fresh picked

June 14th, 2013

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I forgot the way I had come. —Kanzan

The buds appear in early winter and bloom through early spring. Theirs is the perfume of youth, the scent of morning. They number in the thousands, perfect star-shaped flowers caressed by eager breezes until nearly all of them loosen and fall. Those left behind—about one in a hundred—have been spared by the iffy wind and weather. They stay on the branch until they form a tiny fruit, hard and green, hidden among the dark leaves. Plumped on full sun and fed by deep water, they grow round and soft. Their skin becomes thin; their color turns radiant.

One tree can produce up to three hundred oranges per year. Mature fruit lasts for months on a branch without ruin, long enough for two crops to be stored on the tree at once: the old and the new. Pick an orange from a tree in my front yard and its rind may be dirty or scarred, slightly shriveled, the color uneven, bulbous, shrunken: no two are alike. But under the layers of skin, scars, and dust, there is goodness, you see, pure goodness untempered by time. Once you taste it, you know for sure.

If you were offered a glass filled with life at its undiluted prime, would you refuse, preferring to gnaw on the bitter rind? That’s what we do when we cannot move past the past: we keep swallowing the sour and never reach the sweet.

Of all the splendors in this patch of paradise, these old trees are most dear to me. They are susceptible to disease, afflicted by parasites and flies, brittle and arthritic. On appearance, they’ve exhausted their stay. But season after season they carry on in continuous production. Their aroma is always fresh; their taste wakes me up. Oranges are in my blood. They are the family business. My grandfather grew oranges and he taught me how to eat them. He was the best grandfather you could ever have. The best ancestors teach you to forget, and when you learn their secrets, they give you the best reason to forgive.

Excerpted from the upcoming book Paradise in Plain Sight ©2014 by Karen Maezen Miller. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA. www.newworldlibrary.com

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6 Comments »

  1. Yummy. Thanks.

    Comment by Chris — June 14, 2013 @ 11:13 am

  2. Thank you. I keep being returned to this idea, of letting go of the past. I am realizing that it is something I need to work on. Like a road block, a large sign stopping me on the journey, it lights up to remind me to stay in this very moment.

    Comment by Jude Smith — June 15, 2013 @ 3:48 am

  3. Mmmm, delicious, Karen.

    As I mentioned to you already, my grandparents lived in the middle of an orchard of citrus. My grandfather always had a compote of fresh oranges and (Texas Ruby Red) grapefruit in the fridge. Now I realize the love and care that went into removing all the skin and seeds so that we could easily eat our fill of the gorgeous juicy fruit.

    Very much enjoying Hand Wash Cold and look forward to more!

    Comment by Clare Kirkconnell — June 15, 2013 @ 10:03 am

  4. “The best ancestors teach you to forget, and when you learn their secrets, they give you the best reason to forgive.”

    I don’t understand. But something is stirring in my soul reading that quote. My soul recognizes what I cannot yet grasp.

    Comment by mj — June 15, 2013 @ 7:35 pm

  5. Thank you for your gift of writing so beautifully.
    I think you mean….when you learn their secrets…when you become their age, or have experienced enough life that you now have an inkling of what they might have been going through, but did not share with you when you were younger and couldn’t understand…you can forgive them of any transgressions and maybe even forget.

    Comment by Kim Werfel — June 16, 2013 @ 12:00 pm

  6. This, so meanigfull so deep, I read your thoughts and immediately get submerged in the pool of mine.
    Mj shares, she doesn’t understand but something stirrs in her soul. I thought I understood, but it was just my own interpretation, I forward it to a friend navigating with me the stormy waters of transition into a new cycle of life and this is what she says “I can’t thank you enough for that post, it makes me think of us, past our prime, scarrred and toughened, yet still giving our best”. You see Karen, there’s nothing to understand, we all see what we need in the moment,it be a seed or a rainbow……..

    Comment by Daisy Marshall — June 17, 2013 @ 3:02 pm

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