Lemon Speak


lemons 002What’s your first thought when you see these lemons? It’s interesting that we recognize these objects as lemons even though they don’t accord with our normal expectation that a lemon be oval. Our initial reaction might be to call them “deformed” or “misshapen.” But these words have a negative connotation implying that something is ugly. And are these lemons really ugly? There’s nothing complicated about the meaning of “ugly.” It means unpleasant or repulsive, especially in appearance. But did you know that “ugly” has its origins in Old Norse uggr, meaning fear or dread. If you’ve ever been frightened, perhaps as a child, by a witch or a monster, this word derivation makes sense to you. But you’ve probably all also heard the expression, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and are likely to agree that judging something beautiful or ugly in many instances can be quite a subjective matter. Did you know that this expression was first used by 19th century Irish novelist Margaret Wolfe Hungerford in her 1878 novel Molly Bawn? I didn’t, and it doesn’t matter – the expression has taken on an existence of its own, independent of its original context. So that we use it regularly especially to express mock surprise in someone’s questionable (in our opinion) personal taste.

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” reminds me of several other similar expressions, lemons 008which have taken on a life of their own. “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so,” says Shakespeare’s Hamlet. “The mind is its own place, and in itself Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven,” says Satan to Beelzebub in Milton’s Paradise Lost. All three of these quotations point to the immense power of our thoughts to create, or at least shape, our world. And, quite naturally, and too often unconsciously, our words and actions follow our thoughts, and thus we affect the world, people, animals, plants, rocks, waters and all else around us.

Getting back to our lemons, most of us are familiar with the use of the word lemon to describe a product that is not well made or that doesn’t work the way it should. And we probably also know the expression “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade,” which encourages an optimistic attitude in turning something negative into something positive – sour lemons into sweet lemonade.

So these lemons, and the thoughts, images, and other mental and emotional stuff they trigger, remind us that how we see things, react to them and think and talk about them are all highly influenced by our tidbits of knowledge, prejudices, and assumptions, our likes and dislikes, all of which are themselves the products of cultural, societal, familial and individual cues, contexts, and pressures. They also remind us of the power we wield with our thoughts, words and actions. We can choose to think, speak and act skillfully, i.e., in a way that is at the very least not harmful and at the very best helpful. Or we can choose to think, speak and act unskillfully, which would be deliberately to cause harm. We can also think, speak and act unconsciously, without paying attention, without forming conscious intentions, without noticing our interdependence with all beings and with all that is.lemons 011

Our differently shaped lemons suggest, too, that just because something doesn’t meet our immediate expectations doesn’t mean it’s “bad” or “worthless.” “Don’t judge a book by its cover” right? It turns out that these wondrously sculpted lemons are the way they are because citrus bud mites entered the flower buds and sucked out the sap. This causes the ovary of the flower to be misshapen causing the fruit to look different.  Apparently, the citrus bud mites don’t affect the lemon juice.

It’s possible that some of us sometimes look at ourselves and see physical, emotional, moral or spiritual deformations. Next time you catch yourself doing this, pause, breathe and remember the lemons that were not oval. Set an intention to react skillfully. Accept yourself exactly the way you are – your weaknesses as well as your strengths, the things you like about yourself as well as the things you don’t. In other words, “the good, the bad, and the ugly” – another well-worn expression taken from the 1966 Italian Spaghetti Western starring Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach. And then and only then, figure out where to go from there, allowing yourself to be guided by as much kindness, compassion and wisdom as you can muster. Just see if you can approach every moment with kindness, compassion and wisdom. What would it mean to live every moment with kindness, compassion and wisdom? It would mean you live in a world of kindness, compassion and wisdom.

Candied Lemon and Orange Slices candied  lemon & orange slices 2





lemon coconut cake 009Coconut Lemon Cake