Feb. 24th, 2011

noblwish: (Default)
At a recent Toastmasters meeting, someone asked the group, "If you were a tree, what sort of tree would you be?"  This was part of the Table Topics session where anyone is welcome to stand up and give a 1-2 minute response.  The question was rather boring, but the answer one young woman provided really got me thinking.

According to this woman, there was really only one "right" answer to this question, especially if you are ever asked it in an interview.  "I would be an Oak," she said, and went on to describe all the employment-worthy traits, both real and imagined, that an oak allegedly possesses.  I barely recall a single word she said after that.  I was struck by the insincerity of it all.  Why ask such a question if there's only one right answer?  And how many times does an interviewer need to hear that same answer before s/he realizes that the candidate is lying?  And if I were ever asked that question, what would my true answ.....

MESQUITE!

Heh... that didn't take long.  Why Mesquite?  As a Native Texan, I grew up climbing Mesquite trees and scarfing Mesquite barbecue, so the tree has a special place in my heart, but in what ways are we similar?

The Mesquite is often misunderstood.  Most know it merely as a scrub-brush... not a real tree, but that's because they've only ever seen the small ones.  True, a young Mesquite is weak, scrawny, spindly and not all that attractive.  It's also rather unpredictable and seems to pop up EVERYWHERE like a bad weed!  Few survive to prove the cynics wrong.

Those that do, however, grow wide and tall with strong, handsome, resilient limbs and beautiful, lacy foliage obscuring nasty thorns.  I've heard stories that the thorns can be poisonous, but having been scratched by them more times than I can count, I think that's more of tall-tale told by Texans to keep Yankees away.  Each Mesquite seems to branch in a direction and shape unique unto itself, formed by some unseen master, or by the individual will of the tree, alone... who can tell?  The one in my front yard was shaped like a hand reclining backward from its wrist -- you could literally walk right up its main trunk several feet into the air, if you had a good running start.  No better jungle gym was ever created!  Texan children of all ages, from toddler to crone, have explored the branches of the Mesquite, hopping, swinging, bouncing on its limbs, ducking this way and that to avoid thorns and reach greater heights.

The Mesquite provides sustenance for both man and beast.  Bees gather nectar to produce Mesquite Honey which, I've heard, has a distinctively pleasing flavor.  The beans feed wild animals, such as coyotes.  Fermenting beans are like crack to cattle.  Dry bean pods can be harvested after dropping from the trees, then ground into flour or boiled for jelly.  If picked at the peak of ripeness (light brown, not yet fallen), they can be used for Mesquite Wine.  Candies, puddings... the list goes on!  There are rumors that the leaves of the Mesquite can be used as the basis of some traditional medicines, but what the Mesquite is best known for in the Southwest is the flavor its wood gives to Texas barbecue.  Hickory smoke ain't got nothin' on Mesquite!

So, if ever I were asked that question during an interview (and I do hope I am, someday), I will give my inquisitor an answer s/he would never expect:

I am a Mesquite.  I'm much more than, at first, I seem to be.  My outer beauty hides fierce defenses.  I am strong, yet resilient, versatile, adaptable, unpredictable, complex... and I have a lot to give.

April 2017

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