Dust clouded up in swirls underneath the tires of our two-door car on that gravel Florida road last December. We were driving to the camp where the yoga retreat would be, down a quiet and forgotten road lined with trees heavy with oranges and lemons.
The sun was bright and the air clear. Just me and my littlest boy, on an adventure of our own fashioning, out of time and place, to explore the possibilities.
Those branches drooped under the weight of the citrus hanging there. Clinging for comfort, for growth, and ultimately to be plucked when ripe for human enjoyment.
Or to fall to the ground if ignored beyond its ideal state.
The air was refreshing. We parked on the grass parking lot, under a leafy tropical tree, short in its stature. We walked over long dirt and sand roads, past tents and cabins, the lake shining in the distance.
People told me not to swim in Florida lakes for fear of alligators, but my boy wanted to kayak. The lifeguard said it was safe. Still, I stood at the edge of the water, walked up and down the dock, guiding his paddling path with my watchful maternal gaze.
He was so happy.
On the sand, he and some other children used paddles to dig into the dirt. They dumped buckets of lake water into the holes freshly dug, mixing it into mud, gleeful in their work.
The day was open to possibility, and so were we. At night, we slept in quiet hotel room, his small 8-year-old body curled next to mine, covered in his favorite flannel pajamas.
It always takes one night, at least, to get used to sleeping in a different place. Even when nights in my own bed find me tossing sleepless, there is a comfort in the familiar.
And yet, the unfamiliar can be wonderful. Fun. Delicious.
We attended the yoga retreat for two days, surrounded by devotees of another belief system, while we kept eyes open and ears awake to learn about another world. We incorporated what inspiration we could find in the tender blades of grass into our own inherent knowing.
And then, once it was time to go, we stepped into another world together, a world of imagination and discovery, again just the two of us, under the beaming sun, pleased and energized by the opportunity to explore new parts of ourselves.
I bought oranges some months ago and ended up throwing away most of what I purchased. Part of me did not crave the sweet juicy taste – that seems to happen most now, in these winter months, when, ironically or perhaps not, citrus is at its best.
The ones I bought were too early, flown far from their native trees and soil, to please the palates of northerners.
Except, when something is chosen before it’s ready, it’s never pleasing.
The pulp was mealy, the color less than vibrant. They were hard to peel, lacked juiciness, and the flavor was dull.
In short, they weren’t ready.
But neither was I.
In the past week or two, I’ve bitten into the sweet explosion of oranges ready to be consumed. Cara Cara, navel, blood oranges.
By spring, my taste for oranges has dissipated, and it’s just in time, for the fruit itself is no longer appetizing. Its season done, its offering withheld.
It’s been a year since our little Florida jaunt, and I think about it often – for the freedom and wonder it offered us, for the moment in time where we could just go and explore and enjoy.
In a way, we could fill our days with this sense of discovery, but we rarely do. It’s only when we go away, or have a new experience, or create an island in the world of routine that we rediscover the wonder of this beautiful world.
Oranges. A simple pleasure, an easy delight. But only if we care to notice.