Winter, if judged by temperature, came to Oregon about two weeks early this year. In the garden, everything stopped. The jays, generally willing to share the peanuts I set out for them, have become increasingly belligerent. The warning pangs of arthritis sing me awake in the morning. There is a saving grace, however, and I don't mean the upcoming holidays. This is the only time of year I can buy pomegranates.
I love the taste. I even love the difficulty of getting to the fruit, mining the seeds like garnets. (It should be difficult to reach the payload. After all, mythology warns us that a mere six pomegranate seeds sentenced Persephone to her annual six months in Hell.) But there is much more. I love the rounded weight in my hand, the tough red rind (which yields more than double the antioxidants of the fruit), and the hat-like peak of the flower end. Inside, the seed arrangements are so complex that any angle you slice reveals a different pattern, from star to Rorschach.
I am obsessed, but so have many others been. The pomegranate appears both in Homer's works and the book of Exodus. As one of the seven species of fruit that blessed the land of Israel, it is a symbol of abundance and new beginnings, and the motif brightens Judaic art.
|Pomegranates embroidered on a tallit|
|Pomegranates flank an inscription from the Song of Solomon|
Madonna of the Pomegranate by Botticelli, 1487
|Persian "Pomegranate Orchard" carpet|
|Coronation of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon under the Tudor rose and a pomegranate|
And who could be surprised that Salvador Dali produced his 1944 work, One Second Before Awakening from a Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate?
I can imagine Dali at his easel, the juice of a pomegranate dripping from the tips of his grand moustache, his mind joined with the ancient fruit and all its odd associations. Fertility, danger, beauty beneath a harsh surface.The opulent weds the impossible.
On the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6, my engineer husband indulges one Brazilian superstition: we must have pomegranates in the house.We each take six seeds, bite the fruit pulp from them, and place the tissue-wrapped seeds in our wallets to ensure prosperity in the year to come. It's everyday magic--and the mythic promise that the months of cold, damp Hell will give way to spring. In the meantime I'll eat pomegranates.
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