Sunday, May 20, 2012

A is for...

It's such a simple image. A red apple sitting on the pavement by the side of the road. A freeway off ramp in this case. How did it get there retaining all it's shiny appeal? Store bought for sure, it's little bar code sticker proudly reflecting the morning sun like a sheriff's badge. Placed there for the finding? Perhaps. No sign of any homeless person with sign. No sign of any spilled groceries. No sign of anything human for that matter. I'm exiting the Interstate, slowing to a stop, beginning the crawl to the 3-way intersection that takes me home and I casually look to the right. Red, ripe, ready to be eaten, yet quite unreachable, this little piece of fruit is quite the Zen Koan. OK, I'll start and then maybe in a while, an hour, a day, a month or a year, something more will emerge. Maybe it'll take a decade or a lifetime, or maybe not at all, but that's the challenge. If I notice the apple sitting on the edge of the road, how many others don't? How many who catch a glimpse think not a second more, how many are still wondering? I'm reminded of a wonderful Eudora Welty story called "A Visit of Charity." A little girl, about nine or ten years of age goes with her schoolmates to visit a home for the elderly. She takes with her an apple that is left over from her lunch. Before entering the home, she dallies and hides the apple beneath a big bush in front of the institution. She'll pick it up on her way home. Throughout the story, Welty presents the reader with all the sights and smells of the residential facility. It's depressing. Homes for the elderly like that are usually that way. The little girl is definitely moved by the experience as she reads to people with limited sight, helps others with small tasks they are unable to do for themselves, and inspires and entertains with her smile and pleasant disposition. All the while, this experience is taking a toll on her emotions. When the time comes to leave, the children all file out of the front door and back into their Fourth and Fifth Grade lives. When the time is right, the little girl goes back to the bush, uncovers the apple and begins to walk home. She stops and looks at the sweet, robust, apple. She sees the color, feels the weight, imagines the taste. The story ends as she takes a big, sloppy, satisfying bite. An apple is for more than eating.

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