Time is Ripe for Enjoying Simple Things
By Ana Veciana-Suarez
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
Portrait by Félix Valloton
"Our life is frittered away by detail ... Simplify, simplify."
-- Henry David Thoreau
Around the corner from where I live, mango trees are heavy with still-green fruit, harbingers of a bountiful summer crop. My mouth waters at the very thought.
For weeks I've watched these trees bloom, sprout tiny nodules, then fatten each small tip. The process -- akin to ants marching with a bread crumb -- has kept me entertained for a good long while, a welcomed distraction from the relentless stream of bad news.
I've even mouthed a silent prayer for April to be gentle, hoping that each clump of mangoes will cling to its branch when the winds turn rough with spring squalls.
I'm a mango fanatic, one of those people who nearly turn yellow in the summer from consuming so much of the fruit. I'm a purist, too. Sure, I'll eat cooked mangoes and green mangoes with salt and mango smoothies and mango ice cream, but there is no substitute for the slippery, sticky, eat-over-the-kitchen-sink experience of a tree-ripened mango with nothing else to mask its taste and texture.
The anticipation of such pleasure makes me smile, and I imagine this must be how my northern brethren feel when a hint of green first peeks through after a long, harsh winter.
Stripped to essentials, small and simple events lift us from the mundane
I was discussing the year's mango crop with a good friend and fellow mango enthusiast when we noted that a few years back the tropical fruit might not have entered the conversation.
That was when we were all living large, when our stock investments seduced us into what we were not and the ridiculous market value of our homes made us feel like queens in a castle. Studying a mango's trajectory was a fool's pastime.
Back then, everyone I knew pontificated about buying a second home, vacationing in Europe, retiring early
My dental hygienist even considered flipping a condo. Children wanted to grow up to work on Wall Street. Whatever we had, we wanted more of -- and expected it as birthright.
Today, whether it's out of fear or prudent caution, we're holding on to our pennies. Some people I know don't even open their bank statements. We talk less about buying and more about saving, less about dining out and more about packing lunches.
Conspicuous consumption has become quaint, consignment shops all the rage. Neiman schneiman, Walmart-wowee.
Deep into what has become known as the Great Recession, we suffer from a weekly whiplash that defies explanation: It's getting worse. It's getting better. We've bottomed out. We haven't. Buy your first house now. No, wait. Spend to prop up the economy. Save for the inevitable layoff.
Confusing times call for simple pleasures -- in my case, mango-watching
It's the safest way to indulge with minimal payout. So now friends share frugal tips over store-brand coffee. Staycations have replaced the Riviera. A few have abandoned cars and opted for public transit. It's all about doing more with less, about being happy with enough.
I'm all for simplicity. After all, there's an inevitable tedium to everyday life -- a slow process to building a career, a steadfastness to accumulating security, an unwavering patience to raising children -- so enjoying what costs little and is readily available makes a lot of sense.
If this is what hard times have taught us, hallelujah and amen. I'm watching my mangoes ripen.
Ana Veciana-Suarez is a family columnist for The Miami Herald. Write to her at The Miami Herald, One Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132, or send e-mail to aveciana(at)herald.com.
(c) 2009, The Miami Herald Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.
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