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Beneath the Persimmon Tree: Seasons of Life and Growth

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One recent morning, in the dream state between sleep and awakening, I was 12 years old again. It was late July, right at the point when summer becomes late summer and a new school year looms in the not-too-distant future. I ran out of the breezeway screen door of my grandparents’ “house on the knoll,” my Memom’s affectionate moniker for the gray two-story on a low rise near Athens, Georgia. 

There was a sea of freshly cut grass between me and the pond. I was heading to the dock to watch the sunset and look for frogs. If I was lucky, I might even see a fish jump or the beaver family from the creek nearby enjoy an evening swim. At dusk, the lightning bugs would begin their Morse-like blinking. Breathing in the scents of evening, I bolted barefoot across the concrete parking area, sailed over the hedge that lined the drive with abandon, and flawlessly transitioned to a sprint across grass that was just cooling as the sun sank toward the tree line. 

If bliss needed a description, this was it. I was weightless. Those fleeting moments held the fullness of my awareness and delight.  In their simplicity was the kind of perfection that true beauty possesses—nothing was missing, nothing was in excess. 

As I reached the persimmon tree that stood midway between the house and my destination (the one my grandfather swore he was going to chop down several times a year but never did because he liked to watch the birds and deer linger there), my bare foot came down on a piece of fallen fruit and…SQUISH. The sensation startled me, and I stopped, lifting my foot to survey the damage. 

In the stopping, my dream shifted. Twelve-year-old me was puzzled. Something wasn’t right. The bliss just moments before felt a pinch, a weight, though I couldn’t identify it. I glanced up at the pond in the distance, then back at the house. And woke up in tears. 

Realization washed over me like rain. Late summer is the season of life I’m in. In more ways than one, I am standing beneath that persimmon tree with its blessings and its nuisances intermingling in this season, this body, this mind, this heart. 

Childhood is long past for me, and my own children are past their little years. Their early years were like a second chance to experience the world, a second scamper across the yard to the pond. The excitement was different because the bliss was theirs, secondhand to me. Mine had been dimmed a bit by the growing up I’d experienced and the inevitable exposure to brokenness and heartbreak. With the wisdom of years, I’d lost and grieved my childhood innocence. Because of it, appreciating theirs was a gift I felt more keenly. 

My daughter is preparing to launch and is better than I was in so many ways. She is strong and lovely and possesses an unshakeable kindness that is disarming to those lucky enough to be in her orbit. I should be weeping in gratitude rather than wallowing in the grief I feel over her growing up. 

My son is on the edge of manhood and is rightly seeking things beyond his years. He is eager for adventure and hard things, and I puzzle over the tears I’ve shed over loss of the small boy who crawled onto my lap for snuggles in the early morning quiet, his soft hair against my cheek smelling faintly of lavender. He is doing exactly what he’s supposed to. Brandon Lake’s lyrics play on repeat: “I’ve learned to cherish every moment, ‘cause moments don’t slow down to please the heart. That’s what makes it hard.” 

The songwriter’s words reflect sacred insight from the mother of Jesus, who shared with the gospel writers her attempt to “[treasure] up all these things, pondering them in her heart” as she cherished her newborn son.

As I stand beneath that proverbial persimmon tree looking back, there is an overwhelming urge to run in a crazed attempt to gather up those past moments in my hands, my arms, my shirt—like too many seashells or ripe blackberries. But my grasp is limited. Most of them slip through the fingers of my mind like water. Like Joy attempting to gather up the memories in Pixar’s Inside Out before Goofball Island crumbles, I try to no avail. Clutching them all is simply beyond me. Knowing it, my heart contracts painfully in my chest and the tears fall, each in honor of a moment I can’t keep.

I pause to take stock of where I am beneath the tree, the ground littered with dropped fruit. I turned 42 this year. I’ve done quite a bit of taking stock, assessing old and new. Some recent health struggles were indicators that my body and soul need to be nourished differently. Old ways of doing things just don’t work anymore, and though I’m grateful that those habits and tendencies got me to where I am, they, like the fruit on the ground, are exposed and cannot last. 

I lift my eyes to the pond, the future. The only way to move in time is forward. In taking those steps there is much I’m leaving behind, some because I can’t take it with me, the rest because I shouldn’t. It’s time to develop new ways of doing things, and since the body is more like a garden than a machine, I must learn to nurture and steward both body and soul better. It turns out that I needed “tending” all along so that I might better tend to the people and work that God sets before me. There are no worn, familiar paths ahead, so I rely on ancient paths and timeless wisdom. Like any new season, this one is frightening in its unknowns and often difficult. Neither of those things equate to “bad.” 

Though I’m not quite into my own autumn yet I feel it looming like the start of a new school year. On its heels is the dormancy and coziness of winter when a kind of hushed awe and rest falls on the world as it prepares for the cacophony of spring.

My 12-year-old bliss was wrapped up in a journey that ended with a pond in the slanted light. Like my body and mind then, it was small, less. One thing I’ve learned as I’ve discovered bigger, and more is that winter is not our final season. These fleeting moments of bliss aren’t end-alls, but representative of something more. I’m grown up and still growing. Our human trek through time reflects a Kingdom that is already here and coming.

Thus, like Lewis’s bicycles, there is space for re-enchantment when disillusionment has damaged life’s pleasures.1 A posture of wisdom holds sorrow and joy in tension, with joy just eclipsing sorrow on a scale appropriate to the loss or the season. For those who learn the balance, living is like sailing in a tailwind, flying a kite, stemming through a slot canyon, all of which require adjustments in tension, but which bring such elation! To live with this perspective is to live deeply, richly, though not always safely.

Paul said it best in his letter to Corinth when he wrote of the momentary, light afflictions that are preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.2

The journey doesn’t end at my grandparents’ as it did that summer evening. I will rest there momentarily and awaken to be transported into the sunset and beyond. I know the story: Christmas made way for Easter. Death is defeated by resurrection. Winter’s hold gives way to spring and new life bursts forth. Forty-two times I’ve lived Creation’s rendition of the story and, God-willing, I have many retellings ahead of me.

If such bliss could be felt in a flicker of a moment running across a summer-kissed lawn, what must that eternal summer hold for which we’re bound? 

Time and its lessons will tell. 


1 C. S. Lewis published an essay in 1946 entitled, “Talking about Bicycles.” In this essay he uses the experience of four stages (ages) of riding bicycles to parallel four ages of many of life’s experiences. For him, the second age brought a lot of joy, a glimpse of paradise. This joy wore off in the third age, but he learned to experience it again in the fourth age, albeit from a wiser perspective.

2 2 Corinthians 4:17

1 thought on “Beneath the Persimmon Tree: Seasons of Life and Growth”

  1. That was incredibly beautiful! Well done! I know you have been such a light and inspiration to so many. Thank you for being brave enough to use the gifts God gives you to teach and inspire others!! May God bless you to continue! Prayers for you, Tripp and your beautiful children!!

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