Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thoughts on Planting a Tree


On Tuesday I did something I'd never in my life done before: I planted a tree. Okay, fine, you caught me: I sat and watched while the guys from the nursery did the actual sweaty shovel work, instead of planting it myself in the middle of my very small front lawn. Of course, even if I did want to do that with no help, I'd have no idea even how deep to dig the hole, much less how to pour in the right amount of an exotic chemical to stimulate root growth, stake the tree properly so it doesn't fall over in a windstorm, encircle it with a ridge of earth, and cover everything with wood chips. And since my goal is that the tree actually survive, asking the nursery guys to do the actual planting still seems like the smart thing to do.

While I was watching the whole operation, though, a diet-related thought did cross my mind (besides how many calories I'd be burning if I were doing the digging!). Planting a young tree is not an instant gratification kind of project - I love the mental image of a mature Chinese Pistache dominating my front lawn, shading the house and turning amazing shades of gold and red every autumn, but in order to have that happen years from now, this spring I have to plant something which looks a lot more like a broken-off branch with a few leaves still clinging to it. It's not particularly scenic and it certainly doesn't create any shade, but this is where you have to start if in ten or twenty years, you want to be able to give people directions like, "Turn right at the stop sign; it's the blue house with the Chinese Pistache in front."

It's the same thing with major weight loss, I was thinking. Right now, with 100 lbs. or more ahead of me, I'm about as far away from the reflection I'd like to see in the mirror as that sapling in the photo is from being a full-grown shade tree. And the two or three pounds I might be able to lose during the next week with exercise and diet seem like nothing in comparison to all the poundage that I'd still have left around my midriff and on my butt. But if I can accept that starting with the leafy stick is the way to end up with a real tree, accepting that the beginning phases of a major weight loss are going to be equally unimpressive shouldn't be impossible. And if I'm willing to commit to the seriously delayed gratification involved in waiting for a tree to mature, it doesn't make sense not to commit to a weight loss goal just because it can't possibly happen anytime soon. Right?

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