Posted by Pattie on 7/28/2006 09:12:00 AM

Bowl of Cherries

It is the first day of my 50th year on this planet or the last day of the 49th year. I’m never sure. My husband has left the bed and I have become more conscious because of the door quietly shutting. I glance over to the other side of the be to confirm what I have heard. “Good” I shiver and I grab his side of the comforter and hog it all myself.

I am laying upside down on the hide-a-bed. My CPAP mask has worked its way onto my ears so I free one hand from the warm blankets to adjust. I wiggle a little bit to position my back between the nasty bars of the bed and find the sweet spot. Slowly I drift back to sleep.

This, of course, if unacceptable to the cat whose job it is to run everyone out of bed in the morning so she can have it to herself. I’m unsure of whether I actually got to go back to sleep or not, but slowly I become aware of the need to walk up to big house and take advantage of the facilities. The cat has positioned herself on my bladder is patiently waiting for her reward.

I pull off the mask, the blankets, the cat and lift myself over the arm of the sofa nearly falling to the floor. “Great,” I think, “let’s fall and break our hip on our 49th birthday.”

My husband is meditating in the living room and seems content to not be disturbed so I lumber into the kitchen and note on the clock that it is 6:15. That’s A.M. Yikes!

Sleeping the night before was not the best nor the worst. A desert monsoon storm in the middle of the night had both soothed me and unnerved me. The soothing eventually won out and I had slept pretty good for, apparently, only 5 hours.

I spy a bag of black cherries in the fridge. Hmmmm.

I pull out a colander and wash the bag of cherries in the sink. Red juice darkens the white sink. They are ripe.

I pull out two bowls and a knife and put them on the cutting board with the colander full of freshly washed, ripe, dark, juicy delights. I take the cutting board with my goodies to the dining room table to begin pitting.

I am lost in the process. At first, I am neat. I spend some time pulling stems and putting them in the smaller bowl. Then I slice the juicy red meat of each cherry just so and try to pit them with the knife’s edge. Juice and water mix and form a stream on the cutting board that belies the unevenness of the board and/or the table. I quickly get a couple of paper towels. I wash my hands that are already covered in the red blood of the cherries. I mop up the stream and move papers from the path.

A bowl of cherries.

The thought amuses me. Life is a bowl of cherries.

I get lost in the metaphor.

My 50th year promises to be one of the best of my life. Career, family, friendship, financial reward and creativity seem to be converging this year.

I think about my free will astrology horoscope I had read earlier in the week:

“Travel writer Bruce Chatwin walked around Australia as he researched and meditated on the indigenous people's beliefs about what the land was like in the ancient past. He wrote: "Aboriginal creation myths tell of the legendary totemic beings who wandered over the continent in the Dreamtime, singing out the name of everything that crossed their path--birds, animals, plants, rocks, waterholes--and so singing the world into existence." Given the fact that you're now primed to create a new domain or two, Leo, may I suggest the aborigines' approach? You'll infuse everything with extra beauty if you play around with singing it into existence.”

Create a new domain or two. That is eerily pertinent.

As I think about my bowl of cherries, I continue to purposefully tear meat from stem and pit. Pitting three pounds of cherries is a daunting task. My neat approach has long since been abandoned and I am now pretty much just digging the pit out of cherry. The process seems to have the same result. A stemless, pitless cherry split in half. I am pleased with the cool juice on my fingers and growing red stain under my nails. The cherries are leaving their mark.

Life is a bowl of cherries.

Wow. I’ve spent 49 years getting the pits out. I turn philosophical and stretch the metaphor to its limits in my mind. Stems are the past, the connect to tree and root. Pits are the future that will now be redirected. None of these pits will become a tree, but they gave their futures for mine. I feel gratitude to the stems and pits. I anticipate the meat meant for the pits and now meant for me and those I love. Hmmmm. But there is a lot of waste. Life, I guess to myself, is both wasteful and messy. I think there may be some law of physics about that.

Life is half a bowl of cherries, so far.

My hands already show signs of what I learn is called rhupus. I haven’t been diagnoses yet, but I am showing signs of deformities in my hands over the past year. I am aware that I may someday be disabled with rheumatoid type twists in my hands and feet. I am one of the less than 1% lupus sufferers who have these symptoms. I am continuing my outlier streak.

I have to rest. My arthritis isn’t so bad today. I’ve been on prednisone lately and have been moving more freely. But I have to rest if I am going to get to that bowl of cherries.

I start composing an essay about my little metaphor in my head and now I am aware of my inner narration. “I am no longer careful about pitting,” I write to myself in inner monologue as I make a big mess and simultaneously plot to write about this later.

I stain my nightshirt. “I even have stains on my nightshirt now.”

I mistakenly throw a cherry in the pit bowl. “I even make mistakes as I follow the routine of pulling meat from pit.”

I stand up, go to the sink and wash my hands when I drop a cherry onto the carpet. No stain there, thank goodness. As I wash my hands, I remember narrating my activities to myself as a kid. I used to compose and simultaneously act out all sorts of storylines while playing alone as a 7 year old. I suspect that this is the childhood practice of most writers. Composing how one will communicate something is a pre-occupational-hazard.

I am reminded that I am a writer above all else. This year my “day gig” will be more lucrative than ever before and I have the chance to prove my leadership and innovativeness in ways I’ve never had the opportunity to do so before.

But above even that, I’m a writer. A good affirmation for the 50th year of my life.

About two-thirds of the way through the pitting process, I begin to wonder what I will be doing with all these cherries. My priority of my inner chatter shifts from the process at hand to the future of this bowl. I start planning for success. Breakfast will definitely be the initiation. I mentally note the existence of cereals and rice milk in my friend’s kitchen.

We’ve been camping out in the backyard of some friends in Tucson. They have generously left us their house while they are away for the weekend. This is mostly to provide time and space for us to work. Not having them here to celebrate my birthday is not unusual for me. Anyone born in the summer months knows that there will be no party. Instead, you get a dozen separate events over several weeks where friends make up to you that they were not in town on your birthday. I’ve never really decided which is best, but the lack of a formal celebration is not insulting anymore. It just is.

I look into the cherry bowl and realize there must be less than 20 cherries left. I count them. 14. 13. 12. 11. 10. 9. 8. 7. 6. I stop and recount, yep, 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Yay! I’ve pitted them all. I now have a bowl of cherries.

I call my husband into the kitchen to pull the cereal from the top shelf. I offer him a serving and he agrees to eat cherries and cereal with me. He has his morning tea. I find a small amount of left-over fruit smoothie in the blender in the fridge.

“This will go bad before they get back,” I announce.

“Yes,” my husband mocks me, “we had to eat it before it went bad.”

I laugh and sit down to my organic, high fiber cereal, rice milk, lots of cherries and ginger-laced berry smoothie.

The breakfast reminds me of my age and my disability. Cherries are great for arthritic pain. Rice milk because I can no longer “tolerate” the lactose in cow’s milk. Calcium laced flakes to prevent all those bone things that the women in my family get. Fiber for, well, its breakfast, so let’s just say we know it is good to have some fiber in the diet.

I mentally start to note debates over food but decide that it is too much trouble to worry about on at my birthday breakfast. Besides, for now, life is a bowl of cherries.

Carl sits across from me and I nudge the cherries in his direction. He gets the hint and puts them on his cereal.

About half way through my bowl, I find a pit. I laugh. All that work and I still missed one. I give a disclaimer to Carl regarding the pits. He threatens to sue me if he breaks a tooth. I laugh and then find another pit in mine.

One pit is funny. Two pits and I start worrying about my abilities. Then a third. I am thrown into a sea of self-doubt which is only overcome by my lame attempts to calculate the probabilities of how many pits are still in the big bowl. After great debate and talking myself off the mental ledge, I decide to enjoy the cherries and put up with the pits. Another metaphor.

The juice from the cherries have taken over the bowl of bland cereal and rice milk. Even bites without the meat of the fruit carry its signature. Tart, sweet cherries. The textures seem to weave together nicely into a comforting sensation. A security blanket for the tongue. My tummy is getting filled up nicely. The ginger and berry smoothie provide just the right amount of context to make the experience complete.

Carl pours another bowl. I nudge the cherries towards him again, playfully.

“I don’t think we can eat all those in one sitting,” he smiles.

I laugh. Yes. That’s right. That’s what makes life a bowl of cherries. You can’t eat it all in one meal.

Carl wraps the remaining in plastic wrap and puts it in the fridge. I start planning lunch – RiceDream frozen desert with cherries and chocolate. For after dinner, plain yogurt and cherries. Tonight I will put what’s left in the freezer to be used in the next smoothie.

This is a nice start to a new year in which I anticipate lots of cherries.