There was a proverbial lightning strike the first time I heard about heritage apple trees. In fact, it’s what they call a “light bulb memory” because I recall it so vividly. I was sitting in a master urban gardening class learning about planting fruit trees. The instructor showed this massive tree with barrels of fruit under it.
“Since we’re in Boston” he laughed “none of you will really be able to plant these. But you have to think about that when you’re planting a tree. Are your planting it for now, for later, or are you creating a heritage for your children?”
It was a revelation into my life more than just about gardening and growing food, but also changing the way I looked at making plans and goals and how I interacted with my family and the community in which I live.
Columnar, dwarf, semi-dwarf, and standard. They’re all sizes of trees. It not only indicates how big it will get or how much space it will take up, but also the time until it bears fruit as well as just how much it bears over time.
A columnar tree may produce in the first couple of years and yield a small harvest over maybe a decade. However, a full size apple tree can take ten years to even start bearing fruit. It can grow twice the size of a two story house, and it can yield 5 bushels per year for even 75 to a hundred years.
Living a columnar style life is living for myself. Maybe for my family too, but only in the moment. I reap no real reward, but I skate by, producing what I can when I can. And to be honest, I have been in this season of life for what feels to be far too long. I have been so focused on getting by that I started forgetting that I can prioritize the long run while still working for the needs I have now. Every size apple tree bears fruit, but some get tired and die while the others persist.
I want to live the heritage lifestyle.
It is everything I desire to live in a meaningful way that says “it’s ok to wait” and “I am part of a bigger story.” This is the life that grows trees with the vision that even if I never taste of its fruit, it will continue to give to my children, my children’s children, and all of the neighbors too.
Often times when we think of the word heritage it’s about where we have come from; who and what is a part of our past? But what if we shift away from thinking about the times before us and start thinking of how to shape the lives of those after us?
I turned thirty last year. While it was a big milestone, it wasn’t a scary one for me. However, it was eye-opening. I started questioning if I had lived out the faith I thought I had, if I was raising my kids in a way I was actually proud of, and if I was just spinning my wheels or living meaningfully.
Related: I wrote this the week of my thirtieth birthday – The case for a colorful life and why age has to be more than numbers.
Did I live for myself or did I care for others?
Was I blessed beyond measure but too selfish to share?
Did I give more than I took?
Were my words a balm for the soul or did they cut and wound?
Did my actions contribute to the larger picture of eternity?
When I am gone, eventually I will be forgotten. But my actions now may bear fruit in future generations.
So what do I want to grow in myself and in my family today?
This is the new framework for every task and interaction. It means thoughtfully thinking through purchases. It means only getting what we really need. It means sharing what the extra we have. It means making thoughtful and sound judgments, not rushed and hurried decisions.
I hope to plant love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in myself and my children while maybe nurturing a few heritage fruit trees too.
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