The 7-Up Lesson

I love how sometimes the seemingly smallest and simplest things can so perfectly portray the grandness and complexity of life. Take for instance, the lemon. But, before I get to the lemon, I have to start with the lime.

Jason and I met and fell in love in Austin, Texas where limes reign supreme. It isn't a large or often recognized throne, but if you think about it, the lime plays an important role there. Austin is very much a drinking culture, and what goes better with your favorite mexican beer, tequila, or margarita than lime? Austin is also very much a mexican food culture, and there are very few mexican or tex-mexican dishes which cannot be made even better by a little cilantro and lime. In Texas, limes are not only plentiful, they are cheap! Surrounded by good food, good drinks and good friends and family, Jason and I were living in the lime light, and we didn't even know it.

So when we first came to Australia we were dismayed at the fact that limes are hard to find and when you do find them, they will cost you. But lemons! They are everywhere and are one of the cheapest things you can buy. We went to a "Mexican" restaurant here and they actually tried to serve us lemon margaritas. Lemon?! We started to snub the lemons because they weren't limes. The lemon-lime issue became for us representative of how we were not seeing Australia as Australia but seeing Australia as Not the U.S. And that, my friends, is a dangerous game to play. As they say, you can't compare apples to oranges. Or lemons to limes. Which brings me to the lemon...

Lemons have an interesting and varied reputation. A lemon can have the connotation of something full of life and vitality and happiness:

Think of the color lemon and what comes to mind? Probably sunshine and happiness. Think of how a bowl full of lemons sitting on a table can change a room. Or how a sprinkle of lemon juice or zest can change a dish. How a tall, cold glass of lemonade on a hot summer day can revitalize your body and your perspective on the day. I recently started drinking green tea, and a little splash of lemon juice makes that tea sing! I cannot eat a lemon drop without thinking of my Grandma, who almost always had an old jam jar full of lemon drops handy. And anytime I hear or think of lemon drops, I automatically think of the song Somewhere Over the Rainbow where troubles melt like lemon drops... All of these lemon memories, tastes, and thoughts are happy and positive ones. Now, because I try hard to live on the bright side of the road, this is my preferred view of the lemon. Sometimes, I like to pretend like this is the only reality of the lemon and of life.

I hate to break it to myself, but that isn't the whole truth, and let's face it, a half-truth is no truth at all. Truth is wholeness. Just when I start thinking that life is all roses and lemon drops, I wake up sucking a lemon of a different variety. The truth is that lemon can also mean something negative or defective. When life gives you lemons means life is giving you trouble. That car is a lemon means that car is defective. On this side of lemon life, there is pain, there is suffering, there is greed and selfishness and defectiveness. Lately, I've been more aware of this side of life. Maybe I've read one too many articles about the plight of the planet and its inhabitants and who is to blame for that plight. As a member of the guilty party and as an active participant in its destructive tendencies, I have been feeling weighed down, with a barrel full of sour, sour lemons bearing down on my chest. But then I remembered, that without this side of life, there could be no transformation.

"The most important lesson that man can learn from his life is not that there is pain in this world, but that it depends upon him to turn it to good account, that it is possible for him to transmute it into joy."
-Rabindranath Tagore

"I am the poet of the Body and I am the poet of the Soul,
The pleasures of heaven are with me and the pains of hell are with me,
The first I graft and increase upon myself, the latter I translate
into a new tongue."
-Walt Whitman

Some people say, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Atmosphere says:

When Life Gives You Lemons,
You Paint That Shit Gold

I say, yes, let's make lemonade! let's paint that shit gold! But before we do, let's look that lemon in its pimpled, yellow face and ask it what it wants from us. Accept it for what it is and let it teach us something.

". . . . perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us. So you must not be frightened . . . if a sadness rises up before you larger than any you have ever seen; if a restiveness, like light and cloud-shadows, passes over your hands and over all you do. You must think that something is happening with you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand; it will not let you fall. Why do you want to shut out of your life any agitation, any pain, any melancholy, since you really do not know what these states are working upon you"
-Rainer Maria Rilke

Our time in Australia has not been ideal. Literally and figuratively, it is as if life has been giving us lemons over the past year. I didn't find a job, we haven't really made many meaningful connections with others, Jason is not all that impressed with his school here (which is the reason we came here in the first place,) we have missed our friends and family like crazy, etc. We have often analyzed and criticized our decision to come here. In many ways our time here has been difficult, but mostly just plain weird. We think it's appropriate that Australia is referred to as Oz because that's certainly what it feels like. But as our time here draws to an end, I can't help but be overwhelmed by the transformative experience of being here, by the beauty of this country and its people. And while I don't think we've really made lemonade out of the lemons we've been given here and we definitely haven't made gold, or even an Australian dollar for that matter, we have learned a thing or two about life, and if you ask me, life lessons are worth more than gold. What we learned is that sometimes you have to go to Oz to see the beauty of Kansas, er Texas. Sometimes you have to go to lemon land to appreciate the lime life. And sometimes, just when you think you've taken a wrong turn, you wake up to find that everything is in its right place.

And besides, now we have 7-Up souls. ;)

Taken in the Yarra Valley
Victoria, Australia

Here is a two song lemon mixtape for you to enjoy with the songs I alluded to above, which also happen to be two of my favorite songs of all time and which I have named Yesterday I Woke Up Sucking a Lemon Somewhere Over the Rainbow:



Would you like to see a slideshow of some very random things I have seen over the last few months which may be interesting to you or may not be interesting to you at all?

Hmmm. Still not sure? Well would it help if during the slideshow you could also hear not one but two! songs from Taxi Taxi!, a Sweden based, not so well-known group comprised of twin sisters Miriam Berhan and Johanna Berhan? Would it help if I told you they have really cool voices and make really pretty harmonies? If the answer to at least one of these questions is yes, then click play below.

Song 1: To Hide This Way
Song 2: Old Big Trees

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: this random life
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P.S. Please excuse the garbled sound of the music. It's smilebox's fault. Just pretend like you are listening to it under water. And please also excuse the fact that sometimes smilebox has a little trouble loading up the pictures which really breaks up the fluidity of the show and drives me nuts. Someday I will find a slideshow maker that I am happy with.


The Good in You

We must carry each other.
If we don't have this,
what are we?
-Anne Michaels, Fugitive Pieces

Two uplifting examples of the good in you:



All of Us

From In Switzerland by Raymond Carver