(An excerpt from my book Bonsai Coyote)

Catherine Shephard
English, Per. 3


Strife and The Scarlet Letter

     It is said, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” It is also said, “Life is a bowl of cherries, all you have to do is spit out the pits.” I’m not sure why people feel the need to vilify fruit in order to cheer each other up, but it probably has something to do with fiber.

Still, there’s something behind these over-simplified, produce-dependent mantras. Some call it perseverance, some call it optimism, Tibetan master Chogyam Trungpa calls it the manure of experience. He advises that we do not throw away our rotten lemon peels and chewed-up cherry pits, our stinky jealousy and putrid pettiness, our rancid rejections and vomitous piles of fear. No, instead of throwing it all away we are to collect our garbage, sift through it and grow with it—just as a farmer would accumulate and cultivate manure so that one day a fresh crop of enlightenment might blossom. It takes a lot of lemons to make lemonade. And it takes a lot of manure to grow the lemons.

Hester Prynne, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s lead character in the classic American novel, The Scarlet Letter, is an elegant example of a woman acknowledging her past, accepting her struggles, and growing richer from the experience.

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