I don’t know how long pear trees live or remain productive, but the one in my mother’s yard has been there as far back as I remember. There’s no telling how many preserves we’ve enjoyed from a tree slightly older than me.
That old tree has made three score and ten and maybe a few years beyond. I’m not quite at that milestone but I’m knocking on the door. Both of us are showing our age, a bit more than I expected for myself at this point. Willie Nelson was right – “Ain’t it funny how time slips away.”
It seems like just yesterday there was a kid staring back at me from the mirror, but It’s hard to catch a glimpse of him anymore. One minute I was wondering what I wanted to be when I grew up. The next I was thinking about Social Security and Medicare.
For decades the tree would be loaded each summer with more pears than the limbs could support. We’d remove about a third of them or sometimes more, usually after Mama reminded us several times. Its sagging arms would rise to celebrate a lighter load, and the pears that remained thrived in their less crowded accommodations.
A few years ago, however, the tree drifted toward unreliability. The once plentiful pears gradually became fewer and eventually declined to almost nothing. In the winter of 2019, my brother decided to give it a major pruning. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but in 2020 the tree bounced back with a nice crop.
Pruning had given it a fresh start. I figured that was the end of any cutting, but last winter Jimmy decided to whittle it back a bit more. He said the tree was wasting energy putting on pears that were too high to reach, even with a ladder. So, we cut several tall limbs, many of them growing almost straight up.
The tree won’t win any beauty contests, but we’ve never had a better crop of pears than this year. Some were small, from where we didn’t thin them enough early on. Others, however, were as large as a navel orange. They are the biggest pears that tree has ever made.
As a side note, my friend Mrs. Larue Ambrose has the most amazing pear tree I’ve ever seen. She doesn’t do anything to it, yet it consistently produces pears the size of grapefruits. Whatever genetics are in that tree, need to be preserved. I’m just passing that idea on, hoping it takes root.
Jimmy nor I have expertise in pruning fruit trees, so don’t rely on this column for advice. The path of severe pruning might not work for anyone else or even for us again. Jimmy’s reasoning was that the tree wasn’t much good as it was, so why not do something to give it a chance.
New growth gave it some long-gone vitality. Its trunk is still wrapped in wrinkled skin, but the pears are plentiful again. It’s caused me to think that a personal pruning might be a good way to approach my own senior years.
In John 15:1-2 Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” I find it tempting to stay the course, even when the fruit is sparse, to let longtime habits and opinions determine the path I follow.
God no doubt sees many areas in my life that need pruning but inviting Him to cut wherever He wants can be a bit unsettling. I tend to offer suggestions as to what might be work for Him while not being too challenging for me. Recently, though, I read something which improved my perspective. The author said, “Spiritual pruning is not punishment. It’s a reward.”
I’m not sure I’ve ever thought about it quite like that, but it seems the best way to interpret those verses. Spiritual pruning may be unpleasant and even painful, but the rewards come through the fruit produced. Rather than dreading the process, Christians can embrace the purpose.
Sometimes I miss the young man that used to appear in our mirror, but I hope the gray-haired fellow who stares back at me now will take a hint from an aging pear tree. A good pruning may be just what he needs.