by Ruth, a.k.a. Momma Frizzle
Around my Central Florida home, the orange groves should be dense with sweet fruit. Some of them are, but an alarming number are not. A creeping disease called “greening” has withered and sickened many of my favorite old trees.
Citrus tress, which last winter were so leafy green and full of fruit that my children were hidden from view when they climbed inside to pick oranges, are now bracken barren of produce.
For the past four years, we’ve picked most of our citrus from my friend Susan’s family grove. Trees planted by her grandfather in the 1930s yielded delicious oranges, navels, and grapefruits so abundant that we rarely bought citrus in the store. But not this year, and maybe never again. Greening has hit Susan’s old trees.
According to another friend, who is a large-scale citrus grower, greening is a virus carried by bugs. There is no treatment for it. Growers are just trying to keep the bugs at bay by spraying more pesticides. For smaller groves, this isn’t feasible, and some have plowed down their trees entirely. Larger growers keep planting new stock and spraying the old. “But I may be crazy,” admits my friend.
Greening is a deceptively ironic name. As the disease spreads, citrus leaves actually become yellow and splotchy, then start dropping from the top of the tree on down. What fruit does appear is small and deformed. It tastes salty and is good for nothing. During what should be their most fertile time of year, the diseased trees eventually become naked stick figures of their former selves.
The consequences of greening are deep. Economically, growers are discouraged. They may be fighting a losing – and costly – battle. Personally, we’ve had to buy fruit from the grocery store, rather than pick it ourselves, for the first time in years. Emotionally, the diseased groves that line the roads are depressing and quickly becoming eye sores.
But it’s the spiritual aspect that keeps striking me. There is a parable here. A warning for new saplings and gnarled old stock. Creeping disease can destroy our foliage and poison our fruit, too. Little bugs of unkindness, greed, self-righteousness, critical spirit, impatience, pride, fear, and refusing to forgive are more destructive than I acknowledge, having as I do the tendency to cloak my sins in names as deceptive as “greening.”
As I ride past the barren trees and plowed down groves, a warning reaches to my soul – don’t be like these.