Control and the Fig Tree

It’s the same battle every June and early July. The birds begin to eat the figs in the tree, just slightly before they ripen. They don’t eat the whole fig, they just poke big holes in them, ruining them. They don’t eat the figs just at the top of the tree, the ones I can’t reach. They eat as many as they can.

Netting the tree isn’t possible. Hanging CDs or strips of foil in the tree makes no difference. The first two years, I’d get up at 4:30 a.m. and stand guard with a broom. The second day, the birds figured out the length of my reach and ate just out of it.

I don’t mind the woodpeckers and hummingbirds, but I hate the starlings and grackles.

This year, I realized it was futile to fight, and silly to prefer some birds over others. They are professional wildlife who are hungry, and there is available food in a time of scarce food and water in the desert. Now I rise at 5 a.m. and pluck whatever soft, sweet figs I can snatch from the birds early in the morning. At the end of the day, I pick up the detritus of figs, the fruit already dry and hard as walnut shells from the sun. Cleaning up controls the bug population. I don’t mind the ants, but there are three-inch crunchy bugs I don’t want to encourage.

Have I given up? No. I have adapted. I cannot change the nature of birds, nor do I want to deprive them of food at a hard time of year.

And this adaptation has seeped into other parts of my life. I no longer expect to change client behavior. I no longer become frustrated and wish that my aggressive and harsh clients would become interesting and appealing. I learn to accept them, or I don’t work with them, weighing the consequences carefully.

And I appreciate the small amount of fig jam that I can make each year. I am grateful that I have the tree, and that the magic of fruit calls the birds. You don’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you get what you need. The Rolling Stones must have known my fig tree.

Quinn McDonald is slowly giving up the need to control both the fig tree and the birds. She’s still working on herself, too.