For the third time this year the apartment in which I am living is filled with the bright southbound sweetness of a vat of thinly sliced citrus boiling and boiling. It's incredible, it smells like everything in the house is made of candy and it's warm, so warm, warmer than its been indoors or outdoors for what feels like one hundred years. Sunny, radiant and toasty, windows in every room fogging up. I grew up in a place called Orange County and couldn't believe that it was named for the fruit. My mom tried to tell me, when she was young her family would drive down from Los Angeles and she and her sister would stick their heads out the window to smell the brightness growing in the groves as the round dark leaves of the trees whipped by. One weekend when I was young my dad took me to a house, a beautiful house, one of those places where they try to preserve history and volunteers dress up as figures from 100 years ago, bonnets and corsets and immaculately recreated antique wallpaper. It was a beautiful old victorian, said to resemble a wooden ship, light purple if I remember right. And out past the house there was the first orange grove I ever stepped in, what the docents said was the last orange grove left in the county. I breathed deep, sweetness.
Except I just checked because I wanted to see if the house was purple and from what I found online it wasn't purple, it was white all over but in the picture I saw there was a tree covered in purple flowers right in front of it, and it turns out that this wasn't really a historic site at all and in fact the entire house had been moved during a period of massive downtown redevelopment in 1980, they picked it up and moved it next door to the heritage museum less than a decade before I was born, and then they planted an orange grove in a place an orange grove had never grown before. So the house itself was really more of a monument to the fact that the house had been moved - an interesting thing to commemorate, for sure - and the orange grove itself wasn't exactly the last orange grove left in orange county but rather the last remaining orange grove in orange county, a living, oxygenating demonstration of what used to be there (it's been pointed out before but the suburbs are always naming things after whatever natural wildlife the cul de sacs are paving over, turtle creek, oak valley, etc). A bit like seeing the last of a species in a cage at the zoo. This bright and beautiful fruit used to cover the rolling hills.
(resurfacing: the memory of there being a lima bean field halfway between my childhood home and my elementary school, used to walk by it carrying my cello on my back. overheard something I didn't understand, somebody fell into the thresher, family sold the land, shortly after that the little cramped townhomes popped up out of the dirt resembling nothing so much as little dewy wet overnight mushrooms. and there's an isamu noguchi sculpture called "spirit of the lima bean" not too far from the field where it happened and it's a big, immovable pile of rocks that, yes, does exactly feel like grief, or at least what you think that family's grief might have been like)
But someone brought the oranges there, someone hired someone under what I can't imagine to be fair circumstances to line the little shoots of citrus up in rows, to sprawl the grove out westward. And there were people here long before that, untold numbers of people from the preceding years, and flora and fauna before the first bipedal footprint, too. (again, the dead outnumber the living terribly, it's no contest, way more people have died than are living currently. Then again, there will always be more people who have lived than people who have died). The oranges now in the vat were sent to where I live in an aerated box filled with green confetti from a family farm in Florida. Before we received our box of fruit we watched a video online of the head farmer - for whom the farm is named - sample the first pick of the season. The video was emailed to us to assure us that the citrus - which we had pre-ordered to ensure freshness and timely delivery - was of the high quality we were expecting. In the video the farmer, who seems like a very nice man who genuinely loves his fruit, grabs an orange - greener on the outside than you'd expect - and slices it open on his palm with an impossibly sharp knife. Inside the orange is dense, hearty, juicy, vibrating with fruit sugar. He assures us to not worry about the green outside color - it's to be expected with the weather they've been having. He takes a bite, and smiles wide: oh, this is good stuff.
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Good morning ~
It’s been eerily quiet in my snowy town on the river tonight until about five minutes ago when the city workers finally started plowing the roads, now there’s metal scraping asphalt in stereo. I hope you got a good night’s sleep, and that you enjoyed the twinkly plunks of the citrusy sweet but currently very out of tune piano I’ve been playing.
Wanted to mention: YOUTH PASTORAL, my album from earlier this year, has been popping up on a few year-end, best-of lists (here’s one, and another). A bit surreal and a bit sad (think of what we missed out on this year!), but mostly encouraging! I’m glad that the work other people put into it is being seen in this way! If you haven’t heard that record yet (somehow), you can check it out here.
I also wanted to mention my buddy Winston C.W.’s record, which is a deeply collaborative effort by some of my favorite musicians and people. It’s spare and gentle and drumless and occasionally fierce in a way that feels appropriate and necessary. You can listen to GOOD GUESS here.
But what about you? Is your home warm? Is there sweetness on the breeze? Are you near an immovable pile of rocks?