October 29, 2013

Everyday Miracles

Shall he not find in comforts of the sun,
In pungent fruit and bright green wings, or else
In any balm or beauty of the earth,
Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven?

-- Sunday Morning by Wallace Stevens

This Sunday morning, visiting one of my favorite personal pages, Daughter Of The Golden West, I found her latest item, "At The Fruit Stand." It is very simple; very terse. This is it complete:

"The fruit stand has a mountain of grapefruit, grown in the deserts just east of here."

That's all. But what a wealth of wonder is contained in that single sentence; a wealth of ordinary, everyday miracles that are so common we barely remark them and pass on even though they should stop us in our tracks.

It is end of January, the very depth of winter, and yet we have -- everywhere -- not just grapefruit, but "a mountain" of grapefruit. Cheap grapefruit. A dollar -- which is the new dime -- will get you one. Maybe even two or three depending on the merchant.

A few dollars more and these grapefruit can come by the case and the crate to your door in a day though you be a world away. You see we don't mind distance anymore. We toss these grapefruit into aluminum tubes and blast them into the stratosphere from coast to coast, across mountains and rivers and oceans without end. Once upon a time a single piece of citrus, an orange perhaps, was put into the toe of Christmas stockings because a piece of citrus in the dead of winter was an exotic and expensive miracle. Kings had it if they had access to the Royal Greenhouses at Kew. And perhaps their friends. Not you. Not I. Not the Daughter of the Golden West who showed up at her local fruit stand to "a mountain of grapefruit."

Where did the grapefruit come from? Why it was "grown in the deserts." Grown. In. The. Deserts. Just like that. In the deserts, in the midst of the arid climes where, throughout most of the history of the planet Earth, nothing like grapefruit would ever grow. But now it does. By the mountain.

If you look at the picture you'll see these are Seley Reds from the Seley Orchards in the Borrego Valley of Southern California. Seley Orchards are irrigated by water from 300 feet below the surface pumped up with power taken from vast solar panels.


Seley Orchards are in the Anza-Borrego desert...


which is itself but a small part of California's oddly named "Colorado Desert,"


which is itself contained within the even more extensive Sonoroan Desert


"which covers large parts of the Southwestern United States in Arizona and California, and Northwest Mexico in Sonora, Baja California, and Baja California Sur. It is one of the largest and hottest deserts in North America, with an area of 120,000 square miles."

And from this wasteland we get, without thinking it at all miraculous, "a mountain of grapefruit." But it is a miracle of the works and days of human hands. And of the American spirit and drive to make the deserts bloom. And of God who, when it comes to this nation on this morning it can still be said, "America, America, God shed his grace on thee."

How long will such luck and grace; how long will these days of miracles and wonders last? Well, that depends on the grace of God, doesn't it?

Posted by gerardvanderleun at October 29, 2013 9:43 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Sometimes, when I read your best stuff, V, I think you must prefer to be in the desert.

Posted by: Jewel at January 29, 2012 12:43 PM

I love deserts. They are as simple as simple can ever be, which means that they aren't simple at all.

Watching what we are doing to our society, our economy, our very way of life I am reminded of another snapshot out of time when Really Smart People pulled a bunch of levers and pushed a bunch of buttons because they were sure they knew exactly what they were about...


The analogy is inaccurate and oversimple, yes. There are certainly full measures of good intentions, criminal greed, mere laziness, and a big fat dash of overt, conscious, malignant evil (that's for you, Mr. President, and your bosses) all contributing to the reckoning we face.

But we are pulling into a station on purpose, not because of some accidental random event.

Good rewards and evil penalizes. There is no road left on which to kick any can.

Posted by: TmjUtah at January 29, 2012 1:20 PM

The Spanish word for the color 'red' is 'colorado'.
So it's the red desert. Check the photo, it is.

Posted by: Freddy at January 29, 2012 1:59 PM

Gerard---when I was a little child, it always amazed me to find bananas in our local grocery store. I understood that bananas came from the far-away continent of South America, and I was terribly impressed and gratified that someone in South America cared enough about Hamlin, Texas (which wasn't very big, or important) to send us bananas :) I understand commerce better now, but I'm still impressed that bananas show up in my grocery store.

Posted by: Deborah at January 29, 2012 2:02 PM

Thank you, kind sir - you are very generous to link. To say I admire your writing would be a gross understatement.

Posted by: goldenwest at January 29, 2012 4:16 PM

Ruby Reds, SIX for a buck, sent up from the Rio Grande Valley to us unwashed cowboys in San Antonio! The Lord certainly loves Him some grapefruit, and I ain't arguin'.

Posted by: Mike Anderson at January 29, 2012 5:07 PM

Here in Texas, all things grow in abundance year-round, because our state spans every climate zone. The only thing that won't grow here in coffee, doggone it.

Only those who have been poor appreciate the vast wealth that lies all around us: electricity, drinkable water, modern sanitation. I grew up dirt poor. I am now (relatively speaking) rich. Although I am perhaps the word's worst Christian, I can't help but whisper a prayer of thanks when I flip a switch or twist a faucet handle. "Thank You, God, for lights that come on. Thank You for clean water that flows. Than You for warm air, cool air, toilets that flush. We are so blessed. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You."

Posted by: B Lewis at January 29, 2012 6:28 PM

Well, to answer the last question in the OP, it will last as long as does the fossil water it partly depends on. Which is being depleted much faster than it's being replaced. At least, that's according to the USGS:


Posted by: Fletcher Christian at January 30, 2012 12:43 AM

Just be sure you don't eat any grapefruit if you're on statin drugs (and some others too) your head might explode.

Posted by: Chris G at January 30, 2012 9:41 AM

In the high Sonoran desert starting in the city of Sahuarita Arizona stretching south along Old Nogales Highway is the Green Valley Pecan company. They cultivate about 100,000 pecan trees on 5,000 acres. It is the largest irrigated pecan orchard in the world.

I'm unable to find good Google or Bing pictures that do it justice but if you want to get a good idea of how big and beautiful the orchard is go to Bing maps (Google maps doesn't do it justice either). Search for Sahuarita Arizona, switch to "bird's eye" view and enjoy. The orchard really stands out in the surrounding brown desert and it's truly amazing what God has brought forth from the desert.

Posted by: Brian at February 2, 2012 10:26 AM

We live in a world of everyday, common, miracles. So few people truly appreciate just how precious and fragile they really are.

Posted by: pdwalker at February 4, 2012 6:00 AM

My feelings are unchanged.

Posted by: pdwalker at October 31, 2013 4:20 AM

"How long will such luck and grace; how long will these days of miracles and wonders last? Well, that depends on the grace of God, doesn't it?"

Well... we may be further down that well paved road than we think, Gerard:

Drink it while you can, as study points to looming wine shortage

Posted by: Cond0011 at October 31, 2013 11:50 AM