Wednesday, April 7, 2010

An Olive Tree is More Than Interesting

In a recent post I said that my birthday olive tree was "an interesting gift." I suppose it was because I was dead tired that I couldn't think of a more telling word. I'm embarrassed to use such an uninteresting word as interesting. Ugh. The truth is, to receive the gift of an olive tree on the occasion of getting older made a huge impression on me. If I hadn't needed to finish that post quickly and make dinner...well, enough of the excuses.

I love to look at these trees, so as I was browsing them on the Internet I pasted some pictures here. Vincent Van Gogh painted several scenes of olives.

A post about olive trees was one of the first in my string of blogs. And recently on my tree-rich trip I saw old California orchards. My childhood was near the groves that made Lindsay Ripe Olives famous, though as I have mentioned, I don't like the fruits, and my family never had an olive tree on our property. Olive oil gelato? Very West-Coast, and I would be willing to give that a try.

You can adopt an olive tree growing in Italy, like the one at top, and then receive its produce for a year. I suppose you have to adopt it, or a different one, again the next year. Not very good parenting.

Montenegro is the home of this pocked giant, which is reputed to be 2000 years old. The longevity intrigues me, along with all the Biblical references, which I haven't even begun to think about. Mention of them often goes along with general descriptions of abundance and productivity of gardens, and with pomegranates and figs and vineyards.

There's a story of the olive tree who was asked to be king, and the olive branch in the dove's mouth after The Flood. Doors for the Temple were carved in olive wood. Many people make reference to it being the tree of Peace, and God knows I need that--I need Him.

What does it mean, "I am like a green olive plant in the house of my God." ?  It means alive, if it is green. Let me flourish in Your House, O Lord. Let me live in You.

Getting back to the trees themselves, the grove I would most like to visit is this idyllic one in Turkey , the fifth-largest seller of olive oil in the world-- but trying to get to second place. Olive oil I do much appreciate, and can imagine having a picnic on the warm yellow grass, of bread dipped in oil, sitting on a blanket under the sun. Once during my sojourns in that very country, I helped women in shalvar* gather olives from the ground where they'd fallen. I even sampled one of the wrinkly brined olives they cured in flat pans spread around under the trees, and had to restrain myself from immediately spitting it out.

*(I tried in vain to find a picture of these baggy pants that so many women still wore in Turkey in the 60's and 70's. These days a version has become high fashion, and the ones worn by chic models are not the ones I saw and wore. Perhaps this will be be the subject of a future post.)

The Garden of Gethsemane figures prominently in the events of our salvation history, into which we entered last week through the services and events leading up to Pascha. And this tree lives there. What if it is also 2,000 years old?

I planned to post this blog before Pascha, but now here we are post-Gethsemane, post-Golgotha. Wherever olive trees, any trees, are living, this week they are dancing.


margaret said...

Are these the ones that are skirtish almost to the knees and still so baggy you have to look twice to see that they are trousers? I remember women in the Gulf wearing them in the 80s.

And I love olive trees (and olives). My friend in Italy has an ongoing feud with her local council because they think they have the right to take half her olive grove and make it into an overflow for the municipal car park :(

Anonymous said...

I grew up just 5 miles from Lindsey with Olive trees ever where there weren't Orange trees.

There is nothing like an olive tree. They are the perfect kid-tree, for all the reasons that can come immediately to mind and for the fact that new reasons will continue to come.

The only disappointment is that the raw fruit is unfriendly. But properly cured they are as good as gold. My grandmother had a way of curing green olives that was unlike anything I've ever found in stores. It kept the fruit pure in flavor and texture and made you feel like you were eating meat, not fruit.

She passed before I could learn to duplicate the process. I still hope to find the secret someday.

The dB family said...

I never knew how interesting looking olive trees were! Wouldn't it be awesome if the one in the Garden was 2000 years old?! I think you are right. Wherever olive trees are living, this week, they are dancing. What a beautiful post!


Gumbo Lily said...

I enjoyed this post. We have a type of olive tree called Russian Olive. In some areas it is considered a "weed" but here, we are grateful for any trees that will grown and mature. One time I was walking through our shelter belt where there were some olive branches on the ground. I stepped on one and it went through my shoe -- large thorns! It made me wonder if the crown of thorns that was placed on Jesus' head was made of olive branches?


DebD said...

Christ is Risen!

I think olive trees are beautiful too, but don't like the fruit. We have a shrub out here called a Russian Olive. The leaves are very similar, which I think are lovely. It also has the most intoxicating fragrance when in bloom. I've kept several here on our property because I enjoy them so much. I'm hoping my bees will too.

GretchenJoanna said...

I looked up Russian Olive, as it sounds like something I would like, and here is what I found:
It is not native to the U.S. and can be invasive, as it "outcompetes" native vegetation, although until recently the government advocated planting it for windbreaks, etc. Now they discourage it.
I'll have to find out if it is a problem in my area, before I discount it completely. I love good smellers!

DebD said...

I'm so glad you shared that link Gretchen Joanna. I followed it only to discover that mine are actually not "Russian" olive but "Autumn" olive trees. The flowers on mine are white and the plant itself is much more bushy rather than tree-like. It is still quite invasive and grows very fast. I don't remember ever seeing them in my county until I moved to our current home 13yrs they're everywhere. The ripe fruit is very small and quite red. The squirrels and birds love it.
That was fun to learn about.. thanks!

Cathy said...

The word gethsemane means olive press, Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane amongst olive trees, how wonderful to read your post of the olive trees and ponder the significance of our LORD's time there.
And the photo of the tree living (and yes dancing) there, breathtaking in the physical and spiritual.

amy said...


I loved this reading this post, lovely photos, too. I love trees and enjoy the opportunity to learn about any of them. I was just watching a documentary on Byzantium and saw an ancient type of olive press... the oil has been a blessing for so many centuries.

And, I am reminded of a comment I read once concerning olives when researching myrrh-streaming icons. The myrrh streaming from icons, has, at times, been tested scientifically and the molecular structure was likened to that of olive oil. It must be a blessed fruit, indeed.

GretchenJoanna said...

I love that a blog is something you can write out of relative ignorance, and end up learning so much. Thank you all for your comments.

Kristine said...

I have a "real" pattern for the salwar as it is worn in India if you are ever interested in a pair for yourself -one size fits all. My patternmaking teacher taught us... the only drawback is that it doesn't have side seams, so no pockets. But it does have really cool quilted ankles.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the reflection. We have quite a few olive trees in our city, and they are favorites of mine. They take on a character unlike other trees. However, the city banned planting more unless they are the fruitless variety because the pollen is so allergenic. I used to have a Bible with olive wood covers. My uncle brought it back for me from the Holy Land. I haven't seen it in many years, unfortunately. Many years to your birthday tree!