Surprised (37)

I’ve never lived before in a place where there are so many citrus trees. Here there are grapefruit, oranges, lemons, tangerines, tangelos. One grower at the farmer’s market even has a cross between a Mandarin orange and a kumquat, the size of a slender plum tomato, sweet skin and tart fruit. People pile up mounds of grapefruit on their lawns for passers by. They send home friends with bags of lemons. I am blessed with a kind man from my old neighborhood who still brings me grapefruit and Meyer lemons even though I’ve moved away. The trees are everywhere, but unless they are bulging with unpicked fruit I don’t tend to notice them. I do wonder who started the tradition. I notice people are quick to complain about all the golf courses but never mention this hidden forest of citrus trees we seem determined to grow here in the desert. But in February I can’t imagine being without them. In February, their fragrance finds you everywhere. It catches you in odd places, not a citrus in sight, the ambrosia wafting on some secret current of air. And every year I am surprised, again and again, breathing deep, as though the scent alone might sustain me. I look around. Is it that little neglected lemon tree beside the empty home? I’m never sure I really want to find the source. There is an added delight in the mystery, I think, knowing the sweetness has traveled unseen and who knows how far across the neighborhood to find you.

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