Today, as I have for the past few years, I made the first batch of plum jam from some of the fruit on our backyard plum tree. Usually the tree is overflowing with fruit and I have to scurry up and down a ladder over several days picking the plums as they ripen. Most years I’ve given bags of plums to the Union Mission in the Downtown Eastside where the homeless receive them with appreciative delight. I usually offer bags of plums to my neighbours. But the main prize for me is to make at least two patches of jam, one to be shared as gifts and one to be eaten throughout the coming year. Finally, I also freeze bags of plums for use in puddings and crumbles during the winter months. This year, however, our harvest is meager and I wonder if I will even be able to make the desired two batches of plum jam.
I am not sure why the tree has yielded a sparse harvest this year. It could be that the tree was pruned back a little too far this year. Maybe there is blight on the tree or in the ground that feeds the tree. Or perhaps there are other reasons that I, a relative neophyte with fruit bearing trees, simply do not understand as yet. We have had enough rain (this is Vancouver!) and plenty of sun. What I do know is that there is a difference this year and that I, as the harvester, have had to adjust my expectations.
While picking the fruit and preparing it for the jam I also reflected on a long, dense book I read over the winter called ‘Reaping The Whirlwind: A Christian Interpretation of History’ by Langdon Gilkey. One of his arguments is that there is a difference between fate and destiny and the difference lies in what we make of the things that happen to us. If we endure the things that happen to us in a limiting way we can tend to interpret them as our fate. However, if we embrace the things that happen to us as the conditions for our future, then we can interpret them as destiny. The difference between fate and destiny lies in our interpretation. How we engage the whirlwind of history depends a great deal upon our choice of interpretation.
What does this have to do with plums and jam? I could see this year’s meager harvest as fate and could grumble about the scarcity of plums. Or, I could see the harvest this year as a special gift, one that hopefully will yield a very tasty jam; a jam that I will savour all the more this year because of the scarcity of the harvest; and a jam that I will share with others with great pleasure because it is precious due to scarcity. This meager harvest could cause me to be more appreciative of the fruit that the back yard tree gives each year. It could lead to a more grateful heart. It really is up to me. Seems to me this little plum tree is teaching me a lesson. How I harvest the events of my life that God gives me, as fate or destiny, is really up to me.