"Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won't either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could." -- Louise Erdrich
I fell for fiction-writer Louise Erdrich after reading her wonderful novel “Love Medicine” and have since gobbled up her short stories in The New Yorker. I’m overdue to read another novel by her. I’m not sure where this quote came from; I found it in the Facebook post of a good friend today.
I love the imagery of eating and food Erdrich gives us. After bluntly stating that “life will break you,” she reminds us that the reason we are here is to be swallowed up by life, even to the point of being broken and bruised. Next she calls us to notice that the earth’s bounty also often experiences the same cycle, the same falls, the apples “wasting their sweetness.” We are like that bounty. And as we become witnesses to the apples in both their deliciousness and their sad fates, it makes our own suffering somehow more natural and bearable, even lovelier. We have companions in the sweetness “in heaps” all around us.
Finally there’s another turn: we’re not only like the apples, but we get to taste them – taste each other. So the thought comes full circle – we taste, and we are tasted, and it’s this experience that swallows us up. Life is the grand eater and we are its food; and at the same time, we are grand eaters of life.
As a diabetic I love being told to engage with sweetness – to listen to it, to notice its natural source, to tell myself about it, and to taste as much of it as I can.
Of course the apple means knowledge too, knowledge that is both sacred and inextricably involved with the body. No perversion of the story of the Garden of Eden can erase that. The golden apple shines in the stories of many cultures, promising divine information and immortality. How tantalizing that timelessness is offered in such a savory, physical package, one so transitory as it is devoured.
Diabetes gives me similar tantalizing knowledge – glimpses of the precious gold of the present moment in all its physicality, and of the spirit (that is, me) who chooses to savor that moment, over and over.
Taste the day, and enjoy.
copyright © 2013 Lisa Bernstein