From my balcony I watch a man dressed in gardener’s green carry a long bamboo pole towards one of the palm trees that dot the perfectly manicured lawns of this resort. He holds one end of the pole and jabs the other end over and over, high into the palm’s branches until, with a thunk, a large, smooth-skinned fruit falls to the ground. He repeats the process, and a second fruit lands heavily, but this time, splits open with a spray of milk. The man drops the pole to the ground and with a practiced motion scoops up the fruit and holds the crack over his mouth. He stands there, head tilted back, both hands holding the fruit, almost motionless, letting the sweet liquid drip into his mouth.
I am aware, as I watch him, of the connection he has to this place, the great green earth, the trees and the air and the liquid contained in a fruit. A connection I do not have. His closeness to nature, his intimacy with his environment, makes me feel like a visitor to this planet. I am only experiencing the most surface, the most exposed, the easily accessible parts of my world.
I had a garden once. I grew beans and tomatoes. I cleaned and boiled the first batch of beans before I ate them. I did not feel comfortable eating the food I grew. Dirt is dirty, to eat something that has been outside, exposed, seemed dangerous. At first. But eventually, after it was obvious that I wasn’t going to poison myself, I picked a bean and ate it. I will never forget the taste of that bean, the texture of the sun warmed shell, the snap, the crunch.
But that was a long time ago, and now I live in a place with no yard, in an apartment above the earth, separate from the surface. I chose this separation, because to me the pleasure of a modern, albeit disconnected life outweighs the pleasure to be had in growing my own food. Or perhaps I should say it another way. The work and effort involved in growing those beans and tomatoes was a price I wasn’t willing to pay for the joy the food provided.
I will remain a visitor. But I will know, while I watch the gardener drop the now empty shell and pick up his bamboo pole to move onto the next tree, that there is something I am missing.