Life's lessons can be learned from a lowly fruit

By Debra LoGuercio

©Copyright 2003, Debra LoGuercio, all rights reserved

You could learn a lot about life from a pomegranate.

Some folks are so intimidated by their thick, hard rinds and layers of bitter membranes, let alone all the effort required to get a few of those tart, sweet kernels into their mouths, that they forego them altogether.

Big mistake. That's your first pomegranate life lesson: if you avoid challenges, you'll miss some very sweet rewards.

Other folks just don't like the messiness of pomegranates, from the drippy red juice to the little red kernels spraying every which way when you break apart the segments. That's just silly. Life's messy. It's not a sterile operating room, it's a big patch of mud. It's meant to be jumped into feet first. Make a splash. Get dirty. It's so much easier to laugh when you're romping knee-deep through life.

Now, somewhere out there is a pomegranate expert who'll insist on the "right" way to eat a pomegranate. I'm going to share with you the "only" way to eat one.

First off, it helps to be of the age when you don't really care what anyone thinks about your appearance - when leaving the house without brushing your teeth or hair, and wearing purple striped shorts, a green plaid flannel shirt and cowboy boots doesn't bother you one bit.

This stage of life ends at around 10 and returns when you have grandchildren of the same age. If you fall somewhere in between, you'll have to drum up that inner child of yours (the one who wouldn't mind romping knee-deep in mud) and grab yourself a pomegranate if you want to learn how to live joyfully.

This is the time of year when pomegranates are at their peak. If you don't take the opportunity to enjoy them now, they'll be gone in a flash. Herein, is another of life's truths: it is brief and transient, and you have to seize the moment before it goes by. Once it's gone, it's gone.

The best way to enjoy a pomegranate is straight off the bush. Get yours into the ground now. Pomegranate bushes start producing quickly, and they're amazingly prolific. Mine has only been in the ground for three years and is already producing more pomegranates than my daughter and I will be able to consume in one season.

If you have a bush, get out there and find the biggest, fattest pomegranate you can see. You'll probably have to battle with some ants and an earwig or two to get your hands on it, but it's worth it. Lacking a bush, you can find pomegranates in the market or better yet, a local farmer's market.

Now that you've selected your tasty treat, this is where the "right way" people part from the "only way" people. "Right way" people fuss over their fruit, neatly cutting the pomegranate into sections, carefully spreading the segments, peeling away the membranes, gingerly biting into the luscious red honeycombs piece by piece, trying not to waste a single kernel.

Meanwhile, the "only way" people are already looking for a second helping. They've discovered the fastest way to the biggest payoff: Chuck that pomegranate as hard as you can on the ground, preferably concrete, and when it cracks open, grab those broken segments and sink your teeth in. There's a trick to getting the kernels off though -- you have to angle your teeth and scrape them into your mouth. With a little practice, they fall right in.

Don't fuss over every little kernel that gets left behind. You'll make yourself crazy trying to get them all. Just get as many of them into your mouth as you can and move on. What better life lesson is there than that: You can't possibly experience every single thing there is to experience. The best you can do is experience as many things as you can, and don't waste your energy bemoaning what you missed. You can't change those things, so set your eyes forward and enjoy the experiences that come next.

Next pomegranate please.

Oh, the memories this unappreciated fruit holds for me. Back when I was a kid, when germs didn't seem as big a deal as they do today, we'd sit out by our barn (see apparel, above) on a bale of hay, biting into an orb of those red jewels, bright crimson juice running down our chins and forearms, forming scarlet tracks in the dust that comes from spending a day on horseback.

The sky was blue, the sun was warm, you could hear the horses munching alfalfa in the stall and, quite frankly, life just doesn't get much better than that. It didn't matter that the bottom of our boots were caked with horse manure or that the flies were pestering us. Enjoying those tart, sweet pomegranates consumed our attention.

Which brings us to the last of a pomegranate's life lesson: Focus on the sweet rather than the stinky. Do that and you just won't care what life sticks to the bottom of your boots.