Physician wisdom learned from picking strawberries

I just want a few berries.

This was my comment that started the earthy discussion. We were visiting with friends who have a thriving garden producing more than they can consume.

As we talked about the types of lettuce and greens in the neatly organized rows, I heard mention of strawberries.

No offense to the other things growing, but the mention of berries had me dialed in. Where? How many? Ready to pick?

We walked over to the berry bushes, new plantings this year, and I got the news that made my stomach groan. Literally.

“The berries won’t be here until next year. See, if you want a strawberry bush to put its energy into growing deep, strong roots, you actually clip the flowers as they arise in the first year. You don’t want it producing flowers and berries; you want it growing strong roots for lots of berries in the years to come.”

Many reading this will question why they are even reading this series, an author who doesn’t have a grasp of the simplest of growing concepts. An author whose need for berries makes him unaware of the bigger picture. Understood.

But what do these strawberry plants have to teach us in the bigger picture that is our pandemic now layered with deep questions about what this nation is and what we want it to become?

Yes, we all want berries. Right now.

We want to find a fix to the pesky coronavirus reality that doesn’t quite have any quick, easy, right-answer angles. Open up society!? Not sure what punctuation or emotion to give it, and I sense that most of us feel this way.

We want to immediately produce berries to begin fixing a white supremacy problem that has grown deep roots over 500 plus years.

Maybe it is a moment not for berries, but for preparing for berries that will come in the future. That’s right taste buds, just hold tight.

And the strawberry plants remind us that sometimes life gives us a tough either/or decision. A decision my friend and I discussed right there in the garden, out of earshot from the strawberry bushes themselves. “Don’t you think we could just trick them into a few flowers, a few berries this year?” I whispered.

By focusing on the immediate moment and my desire to taste that unique seed-laden sweetness that leaks its scarlet juice as I bite, I am sabotaging the bigger picture. I cannot have it both ways.

In writing today, I thought of two pieces of wisdom from just today.

One mentor reminded, “The breath in stillness also invigorates.”

A mentee said it this way: “The pandemic and everything going on in our society are definitely exhausting, but I find it a little easier when I focus on what I can do now as my own person and my own biases. Working on that is what will start change.”

Anthony Fleg is a family physician who blogs at Writing to Heal.

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