Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fruit bowl

As happens every October, all around me appear magnificent tableaus. The trees burst with crimson, scarlet, peach, gold, russet; small yellow leaves float on the dark water of the brook. Against a bright blue sky flies an arrow of Canada geese.

Yet just as beautiful is the tableau on my kitchen counter: one of the loveliest arrangements of fruit I have ever seen. And I didn’t even try specially to arrange it that way; it just happened. A round, shiny, red tomato; a verging-on-ripe yellow banana; a pale green pear; an avocado as dark green as green can be without turning to a shade of black; an orange. I have to restrain myself from fishing for adjectives to describe the colors; the fruits themselves are the best modifiers for these colors. Crayola would name these colors banana yellow, pear green. The fruits are such perfect hues.

Their spectrum catches my eye every time I walk through the kitchen, and I just can’t stop marveling at how beautiful this arrangement of fruit is. At other times of year, I have just as much fruit in the house but don’t always keep it on the counter. Summer fruits – sweet, juicy peaches and nectarines – attract fruit flies, so keep them in the fridge, as I also do with winter apples and grapefruit. But the fall harvest stays out in the silver fruit bowl, making my kitchen more beautiful than any intentional work of art ever could.

I’m reminded of one of Mary Oliver’s best-known poems, The Summer Day. (I’m no poetry scholar; in all likelihood, any poem I know is quite likely to be “one of the best-known” by that poet.) Oliver wrote:

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean--
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down--
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

…and I find myself wondering accordingly, who made all of this beautiful fruit with its rainbow of colors, and why? Each piece would taste just as good if their skins or peels were dirt brown. They didn’t need to be so beautiful….but they are. Every time I eat arugula, I think to myself something similar to Mary Oliver’s questions: “Who made this lettuce?” We could have been just as satisfied with endive and romaine, and yet whoever made Oliver’s grasshopper also made arugula, a green that tastes garlicky and musky and delicious.

Who made grasshoppers, and oranges, and arugula? I could get a lot of different answers to that question if I asked even the smallest subset of people. I wouldn’t want to have to try to answer it myself. And yet there’s a feeling today that Divinity nestles in my fruit bowl, reminding me every time I pass it of all that is inexplicable and yet beautiful in the world.

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