums in the tree branches behind me.

Lesson #2: You can’t see all the plums on the tree from any one direction.

Looking in one direction only reveals some of the fruit. You can easily miss many ripe plums in this way. Better to view the tree from several different angles before deciding whether you’ve found all the plums. In a similar way, Leonardo da Vinci would always view his subjects from three different perspectives before drawing, or before making any important decisions in other areas of his life. This approach of having many standpoints can reveal a situation in its entirety and help us solve problems. This is useful for finding empathy with others, or overcoming obstacles.

I discovered too that plums appearing ripe from underneath do not always turn out to be good through-and-through. I saw many fat, honey-coloured plums that whet my appetite, only to pick them and discover that they were rotten. Seeing the plum from both sides is important before you bite into it and discover it is full of maggots.

Like a bold, bikini-clad explorer, in the shining morning sunshine, I set forth with plum net on my shoulder, plum-basket strapped to my waist, and pick my way through jungles of succulents and nests of wasps in search of golden, fruity treasure. I climbed the plum tree, wasps inches from my face, in order to select its juiciest plums.

Lesson #3: Climb the tree and face the wasps and a bounty of plums await.

Before this, I was quite wary of wasps. I would shoo them, or shriek and run away from them. But the plum treasure was too tempting. And as I ventured forth, I discovered that wasps aren´t all that scary. Yes, they want plums – don´t we all – but they are just as scared as we are. They can be annoying, but they don´t put up much of a fight.

In life, we face many wasps. I wonder how many annoyances I have avoided in life, and how many treasures therefore I have forsaken?

If our motivation is strong, if we really see the value – see the treasure – it is worth navigating all manner of wasps and prickly branches in order to fulfil our destiny.

The wasps returned after the plums were picked. Many wasps would sip from slightly-split plums as they sat in their basket, waiting to be taken to the kitchen. When the basket was full, two or three wasps would be buzzing around inside, getting drunk on delicious plum nectar. I tried lifting the basket with the wasps still inside. As they buzzed more loudly, I felt myself growing tense. I didn’t want to be stung!

I removed one ripe plum that a wasp sat on, and threw it away, far into the corner. The wasp happily buzzed along with its yummy plum. The wasp is happy to face the giant human plum-pickers, and have its plum flung far, to get what it truly wants. Are we this committed?

I saw a wasp so intent on getting to one certain plum that it became trapped in between plums in the basket. It buzzed very loudly when this happened, frustrated in its plummy prison. I did not wish to hurt the wasp, so I moved aside the plums to set it free. The same wasp then buzzed angrily around me. “What a cheek!” I thought, dancing away in case I got stung.

Lesson #4: A wasp set free still stings the same.

Sometimes we help a person and expect that in return, they behave in a certain way. This is not generosity. This is dangerous. If we place an expectation on our giving, it ceases to be truly given from the heart. Sometimes we give our help and we are very clear that we expect something back, and the person we are helping agrees fully to our terms and conditions. This is not generosity. This is a contract. Can you make a contract with a wasp?

While picking plums, I have felt the quiet wisdom of the tree. The life of a plum tree seems full of lessons for the life of humanity, too. In quiet moments under its branches, I have been able to gather its generous insights, as well as its succulent, organic plums.

Here I share some of those insights with you, and if you come to visit us at Casa Saraswati, we might share some of our delicious plum jam with you, too.

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