Eating an Orange

When I was a girl, reading through the Little House on the Prairie series, I was always stumped as to why the girls were so excited to receive an orange (of all things) in their Christmas stockings.  An orange?  A piece of fruit?

Now, after living in the deep, cold North, for a long while, as an adult, where I understand a few more things, I’ve discovered something.  Good oranges are hard to come by.  Good fruit is hard to come by.  I’ve absolutely stopped buying peaches and plums, because when I get them home, they’re bready and completely non-edible!  Oh, except for this tiny window of August, thank goodness…oh wait, is it September already?

So.  I understand about the oranges now.  They’re a real treat when we can get good ones.

Which brings me to a lovely passage in A Pebble for Your Pocket, a book just sent to me by a dear friend.  The author is Thich Nhat Hanh, described in the introduction as a “Zen Buddhist monk who lives in Plum Village, a community of monks, nuns, and laypeople in the south of France.”  He gives retreats on mindfulness.

Here are his thoughts on eating an orange.

“When you look deeply at an orange, you realize that an orange–or any fruit–is nothing less than a miracle.  Try it.  Take an orange and hold it in your palm.  Breathe in and out slowly, and look at it as if you were seeing it for the first time.

“When you look at it deeply, you will be able to see many wonderful things–the sun shining and the rain falling on the orange tree, the orange blossoms, the tiny fruit appearing on the branch, the color of the fruit changing from green to yellow, and then the full-grown orange.  Now slowly begin to peel it.  Smell the wonderful scent of the orange peel.  Break off a section of the orange and put it into your mouth.  Taste its wonderful juice.

“The orange tree has taken three, four or six months to make such an orange for you.  It is a miracle.  Now the orange is ready and it says, “I am here for you.”  But if you are not present, you will not hear it.  When you are not looking at the orange in the present moment, then the orange is not present either.

“Being fully present while eating an orange, an ice cream cone, or any other food is a delightful experience.”

I think this contemplation is along the same lines as the exercise I mentioned the other day–eating and savoring a raisin.

The simplest things can teach the most profound things, don’t you think?

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The quote I live by

Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.
--Rainer Maria Rilke in Letters to a Young Poet

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