I place the orange clementines in the blue bowl in the center of the dining room table. The colorful fruit, seedless mandarin oranges, form a tableau worthy of Matisse. I sit in my chair at the head of the table and peel one, inhaling the scented oil as I bend each piece of rind away from the flesh. The sections separate neatly and I line them up on the table in front of me, anticipating the first bite, which is always the best. My teeth puncture the little pillow of nectar to release a spray of sweetness across my tongue and down my throat.
I take my time with each section, contemplating what brought me this treat. I imagine the farmer tending the orchard, protecting the clementines from the elements, insects and birds. The hands that pick the fruit and the ones that place it in the boxes. I envision it being loaded into the cargo hold of an airplane, and briefly my mind thinks about the people who fly the plane, design the shape of its wings, the air traffic controllers, and the company that makes the airplane tires. I see the woman stacking the fruit at the grocery store, a pyramid in the center of the aisle and a pedestal with little clementine sections piled up with toothpicks to lure me to taste this delicacy. If I were to draw a map of everyone who conspired to bring me this gift, it would be a web covering the earth.
The only food I grow are some tomatoes and a few hardy herbs. So the fact that I, in this abundant land, can have citrus fruit in the northwest, bananas in the Rockies, and salmon in the desert, is like being a potentate in ancient times with the rarities brought from the ends of the earth, just for my pleasure.
My cabinets are full of vanilla from Madagascar, cinnamon from Sri Lanka, olives from Spain, coffee from Africa, and tea from India. As I eat and drink these gifts, I am also taking in the energy of those that brought them to me. And when I am aware enough to give thanks, I acknowledge this chain of abundance, and my place in it, which ensures its continued flow.
Just as you receive, you also give. And as you give, it is important to allow the gratitude of others to flow back to you. When someone thanks you for raking the leaves, pouring the wine, changing the baby, walking the dog, or making your special pecan pie, accept it with grace. Don’t diminish it or say, “It was nothing.” Be grateful for their gratitude, for it is an expression of love. And if you don’t let in love and gratitude, what will you have left to give?
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