Resilience

Figs are delicious. I freaking love them. I could eat figs all day.

When we were first married we lived in Richmond, an inner-city suburb of Melbourne. Back in the 60’s Richmond was heavily populated by Greek migrants, attracted by the low cost of housing and abundant opportunities for employment in manufacturing. Our neighbour Christos, a delightful man in his early 70’s, purchased their home for $60,000 in 1965. Like every good Greek, Christos converted his small, concrete yard into a food forest, planting fruits and vegetables into basically any vessel he had available: tomatoes in old tyres, capsicums and chillies in polystyrene boxes, kalamata olives in a wheelbarrow, a lemon tree in a bucket… the list goes on. Where space was permitting, these Greek kitchen gardens also featured beautiful fig trees, the branches of which would often hang down over the fence into what I insisted was the public domain. On many a summer’s evening, Lachy would roll his eyes at me as I gleefully leaped at the fragrant, purple globules.
“Oh, so that’s your tree in your garden, is it?”
“Well, this branch is hanging over the footpath. Actually, can you reach that one for me?”
“No, I’m not picking figs for you because it’s stealing!”
“ Hey, it’s either me or the fruit bats, and at least I’m not screeching and sh*tting everywhere!”

Jump for my love

I’ve been thinking about the quality of “resilience” lately.

Resilience is an adjective that means:
1. (of an object or material) capable of regaining its original shape or position after bending, stretching, compression, or other deformation; elastic.
2. (of a person) recovering easily and quickly from shock, illness, hardship, etc; irrepressible.

I love the word irrepressible; it reminds me of the introduction to Monkey Magic…
“Elemental forces then caused the stone egg to hatch. From it there came a stone monkey. The nature of monkey was irrepressible!”

monkey magic

I won’t lie, I find the thought of someone describing my nature as “ irrepressible” to be very appealing. However, like the elastic of your undies that must return to size 10 after your dad puts them on by mistake, we are only proved to be resilient in the context of a stretch. Before one can “bounce back”, their lives or bodies must be bent, compressed or deformed in some way or other. It’s a simple truth that we cannot develop resilience by cruising through life. The good thing is, this truth gives us a new filter through which to view the uncomfortable or distressing things that happen to us, from “I can’t handle this any longer” to “bring it b*tch, I’m irrepressible”.

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A recent example of real life resilience is the determined comeback of my fig tree, after the Boxing Day Massacre of 2012, when 20kg of puppy decided to ringbark my favourite Christmas present less than 24 hours after I received it.

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I ring-barked Jessi’s Christmas fig tree on Boxing Day.
(I didn’t get ANY Christmas pudding, so I thought it was fair)

(NB. concept courtesy of dogshaming.com)

“It’ll be alright”  said my Gran, “figs are very hardy, just keep the water up to it.”

As luck would have it, the next day we were booked to go on a 2 week beach holiday, during which time Melbourne (naturally) hit a ≥40°C heatwave. Great weather for swimming, not so great for recently mutilated figs. Had I asked anyone to water my garden while we were away? Of course not, how anal. On our return, the brown and shrivelled fig had become a cuddling post for my very clingy pumpkin.

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Not wanting to further distress the pumpkin, I left the fig in situ, where it received incidental watering. One day, below the scar, I noticed the fig was sending out beautiful green shoots.

What a champion! Go little fig tree – you are a fabulous example of resilience.
To encourage regrowth, I took the fig out of its protective enclosure for a feed and some pruning. Then the phone rang (hi Dad!)

I was gone maybe 5 or 10 minutes… but long enough for bloody Indie to have a second go at demolishing the poor thing.

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You stupid dog! What is it about you and fig trees?
However, a week later and the gnawed stump has put forth ever more green shoots

Little fig tree, you are truly irrepressible!

I’ve decided to name her Lazarus.

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Free love, doggy style.

Eeew wanton debauchery!  Run awaaaayyyyyy!

Don’t worry, this isn’t some raunchy tell-all.  In some ways that title is completely misleading, but in other ways it’s totally appropriate.  Oooh, the tantalising difference between speaking literally and figuratively!

A couple of months ago I read an article about how much people love, and feel loved by their pets. In it, they made reference to some statistics released by the Australian Companion Animal Council.  The council reports that 91% of owners feel “very close” to their pets. In fact, 56% of women and 41% of men said that their pet is more affectionate than their partner.

I was shocked to realise that, while the statistic saddened me, it didn’t actually surprise me.  

As humans, we do tend to harbour a number of prerequisites, subconscious or otherwise, that must be filled before we give our love away.

  • What do you look like?
  • What do you do?
  • How old are you?
  • How do you smell?
  • Will being seen with you make me more or less “cool by association”?

A six month old baby with big blue eyes, a musical laugh, and a clean nappy? 
Hand him over lady, and I’ll cover that kid with kisses.

The middle aged woman with greasy hair, 12 teeth in total and a rasping cough?  
Avert thine eyes children, and dash off to buy sushi.

Many of you have probably guessed that I have a border collie puppy. 
Her name is Indie, and she brings much joy into our lives.

Technically, I’m still on my mat. Technically.

 

When we walk down the street, Indie happily engages with anyone and everyone, only limited by the length of the leash (!)
The little old lady with her wheelie walker;  the teenage skinheads smoking at the train station;  the professionals at lunch, sipping lattes with their laptops … they all get the same affectionate acknowledgement.

Dogs don’t care if your sunnies are Armani, your car is a rust box,  or you’ve gained 15 kilos. Dogs don’t care if you’re intellectually disabled,  you just got promoted, or your legs need a shave.  They only care that you’re there, with them, and have time for a pat.  
No judgement.

When I was a little girl I thought that when I was very good, I made God proud, and he loved me more;  but when I was naughty, then he got disappointed, and I had to earn back his love by impressing him somehow.  One time at church the minister told us that God loved us, and there was nothing that we could do to make him love us any more, and nothing we could do to make him love us any less. God loves us, just for being us,  with an unchanging love.  I remember being really surprised by this – surely we can influence how much other people love us by the things we do? I certainly felt less love for my parents straight after being smacked.  For many years these thoughts rattled around in my brain, not quite fitting with my experience of the world. And then I got a puppy, who made me think…

 Maybe Indie understands more about God’s love than I do?  Indie gives love freely, and without thought of return. She doesn’t love people because she thinks she should,  it’s completely genuine. Indie’s love for us is unchanging,  regardless of whether we just took her for a long walk, or forgot her breakfast that morning.

Is my dog a better Christian than I am?

Haha, woof.