My lemon tree is a mess.
It’s a compact, verdant thing. Pruned over the years into a tidy, almost topiary like ball in part due to its location at the end of our deck. We live on a tall hillside overlooking the Arroyo and Highland Park and the lemon tree, planted by well-meaning previous owners, is smack dab in the middle of one of the most beautiful views in Northeast Los Angeles. I’m loathe to remove it – it produces giant and aromatic Eurekas like it’s trying to win an award – but we also love the view.
We have opted to prune, tightly and without mercy. And then prune some more. And again. Despite this near militaristically maintained haircut, it still it dumps pounds of lemons into my lap year round. And we maintain our view.
This year’s prunings have lacked regularity and purpose. It has been a busy year – a short summary is available on my personal blog, Urban Schmurban, if you’re curious. My assumption was that the lemon tree would rejoice, finally free to spread and extend itself while forcing me to visit neighbors with bags of lemons in hand and helpful lemony recipes at the ready. “At last,” it would sigh to me. “Now I can truly reach my potential!”
The truth was mockingly opposite. Instead of putting energy into fruit, the tree has sent out leggy and anemic looking branches, all flowerless and in some cases a less healthy looking green. My pounds of lemons dwindled into a few insipid fruits. Lesson learned – good health and harvests require my sincere attention and seemingly cruel, but very beneficial sculpting and pruning.
And so the metaphor revealed itself.
The Los Angeles Chapter of Slow Food is undergoing a similar transformation under the careful attention of Lisa Lucas Talbot and myself. Since its founding, we watched the membership grow and thrive and we’ve produced and supported community building events and initiatives. Under the charter leadership of Evan Kleiman and then followed by the co-leadership of Lisa, Judi Bikel and others, Slow Food LA has fostered thoughtful discussion and potent action to grow and preserve the slow food movement in our communities. As a Master Food Preserver and the farmers market columnist for the LA Weekly, I was asked to participate in Slow Food sponsored panel discussions about local farmers markets, fair food access and food waste. And it was following that involvement that Lisa approached me and asked if I would help her form the new leadership team for the next chapter in Slow Food LA’s book.
This metaphorical pruning is a thoughtful and purposeful process and doesn’t equate to losing the best of our history and knowledge. Lisa will still have an active role in Slow Food’s regional leadership as its Governor and still provides insightful perspectives on how Slow Food LA can play an active and more involved role throughout Los Angeles. Together we’ll sculpt the foundation that will allow Slow Food LA to bloom and build community. I am sincerely honored to be a part of this process and appreciate the support I’ve received from everyone in the Slow Food community.
“As the gardener, by severe pruning, forces the sap of the tree into one or two vigorous limbs, so should you stop off your miscellaneous activity and concentrate your force on one or a few points.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
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