15 December 2010

Some Thoughts On Rotten Oranges

My first finished Pomander Ball! Smelled fantastic
My pomander balls have finished drying, and so last night I took them out of the closet, tied some pretty ribbon around each in a bow with a little loop for hanging, and then wrapped them up for my friends. Of the 21 I originally made, only 15 survived. The other 6 had somehow rotted and soft, despite the fact that I prepared them all the exact same way, so I’m happy I had made so many of them. This means I didn’t have enough for my friends back home, but instead I was able to give away three more up here in New York. I’ll just buy tiny bottles of wine or something for my boys in Virginia, I suppose.

While inspecting the dried oranges for soft spots, it occurred to me that the process of creating the pomander balls exemplified a pattern I had always heard, but never really experienced, with magic: no matter how well you do your spell, sometimes it just doesn’t work. My pomander balls turned out the same way. I did the exact same thing to every single orange. I handpicked the oranges, checking each one for soft spots or any blemishes before I poked them full of cloves. I put roughly the same number of cloves into each fresh orange. I rolled them in the same spice mixture. I hung them all up in the same closet for the same amount of time. I focused the same friendly, healing love into each one while making them, and inspected them daily throughout the drying process. Somehow, over the course of the last weekend, a handful had gone bad. I can’t explain it; it just happened. However, 15 did survive in beautiful, scented, potpourri-worthy condition, and now they bear ribbons and hang on display in my friends’ rooms, filling them with spicy-citrus goodness. I got lots of hugs and smiles in return, making their creation totally worth the effort. It just still bothers me that only 15 out of 21 made it. Nothing was different, so why did those attempts fail?

It makes me wonder if there was something unseen within those oranges that was already turning them bad before I even started, that all my positive energy and wishful thinking and focused effort could do nothing to change. People, I think, can be the same way. As they say, looks can be deceiving: what’s perfect and pretty and whole on the outside can conceal a rotten core. We’ve all seen it happen, seen the truth slowly unravel before us, when even the most convincing and sweet-sounding lie eventually crumbles. I know I’ve been fooled plenty of times by people who seem to have my best intentions at heart, who seem to genuinely care about me and my feelings and my welfare, and then only prove otherwise through their actions. Because I try to believe the best in people—sometimes to my own detriment, when presented with contrary evidence—I’m not always quick on the uptake; there have definitely been times when I should have smelled the rot within the orange. I finally plucked another rotten orange from the bunch in my own life, and, through deleting numbers and conversations and defriendings, managed to cleans the rotted orange from my life. I’m better off without him. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

Luckily, most of my oranges—and most of my friends—are good. They possess no rotten core, concealed by a seemingly flawless surface. They’re exactly as they appear: whole. Unblemished. Those are the friends I’ll take with me as I tread ever forward along this twisted path towards truth. Maybe one day I’ll figure out how to tell the good ones from the bad immediately, but until then, I’ll just have to keep waiting for the bad ones to reveal themselves one at a time. At least with oranges, you can break them open and see directly inside; unfortunately, to form something lasting out of them, that’s not an option. Same with friendships. I could poke holes and pry into all the people I know to find their weak spots, but then I wouldn’t have many friends left. Once the rind is broken, it can’t survive. The broken orange can’t turn into a pomander ball.

And on that note, I’m going to end my melodramatic metaphors, and call it a night. I have two more finals left to take, and then I’ll be home for a few weeks with my family and friends. Riotous Yule bash is on the way, and there will be lots and lots more present-wrapping in my future. Tomorrow is full of cleaning and organizing and packing and studying for my last two exams, both of which are Friday. Then…it’s the nine hour drive home. Thank goodness I have a little brother to share it with :) He’s a good orange for sure.

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