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9. Lara's Gift

Being a novice meditator,
I receive many gifts.

My breakfast orange today is one of 15 oranges that arrived via UPS from Florida. A special gift from Lara -- a friend and colleague who recently moved there.

Prior to moving to Florida permanently, Lara had made several weekend trips there. After one of these trips, she surprised me by bringing me a big bagful of oranges that she had picked herself and brought back on the plane. I was extremely touched by her thoughtfulness, and was completely blown-away by my very first experience of eating an orange freshly picked from the tree. I'd had nothing like it before. So sweet, so juicy. Incredible. I was hooked. Having addicted me, Lara promised additional trips south to get me my "fix."

So when she moved to Florida, she sent me a big box of oranges. How lucky can an orange junkie get -- my own personal source for the really "good stuff." This morning, with the snow covering the ground outside my kitchen window, I'm ready for a wonderful Florida orange experience. In fact, so eager am I for this "orange moment" that I put my usual mindfulness ritual aside and dive right in with total abandon, hurriedly ripping away the peel and roughly pulling apart the segments. Wanting to savor the long-awaited sweet taste, however, I stop and take a deep breath before stuffing two or three segments into my now profusely watering mouth. I close my eyes and chew. As the hundreds of juice sacs burst in my mouth, I await the moment of sweet rapture.

I wait; with mounting anticipation, I wait.

I wait; with anticipation, I wait.

I wait.

I wait.

I wait.

I open my eyes and glare at the orange; "Imposter! You are nothing like the oranges Lara picked and carried home for me." The imposter just stares back at me defiantly. Okay, it was juicy, I'll give it that. And it was decidedly fresher tasting than the oranges I usually buy in the supermarket. I look a little more kindly at the orange, "Okay, so you are an orange. You're just not the fresh Florida orange I remember." I continue to eat, albeit with less enthusiasm. Was this just an example of "chasing the dragon," I wonder. Am I just a Florida orange addict searching in vain for the exhilaration of the first high that can never again be experienced. Was that it?

I look at the remaining segments on my plate desperately wishing they were sweeter. I am so filled with ... with ... what is this feeling? ... disappointment? This is ridiculous. How ungrateful of me to feel like this after having received such a wonderful gift from a friend.

Then I realize that the sweetness I am missing right now is Lara. She called me the other day, but I was too busy to talk. I begin to think about her and what she brought to our friendship -- her sweet, gentle spirit. I realize that in Lara's presence I was able to experience a part of myself that is also sweet and gentle. That was Lara's gift. I'll call her today.

I eat another segment as I think about her.

It tastes sweeter.