There’s a gorgeous and bountiful fig tree in my neighborhood. It’s in the back corner of a yard that backs onto a public footpath, and the tree’s branches hang over the fence on two sides. I discovered it last year, in the height of the fig season, when birds, bees, and bugs were eagerly devouring the fruit and dozens of overripe figs littered the ground. With a little research, I learned how to tell when figs were ripe and picked a few to share with my writer group on the day I shared with them a Jesus through the Eyes of Others story about Jesus and the fig tree.
This year’s figs are now beginning to ripen on that tree, and I picked a couple to savor on my morning walk last week. After taking a nice, big bite, I looked at what was left and was struck with a sense of how the inside of the fig, with its empty center and miniature hanging seeds, resembled both a geode and an underground cavern like those at Carlsbad Caverns in southern New Mexico.
Carlsbad Caverns holds a special place in my heart. Every year, the fifth graders at my elementary school went on a full-day field trip to the caverns. We left before dawn, traveling five hours each way on the bus to enjoy two or three hours in the caverns itself, including a cafeteria lunch in one of the caves. From this vantage point, I don’t have a clue how the chaperones kept us in line for ten hours on the bus, but I do recall with awe and wonder the caverns themselves.
I’d love to be out and about this year, exploring caverns and mountains and other amazing elements of the natural world. I keep talking with Henry about my desire, for example, to see the glaciers in Alaska before they all melt away. But we’re sticking close to home this year because of the pandemic. It doesn’t make sense to travel when we’re doing such a poor job of suppressing COVID-19 in America.
So, I get to travel in my mind and my memories. Figs remind me of caverns, and of cracking open geodes with hammers in the parking lot outside a national park store. The taste of figs reminds me of making fig jam and of splurging on fresh figs when I first moved here to Tucson.
I’d love to go visit my parents in the Rocky Mountains again this year, but wisdom says, “Stay home.” Instead, I’m opening the eyes of my heart to find new perspectives and connections with nature’s beauty right here at home.
If you are self-quarantining, what new perspectives and connections can you make with nature in your own home or yard? If you’re able to travel safely, give thanks to God for that gift!