I think it was the bananas this time.
John and I stopped at the supermarket, on our way home from New Brunswick and our Monday choir rehearsal. I'd done a bit of shopping earlier in the day, but the store closest to our house doesn't carry some things -- like 2 liter bottles of seltzer, and today, there were about seven bananas available for purchase, all of which looked as though they'd been kicked to New Jersey from Costa Rica, or wherever they were from.
So we did the second of the day's provision runs, and because of the way the store is laid out, produce is just inside the front door, and there, a few aisles in from the apple display, was a great heap of beautiful bananas -- some rather green, others in that wonderful stage between unripe inedibility and the brown-dot stage, when I find the fruit to be too mentholated, somehow. I selected the perfect bunch and we went on to search out the other items on our little list.
When we got home, I laid this bunch of picturesque yellow fruit on top of the glorious red apples I was able to find at our nearby supermarket. The bananas looked so luscious, I just had to have one. It was perfect, and delicious, the flesh in that state of almost abstract firmness, that makes me almost believe that the fruit is some artificial confection.
Why would eating a perfect banana make me suddenly feel so incredibly fortunate? Who can understand how, at times, the apparent banality of my life will suddenly take on an enviable polish and grace that is almost jarring. When all is said and done, for all the challenges about which I'm sometimes too eager to complain, I still live like a prince. Or better, actually.
Sometimes, when one of these moods arises, I find myself comparing my life with that of some incredibly romanticized, iconic historical figure. Henry VIII is often the comparison I find myself choosing, maybe because of all those wives, or because I happen to know just a little bit more about him than I do about other equally eminent persons.
I'm pretty sure, for instance, that Henry VIII couldn't take a hot shower, even if he'd wanted to. He enjoyed practically no privacy whatsoever. (I'm not even going to do the tedious listing of high-tech wonders; I think we all know what they are, beginning with cars and televisions and working our way up the chain of miracles) Dental care? Medical attention? The luxury of being able to find nearly any foodstuff I might want, at any time of the year, whether there's an apple tree in leaf within 500 miles or not. Well, I guess Mallomars are an exception, but still...
And then, instead of these comparisons that leave me feeling so incredibly fortunate, I like to change my perspective, as it were -- imagining that I can rise up high enough to be able to see the chain of activities that unfold, in order for a bunch of bananas to come through our door, and find their place in the fruit bowl, along with lemons and heads of garlic, blood oranges and apples all the way from New Zealand. How many hands are involved, from harvest, through transportation and then out of the back of a truck and onto a heap in the air-conditioned comfort of a place simply over-running with things edible, utile or simply novel. That I should find myself anywhere in this continuum would be wonderful enough -- but to see that I'm at the farthest end of this chain, where everyone else's burden becomes my sustenance -- is fairly incredible.
To be honest, though, I'm not sure whether this heightened state of awareness, about the interconnectedness of so many individual humans, none of whom will ever so much as say hello to each other, is something that can be borne on more than the comparatively rare occasion. I think. I already seem to have enough trouble, feeling fully integrated and present in my own life -- if I were to add this way of seeing, in which no single thing is merely itself, but is instead the sum total of all the efforts that went into creating, for instance, a can of kitchen cleanser, or a bottle of maple syrup, or a jar of mayonnaise.
Every day, though, I do try to voice some kind of gratitude, out loud -- not that anyone's listening, but because maybe everyone's listening somehow. Thanks. I hope I would have the good sense and strength and character, to be able to do the same for you.
© 2013 Walter Zimmerman