Lemons

Have you ever bitten into a lemon? I did once, when I was a kid. Note the word once. I quickly realized that some fruit have a taste other than sweet.

Now, I realize that many people love to eat lemons. (My mother for instance.) And this article talks about the benefits of eating lemons: https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/benefit-eating-whole-fresh-lemons-4390.html

Yet I prefer my lemons paired with other things: sugar and water in lemonade; sugar, water, and tea for iced tea; or sugar, eggs, flour, and other ingredients in lemon meringue pie or lemon bars. Even the lemon candy I like is of the sweet and sour variety.

    

It’s much the same with stories. I like a mixture of sweet and sour. Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien; Sabriel by Garth Nix; Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016 movie; the novelization was written by Alexander Freed). An author who writes this kind of story has to strike the right balance between hope and hopelessness.

   

Usually I love the point in the story where things are at their worst, and you don’t think good can come out of it—but then it does, sometimes at a high cost. A thoroughly satisfying conclusion is a great reward for that kind of tension.

I also think of lemons because the sourness of life sucks sometimes. I can’t help putting it that baldly. (Yes, baldly.) Jobs are lost. People you love face health issues or are in emotional pain. These moments are the “shut the book, Dad” moments Samwise Gamgee talked about in Lord of the Rings—the moments when you’re not sure everything will turn out right. I’m in that kind of moment right now. Maybe one day, I’ll provide the full details. But I wanted to write about it in the moment—when a happy ending isn’t a guarantee—because often you hear stories of triumph after the fact, after the darkness has passed and the “sun shines all the clearer”—another quote given to Samwise, this time in The Two Towers:

I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you.

These words gives me hope when life hands out lemons. May they enable you to keep pressing on in a sour/dark time of your own.

Now I’m thinking of some words Galadriel spoke in Fellowship of the Ring:

May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.

Lemon image from freepik. Lemon meringue pie image from Pillsbury. Lemonhead image from Target. Quote from Two Towers is from the script by Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens, Stephen Sinclair, and Fran Walsh © 2002. Sean Astin as Samwise Gamgee image from Cinema Blend. Words of Galadriel and others are by J. R. R. Tolkien.

Snow, Snow, Is All She Wrote

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Now is the winter of our discontent.
Richard, Duke of Gloucester, in Richard III, Act I, Scene I

The other day, my friend the snow and I got reacquainted when it arrived and overstayed its welcome as usual. Because of this “friend,” I’ve gotten into the habit of kicking my boots whenever I pass them in the hall. Something has to share my pain.

Thanks to the other day’s snowfall, this area has had about 79 inches of snow this year, which is not the all-time record for us, believe it or not. Winter of 1978–1979 holds that record with 89 inches of snow.

I can’t help thinking of the quatrains of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, which go

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

Only for us, it’s “snow, snow, everywhere” “day after day, day after day,” a situation nowhere near as dire as the ancient mariner’s. But we’ve reached the part of winter where I’m ready to run out into the snow, screaming like a banshee: “Why don’t you die already, Winter???? Ya hear me?? Die!!!!!”

CherriesBut you know what else seems to have overstayed its welcome? Discouragement. Many good friends face discouraging situations right now. My heart aches for them. When they hurt, I hurt. And I can’t say that life is a bowl of cherries for me either. Life is like that sometimes, isn’t it?

Like this endless winter, these troubles seem to wrap everything in a cold numbness. Just when you think you don’t have any tears left to shed, you encounter another hard situation and find that you do.

Avatar-TheLastAirbender2The other day I watched an episode of Book 3: Fire, the third season of Avatar: The Last Airbender, for about the 900th time. SPOILER ALERT: Still reeling from the events at the end of Book 2: Earth, the hero, Aang, is at his lowest ebb. As he contemplates his perceived failure (and you need to see the last episode of Book 2 to find out why he thinks this) and recovers from his near death experience (Miracle Max from The Princess Bride would have pronounced him “mostly dead” at that point), encouragement comes from two sources: Roku, one of his past lives, and Yue, the Moon Spirit. END SPOILERS. Okay, maybe those names mean nothing to you if you’re not a fan of Avatar. But I was struck by Aang’s determination to keep going, despite the difficult circumstances of his young life.

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Roku and Yue (um, Yue’s the one in the dress)

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Billy Crystal as Miracle Max

I needed that reminder to persevere, though doing so isn’t always easy. I’m also grateful for friends who provide encouragement and words of kindness like, “I’ll pray for you” or “Come over for dinner. We miss you.” I’m also thankful for the little things, like the sun finally deciding to show up, though it arrived late and without an excuse. A little bit of light goes a long way.

Maybe today, you also feel as pummeled as some of my friends feel or as the perps feel after an encounter with Agent Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) on a typical episode of Agents of Shield. Only for you, the last part of that line I just wrote doesn’t even raise a smile. Maybe nothing seems funny right now. The world is one huge gray cloud. “Grief, grief, everywhere” “day after day, day after day.” Even if hope for you seems like a hummingbird’s wings, flitting too fast for you to track, my hope for you is for this winter of your discontent to soon pass, and that you find the courage and hope to keep going.

       200px-MELINDASeason1 Hummingbird

Shakespeare, William. Richard III. New York: Signet Classic Edition, 1964. 33. Print.

Yue image from avatar.answers.wikia.com. Roku from avatar.wikia.com. Melinda May photo from marvel.wikia.com. Aang image from ohappydagger.wordpress.com. Hummingbird from Wikipedia. Bowl of cherries from commons.wikimedia.org.