Josna Rege

226. Consider the lilies of the field

In 2010s, Food, Inter/Transnational, Nature, Stories, United States, Words & phrases, Work on September 14, 2013 at 12:06 pm

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Beginning immediately after Labor Day weekend, traditionally the Summer’s last hurrah in the U.S., my fall teaching semester went directly into high gear, and by the following weekend I was already exhausted. I fussed and fretted all day Saturday getting a whole lot of nothing accomplished (nothing, nada, a big laddu, as we used to say in India), and by Sunday afternoon, with the new week looming, I had worked myself into quite a state. The September sun was suffusing the gardens with a golden glow, a gentle breeze was stirring the long grass, and all was right with the world. I and only I, it seemed, was stuck indoors, wallowing in gloom.

My mother has told me how miserable Sundays used to be in her childhood and youth, with everything closed, and only the school- or work-week to look forward to the next day. I too remember that schoolgirl’s Sunday afternoon feeling, as the weekend wound down inexorably and all my homework still remained to be done. And here I was slumped at my desk, succumbing helplessly in exactly the same way as I had half a century before.

I struggled to pull myself together: there was work to be done. With a tremendous effort, I managed to haul myself into a standing position, filled a bag of trash and a bin of recycling for the Monday morning pick-up, and emerged blinking from the darkened house—into glorious sunshine. After depositing the bins at the roadside, I ventured to walk on for a just a little stretch, but the world I encountered at my feet sent me straight back to fetch a cap, a camera, and a whole new attitude.

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I spent the rest of that afternoon strolling in the immediate neighborhood, soaking in the warmth of that late summer sun and taking in everything, every little thing. Several varieties of wine-red crabapples weighed down the gently swaying branches of roadside trees, the ripe ones piling up on the ground where they had dropped. A small quince bush, unwatered and unpruned, was choc-a-bloc full of yellow quinces with a pinky-gold blush. I polished a crabapple on my shirt and took a bite out of it: crisp, tangy perfection, with a wine-red blush streaking the white fruit inside; and slipped a quince into my pocket to slice and sample later. Out in our neglected vegetable garden I found a marigold bush in a riot of color and, picking a potful of flowers for my mother, came upon a little fellow in one, nestling luxuriously in its velvety folds (to paraphrase my friend Marianne’s response to the photograph).

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So much beauty, such abundance! Whether or not anyone noticed, picked, or ate them, these plants flowered and came to fruit, doing what they did with all their might.

Reflecting back on them now, a passage from the King James Bible comes to me:

And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (Matthew 6: 28-29)

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When I got home, I washed the little quince carefully, and cut it open. It was bursting with fully-developed seeds. Setting the half with the ripe seeds aside, perhaps to plant somewhere in our garden, I cut the other half into wafer-thin slices and tasted one. Wow—was it ever sour! And yet there was a taste behind the sourness that seemed to offer something that I craved. I took out some crackers and cheese, and a jar of locally made Trappist strawberry-rhubarb jam, distributed to all the guests at Nikhil’s friend Justin’s wedding the year before. Arranging it all ceremonially onto a pretty china plate, I tried the quince again, this time on a cracker with a slice of cheese and a blob of jam.

P1040634This time it too was perfect, the quincy sourness setting off the other tastes and textures. One was enough, though; the Trappist monks might have approved.

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  1. Very apt quotation! Easy to say and not so easy to really stop worrying. It goes on to say
    one of my favourite promises which is: Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you.

    • You’re right that it’s easier said than done, Marianne! What should be as easy as breathing we seem to make needlessly difficult by the endless activity of our fretful minds. And thank you for reminding me of the rest of the quotation, which tells us what we need to keep our eye fixed upon and what we need not worry about. I suppose the complete thought requires us to read verses 19-34, if not the whole chapter. x J

  2. […] Consider the Lilies of the Field, by Josna Rege I am reblogging this lovely story by one of my favorite bloggers, Josna Rege. […]

  3. Thank you for sharing this lovely story.

    • Thank you, Cynthia! And thanks so much for re-blogging it. I think this might be the first ever of my TMA stories to have been re-blogged! Warm regards, Josna

  4. Perfect finish to a grumpy day.

  5. Thanks, Kristin. (Yours or mine?!)

    • I thought yours. My day hasn’t been grumpy, just sort of tired.

      • Yes, it was just what I needed that afternoon (last Sunday). But it seems I have to learn these lessons over and over again, Today was rather like last week, except that I didn’t get outside much (and when I did, to pick what was left of the grapes I got into some poison ivy and had to scrub myself off, just in case). Have a relaxing evening.

  6. A fresh and delightful piece – complete with mouth-watering photography – Josna. You are craving colour and creativity I think!
    Evangeline

    • Thanks, E. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head! Named that craving stanched by the sourness of the quince. From reading your recent posts, I would think that you are combining both creativity and color, while continually on the move and in the open air.

  7. Lovely, Josna! The color and abundance in our neighborhood are so nourishing on these perfect fall days. It’s hard for me to stay indoors. And your story fits perfectly with the theme in our yoga classes this week–embracing the contrasts that contribute to our being whole. It’s not that the beauty and abundance of the outdoors erased what lay beneath the gloom. That ‘Sunday feeling’ is well motivated. The contrasts are real, vivid and important aspects of your experience, and of who you are.

    Photos are gorgeous. Remind me to ask you about your camera.

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