Cultivating Juiciness

by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM     September 11, 2022

I’m a fan of summer’s ripening. There are few seasonal moments I await with more anticipation than the first appearance of a beefsteak tomato. Not the kind of tasteless thing that shows up in supermarkets in November. No, this tomato comes from the summer farmstands of New Jersey and Long Island, the farmers’ markets of Pennsylvania and beyond. This tomato has heft and substance in the hand. This tomato demands the simplest of pairings with white bread, a sprinkling of salt, and a generous spread of mayonnaise (We won’t get into the Hellmann’s vs. other brands right now, but of course, it’s Hellmann’s!). And finally, this tomato yields the utter joy of a first bite as its abundant juices run down one’s face. Chin, neck, fingers taking a tomato bath.

So many of summer’s fruits are juicy: the plump, dusty peach offering a sweet experience from the first bite of summer to the licking of peach nectar from one’s hands and neck, every drop liquid gold.  The strawberries of June and the blueberries of July. Raspberries on the vine, slowly turning from green to red. Succulent plums showing off the darkness of hidden delight. Watermelons offering their refreshing sugar to our eager mouths.

As we savor these gifts of summer, we give thanks for all the elements that converged in just the right way at just the right moment to bring such juiciness to our tables. A balance of warm sun and cooling rains. The watchful gaze of farmers. The tender touch of laborers carefully plucking by hand, for many of these gifts are too fragile to withstand harvesting machines. The truckers carrying summer’s best along the highways. The workers who weigh and bag our selections and hand over their labor to us.

Perhaps we can taste their collective labor as we bite into these fruits. Perhaps, along with our thanks, we might want to pray with every sweet mouthful, “Keep me juicy!” It’s a simple way to articulate our desire to intentionally cultivate a different kind of year-round juiciness. A ripeness of spirit. A tenderness of manner. A sweetness steeped in gracious hospitality. Perhaps we might offer spaciousness of heart to the family new to our school, parish, or neighborhood. Or donate our time serving meals in a local food kitchen. Perhaps recycling with a consciousness of care for Earth, our Common Home. Or we might practice courtesy on the road, navigating traffic jams and the challenges of driving in rush hour. Perhaps we might find a few extra minutes each day to sit in silence and breathe a blessing to our world. Juiciness upon juiciness!

We might wish that the perfectly ripe local summer fruits we enjoy would offer their juiciness all seasons of the year. No worries there, because until these summer delights return here in the North, and certainly after they return, we can cultivate the spirit of their juiciness every day, offering compassion, kindness, and deep listening to the orchards of people all around us. I leave you with this ripe and lovely poem from Li-Young Lee, a September offering from Gratefulness.org:

Ian Baldwin, Unsplash
 
From Blossoms
From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

Takeaway
You might want to begin by savoring this poem and then placing a symbol or image of juiciness in front of you.
Sit in stillness with the Holy One.
Where in your life do you show juiciness of spirit?
Might there be anywhere that you notice a call to more ripening?
Ask the Holy One for an infusion of the juices of kindness, understanding, or whatever you most desire.
Bow and offer your deep thanks for the abundant grace that the Holy One offers you at every moment.

Featured Image: Caju Gomes, Unsplash

NOTE:
Thank you for returning to my blog, Mining the Now. During August, I took a pause from blogging but offered a guided retreat at St. Joseph’s Villa in Hampton Bays, NY. I also took some time for my own self care. Thank you for your prayerful remembrance of all who were part of the August retreat and for your good wishes for my briefly stepping away from my blog. Welcome back if yo’re returning to Mining the Now, and welcome if you are a new follower.

As I write, I ask you to pray for all who are part of a directed retreat taking place now at Gonzaga Eastern Point Retreat House, Gloucester, MA, September 7-15. I’m serving as one of the guest directors for this retreat. Thank you.

Twenty-one years ago, on September 11th, I was in New York City on my first day of studies to be certified as a spiritual director. The memories of that day have not faded. May we hold in tenderness and prayer all those who were killed, wounded, or traumatized by the terrorist attacks, as well as all those who suffer violence every day in our beautiful, yet wounded world. May our lives given over to compassion, justice, and juiciness move closer to fulfillment God’s dream of peace for all of us.

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3 thoughts on “Cultivating Juiciness”

  1. Thank you once again for sharing this beautiful reflection.
    How quickly the summer has passed…but to maintain the ‘juiciness” is a wonderful thought…in new ways of sharing goodness.
    My great niece, Olivia, will be 11 on the 11th. How well we remember that horrible day…I was Campus Minister at Padua Academy in Wilmington…we watched that 2nd plane hit the towers…such pain and tragedy that has continued on these past 21 years…we are still called to be “wounded healers” to those around our world as a result.
    Blessings on your retreat and Fall.

  2. As always, I treasure your reflections, on line, in Magnificat missalette, and during
    our CDP retreat this summer. Thank You so much! Blessings, Sr. Paula Gohs, CDP

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