Friday, August 1, 2014

In your image, orange, the world was made

Lunchtime. I consider the oranges at the bottom of our refrigerator. A friendly neighbor unloaded them on us after a weekend of harvesting, and they practically spill from the clear plastic bin. My four-year-old is happy to announce to friends and strangers met on daily walks that oranges prevent scurvy and that scurvy is something pirates and even regular people really ought to avoid. 'Cause it'll "make you dead." Lately, though she's happy to talk about that citrusy goodness in relation to pirates, this kid has been refusing oranges as a snack. And we have a lot of them.

I take a gamble and begin peeling two oranges. She says "yuck!" and contorts her face in exaggerated expressions of disgust which escalate into melodramatic demonstrations of extreme pain. So I take a break and we go to the internet so I can read her some poetry about oranges. Kids dig poetry, right?

Neruda's persuasive words notwithstanding, my daughter will not be moved. "That's nice," she says. "But I still won't eat any orange." Well. I tried.

I make my way through the segments of one orange, separating each crescent landmass from its companions. I handle the textured bumps and protrusions of a piece of peel, and form a continent from it. I show my daughter where we live in North America. I make a Gulf of Mexico with my thumbnail. I sliver off a piece for Hawaii. As I carve out a piece for Central America my daughter absentmindedly grabs an orange segment and pops it in her mouth. I pretend not to notice. With the aid of a map from a National Geographic, I carve Canada and South America, Africa and Scandinavia, Australia and India. This is becoming a project, and we're enjoying it.

The orange segments disappear, one by one, into her mouth, until all that remains is the shell of the world that once was, the outline of the multitudes it contained.

With a spare lamp we become a sun and cross the face of the earth, waking it with the first rays of dawn and letting it fall into a slumbering darkness.

Each orange consumed offers a brief overwhelming shot of both bitter and sweet, one besting the other but never eliminating it. 

Inseparable the two tastes exist, one the greater and one the lesser. And all packed together into the ever diminishing, juicy heart of the orange. 

In the end, with all the pieces swept together in a final messy Pangaea, the pieces approximate but don't quite recapture the wholeness of their original. We sweep away the remains of this world, and pull another from the bin.

Edit: This post ended up hitting the front page of Reddit, which was kind of crazy. For a few days, it seemed like the entire internet was scolding me for 1. my strained metaphors, and 2. using a Mercator Projection map as a model. Both points are well taken. I've got a weakness for metaphors, and I just hope that my kids someday find my grasping, sometimes overwrought imagery endearing, the same way I (sometimes) miss my dad's puns. And as far as the Mercator Projection: never again. I promise.

And, more recently, I worked an orange peel into a map of the United States, another laborious but fun project to share with my daughter.