Seedless oranges, seedless clementines, seedless grapes. The words are displayed in large letters on the glossy supermarket shelf labels, or squares of brown cardboard on the stalls of street vendors. Seedless. As an incentive for buying. I shrink in horror at this sinister word, with the sense of abomination one gets when seeing something twisted and unnatural. “I want fruit with seeds,” I say. People stare at me as though I am something unnatural and twisted.
Seedless fruit is barren. Like Federico Garcìa Lorca’s Yerma, it carries no hope of bequeathing another life to this world. Seedless fruit is unnatural. Like the beautiful miniature roses in flower shops. I wanted to buy a pot of magenta pink ones for a friend’s new office. I wanted to wish for her business to grow and bloom, year after year, like the roses on her windowsill. But the florist told me they are designed to last only a month. I did not buy them. I did not want to give my friend a symbol of a death sentence.
In the foreword to her collection of short stories, La Ragazza di Via Maqueda, Dacia Maraini writes about the time she bought herself some beautiful chrysanthemums in a pot, while staying at the University of Middlebury, Vermont. She looked forward to watching new buds emerge to replace wilting flowers, then more buds after that. Within a few days, the chrysanthemum plant began to wilt, as though breathing in poisonous air, as though weary of living. She changed the pot from plastic to earthenware, and added fresh soil. The plant continued its decline. Dacia Maraini finally consulted an Agriculture student who explained that these plants were especially designed to last only one week. So that, after one week, you would have to buy a new one.
Plants and fruits especially designed to die. Designed. Monsters created to be controlled by humans to ensure steady financial gain. Robots devised to be entirely dependent on human programming, deprived of all freedom. Products of Nature, perversely maimed to prevent them from the holiest of natural rights – the right to give life.
What do environmentalists have to say about this? Why does the Church keep silent?
Many years ago, I saw a photo of prehistoric cave paintings. Man and Mother Nature, said the archeologists. It showed Man hunting Mother Nature with a spear. Then it showed man running in the opposite direction, pursued by Mother Nature armed with the spear.
* * *
A couple of months ago, on a whim against a draining feeling of despair, I collected five pips from a lemon I had just squeezed into warm water. Like drinking sunlight. I pushed the pips into a small pot of soil, which I placed by my window. Five pips. Five hopes. Four in a round, with one in the centre. Like a star. Perhaps one of the pips would give birth. Every day, I collected a little water in the palm of my hand, and let my hope drip gently onto the soil. Trying to give it rain. Every evening, I moved it away from the window, before turning on the radiator. I held the pot in my hands, and imagined the pips asleep, just beneath the soil surface. Sleep. Gather your strength. You need to be strong for this world. I fought the temptation to scratch the soil with my finger, to see if anything was happening. Be patient. Respect what your brain is too limited to comprehend. Trust what you cannot see. Five pips. At least one of you must have enough life in it to burst through. Just one. Just so I know there is hope.
Several weeks went by.
It was the morning of 28th November. A bright green dot peering through the dark earth, in contrast to the grey sky outside, in defiance of my hopelessness. There. I’ll show you. Look at the effort I’m putting in, pushing through the earth in this bleak winter time, just to pull you out of despair. By evening, the glossy green head stood confidently above the soil. I was happy. So happy. One of my five pips had made it. My future lemon tree. A few days later, just as it sprouted the indisputable shape of leaves, another little green head ventured out of the soil. Two. Oh, joy. Then another…
This morning, when I opened my curtains, another youngling was straightening its slender green body, shaking off the dust. Bright green and glossy.
Number five. The one in the centre of the star.