Even though it's winter, the papaya tree on the south side of our house still has fruit. The fruit aren't ripe nor have they noticeably matured over the last few months. On the other hand, they haven't frozen or fallen off. They haven't rotted either. They're in a holding pattern, a tropical plant trying to exist in a semi-tropical locale.
I can identify with the papaya. I'm hanging on, too, waiting to see what will happen.
We all go through situations with resolutions beyond our control. We wait. We wonder. We anticipate results. What kind of winds will blow? Will they be cold and biting or warm with relief?
With plants, the answer is relatively simple and unimportant. Sure, I want the papaya tree to survive. I'd love to know it made it through the winter so we can reap our reward and enjoy the sweet fruit. But if it doesn't make it — if the fruits fall to the ground and rot — it will be a small disappointment.
We tried. We failed. We'll try harder next time.
With people, it's different. The result is everything, the waiting interminable. We do our best to improve situations. We ask questions, do research, discuss and debate. But ultimately, it's no different than it is with the papaya. We hang on and wait to see what will transpire.
To be a successful gardener, you must choose the right plants to put in the proper location at the appropriate time of year. If you provide adequate water, the right soil mixture and fertilizers and monitor pests, there's a good chance the plants will thrive.
But not always.
Unanticipated variables can arise. Unexpected weather shifts can wreak havoc on a garden or grove. So can insect infestations or damage done by animals. And sometimes plants don't thrive even when it seems you've done everything right.
That's how it can be with people, too.
You nurture your internal garden. You plant judiciously, feed and exercise with care. You provide balance and an ideal locale. Still unexpected variables emerge, dispelling intentions, redirecting plans.
Sometimes I wish it were simpler. I wish for a formula — a prescription of truth. In my personal sci-fi fantasy, we start each day by stepping into a fail-proof machine to calculate body chemistry. If the machine finds an excess or lack of a specific nutrient, it spells out in unequivocal detail a remedy for the problem. No conflicting data. No Google search needed.
Although I try not to squander valuable time contemplating imaginary scenarios, lately I can't help but wish for something better than our current medical system. When plants are in a holding pattern, we can afford to let them be but people are too precious for a similar passivity.
Unfortunately, conversations about health-care reform often fail to answer the most basic of questions. For instance, why should it be so difficult to find out how much specific medical services cost? In no other industry are prices so infuriatingly inaccessible. Treatment options are another subject of inscrutability. There is no consensus among medical experts. How is a patient supposed to know what information to believe, what path to follow, what direction to take? Finally, why do some health-care professionals continue to rely on outdated modes of communication like faxes and written records when every other industry has switched to online or email transmissions?
When I look out the window and see the unripe papayas still hanging on the tree, I see a simple plant with an unknown future to be determined by climate, weather and timing. Like the papaya fruit, I'm in a holding pattern but without answers so simple or clear.
Hopefully, for both there will be a sweet ending, a fruitful conclusion to an uncertain fate.
Sherry Boas can be reached at simplyliving@
beautifulbamboo.com. Her columns can be found online at OrlandoSentinel.com/lake.