Why My Fig Tree Died

Fig Tree

“I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.” -From The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (pg. 77)

I think many can relate to this quote. As I was reading Sylvia Plath’s novel this passage jumped out at me so much that I needed to share it with someone else. I feel like the best novels have these moments where the words just seem perfect. They tell the truth in words that you didn’t realize to put together until they were spelled out in front of you. And then the words don’t go away.

One of my favorite novels got me hooked from the quotable lines starting early in the text. This novel was The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield.

And I feel if I’m talking about great quotes then I have to mention two from her novel that have stayed with me for years.

“My gripe is not with lovers of the truth but with truth herself. What succor, what consolation is there in truth, compared to a story? What good is truth, at midnight, in the dark, when the wind is roaring like a bear in the chimney? When the lightning strikes shadows on the bedroom wall and the rain taps at the window with its long fingernails? No. When fear and cold make a statue of you in your bed, don’t expect hard-boned and fleshless truth to come running to your aid. What you need are the plump comforts of a story. The soothing, rocking safety of a lie.” – From The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

I love this quote! It reminds me of why people read. Lovers of fiction rejoice in the story-lie that sometimes tells the truth better than the truth can.  That is why we read fiction. It is the comfort to our soul when there isn’t much comfort to be had.

“All children mythologize their birth. It is a universal trait. You want to know someone? Heart, mind and soul? Ask him to tell you about when he was born. What you get won’t be the truth: it will be a story. And nothing is more telling than a story.” From The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

This is my second favorite quote of a very quotable book. I think you can tell a lot about a person by the way in which they tell you a story. It’s not just about the story, its details, but about the person who is telling it.

In my mind, as I’m putting all these quotes together, there’s a picture I see of a writer sitting in a fig tree. This writer sees all the possibilities. All these little stories, or figs, are waiting just out of reach. Little mythical worlds are perch on top of an array of personalities.

And indecision kills them all.

other fig tree

My fig tree is full of stories or what Setterfield’s novel would call lies. Sometimes there’s only enough inspiration and motivation to pick one and if I’m distracted for a second then it’s gone.

All the stories that never were are blacken and shrived.

And then I take a brief moment and give reverence to those sad figs lying on the ground. Maybe a really great story just fell but the great thing about trees is that they grow.

There will be more soothing lies to be told.


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