The warm breeze constantly inundated us with the smell of orange groves and broken ground. The trees were full and ripe to be harvested. We did our part. A couple times a day we ventured into their midst and sought out what treasures the grove did its best to conceal. However, I knew the grove well and its secrets were safe with me. I wasn’t about to share them with the others. They would have to find them out on their own. The uninitiated sought to find the biggest, prettiest oranges to plunder. For me I knew that the orchard held something else hidden humbly in plain sight.
I staggered unevenly left and right as the dirt clods crumbled loudly beneath my feet. I passed up the biggest trees at the center of the plot and sought out a scrawny tree bearing fruit that was dwarfed in appearance by their counterparts. This was it, pearl in an oyster, my hidden gem. Though feeble looking and a runt, this tree was the prize I was seeking. Cleverly placed midway into the grove and 2nd row from the side that did not face the road, grew a mandarina tree. More similar to a tangerine than a madarin orange, it was sweeter, more succulent and more satisfying then any of the oranges.
Gently with the slightest of twist I a gave each candidate a tug. Finally one released its grip with this tiny bit of encouragement. I knew it was ready. Rolling it in my hands just a bit, separated the bright alluring skin from its contents. Swiftly I inserted my thumb into its navel and began to peel. In seconds I had relieved it of its outer incumberments. They now laid beautifully strewn about on the dark brown soil.
Until now I was single mindedly on a mission to satisfy my thirst for mandarinas. Suddenly, something stopped me, took a hold of me and told me to look around. There was something more to this moment. For an instant, time slowed and it felt as if this was all created for me to enjoy. The birds singing their soft melodies, the warm comforting aroma of moist earth, this beautiful grove securely encompassing me, and even this tiny mandarina resting in my open palm were all for me to savor. With the warm soothing breeze enticing me skyward, I felt safe and as if I was being lifted up. Immediately my gaze locked onto the surreal Mexican sky. So blue. So pure. So free. Perforated only by a half-moon still visible in its setting, to me it was perfect and overwhelming. I closed my eyes and felt the mild heat of sun confirming this was something special and I needed to take note.
Instinctively I knew I wanted to capture this moment. Still a neophyte photographer back then, I fumbled with my camera. I raise the golden orange globe up and framed it in the depths of mesmerizing blue rural sky. Awkwardly I fat thumb dialed in the settings with the other hand and took the shot. Up until then, I had become accustomed to being disappointed with my results. I took way more bad shots than I did good, but this one was different. I loved this one. I still do. Every time I look at it I am there, in the Mexican countryside, standing in the middle of an orange grove, with a tiny mandarina resting in my hand and for that second I am content, happy, and loved.
Mandarina, January 24,2010
la Haciendita, Nuevo Leon, Mexico