“Absolutely beautiful!” was the first thought I had when I saw the Tree of 40 Fruits. Then I read the behind-the-scenes story of how it came to be and listened to artist and professor Sam Van Aken, from Syracuse University, sum up his art-to-reality project. An actual tree that bears 40 fruits. How can that be? One step at a time. And the steps reminded me of how a marriage can end up with the same awe-inspiring results as that magnificent tree.
Step 1 – Planning. No matter how wonderful an idea, it doesn’t come to fruition without developing a plan that will take you from idea to final product. The tree started out as an idea for an art project, much like how dating begins for entertainment purposes. As Van Aken became more enamored with his idea, he wanted to develop something that was more real, more vibrant, more tangible than a piece of art. So the plan evolved into one that included something bigger. The dating evolved into planning for permanency in the relationship.
Step 2- To meld together two or more different species, we need a grafting process. As the additional fruit tree limbs were grafted on, the original portion of the tree maintained it’s own identity. But it was enriched by the additional diverse fruits that could also grow from a single tree. Doesn’t that sound like a married couple? “Two become one” in the sense that they are a unit. But they’re not suppose to morph into something that loses the individuality of the two components – each fruit shines on its own but is uniquely enhanced by being part of the same tree.
Step 3 – To enable the grafts to take, the components have to work together. There is tending, pruning, and maintenance to ensure the parts continue to grow together. The support must be mutual for both parts to thrive.
Step 4 – Patience must be developed so that the process is not rushed. Trying to change the tree too much at one time might result in parts of it rejecting the new additions. Our jobs as spouses are to support the other in their growth and to work together to overcome obstacles that get in the way of realizing benefits from new grafts.
Step 5 – Vision must be developed. Many have worked with grafts to combine fruits. Have you heard of the pluot (plum/apricot) or the tangelo (tangerine/grapefruit or pomelo)? And it’s probably not a rare thing for cultivators to try crossing multiple fruits. But one tree with 40 distinct fruits? That takes vision. What aspirations do you and your spouse have? What can be achieved if you work together to reach those goals? Can you see it?
Step 6 – Embracing each season. Fruit trees grow, blossom, bear fruit, withstand some withering of old fruit, and have bare periods before new growth begins. Each phase is necessary to develop the best fruit. And while most of the phases don’t have the wow factor of the blooming phase or the richness of the fruit-bearing phase, each has it’s own special contribution – from offering shade to preparing for more productivity. The same is true in our relationships. We can’t properly appreciate ‘wow moments’ if life is one big WOW. The daily routines, the obligatory tasks that must be performed, the seemingly mundane, can all be elevated by having joyful recognition that each serves a purpose. You’re in it with the one you love. It’s an adventure. You’re heading toward the vision.
Step 7 – Enjoy the beauty and the bounty. The amazing resulting tree, the myriad of colorful blossoms, the fabulous bountiful fruits, are the reward for going through the process of planning, executing, having greater vision, having patience for the plan to come together, persevering through the slow-growing periods, and embracing each phase for what it is and the benefits that will result. And so it is with marriage. While some phases are more challenging than others, what we are left with after each step is completed is, indeed, a thing of beauty!
If you want to hear Van Aken describe his amazing work on the Tree of Forty Fruit and it’s future, check out the video!