Sharing the Fig Tree

In July, the figs on the tree ripen. Finches, starlings, doves, woodpeckers, and grackles feed on the figs. For years, I fought them off. Now I’ve come to accept them. The birds need the figs because it’s a source of food and water when the heat destroys other food sources.

figsripeEarly in the morning, while the birds are feasting on figs, I hose down the walkway and scrub the ruined fruit off the cement. By noon the fig hulls will be as dry and hard as walnuts and the seeds will be stuck to the cement.

Now that I’ve accepted sharing as part of having a tree in my yard, I also gather  figs from the tree and make jam. I can’t eat the jam, but it’s wonderful to see others enjoy it. Same with the figs. There is enough for both uses

And both uses require work. Watering the tree, fertilizing it, trimming it. Picking up the fig leftovers, scrubbing the sidewalk. Gathering the figs, washing them, cleaning them, cutting, cutting and bottling them. It’s work with a purpose.

We expect trees to be work. We expect food to be work. But somehow, when it comes to our creative work, we think of it as play. And are surprised when it takes work to nurture it, maintain it, and yes, reap the benefits. Creativity is somehow supposed to be immune from the focus, goals and results of the rest of our lives. It’s supposed to be fun and ephemeral. Most of the time, creativity is hard work, but satisfying work. And, like ripening figs, sweet and worth it.

—Quinn McDonald is a naturalist and teacher. Join her in Madeline Island on July 22-26 for a deep writing and intuitive art class. Or in Phoenix on July 13 for a class on Monsoon Papers and accordion folders.