Friday, September 30, 2011

Fruit of the Harvest

I wandered the aisles of the vegetable section of the store. Harvest time has such a wonderful offering of fresh  fruits and vegetables- apples freshly picked from local orchards, cauliflower wrapped in their huge stiff leaves, peppers, onions, corn, coconuts...
Coconuts? Are coconuts a fall harvest fruit?
I picked up the coconut. Asherel had always wanted a coconut. She had been intrigued with coconuts even before seeing the Monty Python skit where two coconut halves are used to make the sound of horse hooves while the actor cantered around the room.  I turned the coconut over and pounded its hard shell. I had no idea how to open or use the coconut insides, but I put the coconut in my basket.

Later, Asherel passed by the coconut on the kitchen counter.
"You bought a coconut!" she cried in delight, "Why!?"
"Because I knew you wanted one and I love you. What will we make with the coconut?"
"I don't know," she said, "Can I cut it open?"
"Do you know how?"
"No."
"Well research it first."
Shortly after that she sent me a link. It listed the tools needed to open a coconut: pick, hacksaw, carving tools or sharp flexible knife.
I have always pictured coconuts as the  food of simple, indigenous people who wear skirts of grass and build huts of palm fronds. Somehow, I can't picture them with a hacksaw, as they prepare their Pina Colada.

Nonetheless, as soon as she finished school, she gathered the coconut demolition tools. First, she pierced the coconut soft spot with the pick, and drained the coconut water. Friends had advised me to drink that, but the pick had been a little dirty and a bunch of brown specks floated in the water. We dumped it. Some experts advise whacking the coconut with the back of a meat cleaver. It will split roughly in half. But Asherel wanted a clean cut for her horse imitation instrument, so she opted for the hacksaw.  Let me be the first to warn you, hacksawing a coconut in half is not as easy as you would think, which is why you don't see the indigenous grass skirted people using it. A half hour later, she had two clean halves of a very beautiful milky white centered coconut.
"Save the coconut meat," I said, "I will make something with it."
"What will you make?"
"I have no idea. I have never even seen the inside of a fresh coconut."
So next, she followed the instructions to pull the coconut meat away from the shell. At first, she had to laboriously shave away pieces, but then she reached the inside of the hard shell, pulled away a small section, and the other chunks were cleanly wedged away from the shell.

We both practiced cantering around the house, clapping the coconut halves together in the rhythm of a galloping horse. I have no rhythm, so wasn't very good, but Asherel made a creditable canter sound. I put the white insides in a bowl, and stuck them in the refrigerator. More research will be needed before I know what to do with it.

That night, I dreamt that Matt and his new wife Karissa, Asherel and I were all eating dinner at the top of a lighthouse that was perched in the ocean. The sea was violent, and the waves kept swirling higher, and then there was an explosion. The top of the lighthouse was blown into pieces and I clutched Asherel's hand as the four of us were catapulted into the raging water. I knew that we were all going to die. And then, all four of our heads popped back up above the water, and clinging to each other, we then swam safely and unharmed to shore.

I had bought the coconut remembering Asherel's younger days, and younger passions. I had also been thinking of my son Matt when he was young and how important his youthful desires seemed to him then, but all had morphed into adult dreams and goals. Long ago, my little boy Anders and I would dig "goo holes" in the sand, and believe perhaps if we dug far enough, we could reach China.  I had tried to satisfy their whims, to make their childhood magical when I could.

As I looked at the coconut, a sob had caught in my throat, thinking how fun it had all been. I miss my little children, I thought. They are all grown or nearly so. It is no longer as easy to satisfy the desires of their heart, or protect them from the disappointments or explosions of dreams.  All I can really do now is be near when I am able, and pray when I am not.

When Jesus was preparing to leave this earth, the Disciples felt abandoned. How would they make it without their leader? But He promised them, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." But He did leave their physical presence. None of us can still touch His hand, or feel His arms around us, protecting us from overwhelming waves or crumbling dreams. Still, He is there. He has not forsaken us. He is not beside us any longer, but inextricably within. Maybe, in a similar way, all those moments of joy with my little children were also being deeply imbedded in their soul, an indwelling reservoir that might buoy them to the surface when trials crashed over their head.

When the hard shell of the coconut split open, the fibrous, brown outside was starkly contrasted by the milky white of the inside. Asherel tasted a small piece of the fresh coconut.
"Mmmm, it's good," she said smiling.
Yes, I thought, what is hidden in the heart can be good, very good.

Exekial 11:
I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. 20 Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.

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