Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Last night I was watching a 90-minute movie entitled “Ten Canoes.” It was an Australian movie filmed on location in an Australian outback swamp, using aboriginal actors speaking in their native aborigine language, and telling an old aborigine story about how to be a better person and live right. After slogging through the first hour, I looked at my watch, realized I was getting older by the minute, and clicked the fast forward on the DVD. Since I was reading English subtitles anyway, I just read a little faster as the aborigines jerkily hurried through the rest of the story in their fast-forward Alvin and the Chipmunks voices.

I felt a little bad, knowing how hard all those aborigine actors had worked to make this movie. But golly, life is short. And they took 90 minutes to tell a story that could have been told in 9 minutes without losing a single element of the story. But that’s not the aborigine way. They’re a slow-thinking, deliberate people who don’t like to rush anything, especially stories about how to be a better person and live right.

When the movie was finally over, I walked to the kitchen to slip the DVD back into its Netflix sleeve. That’s when I saw the bananas on my counter. In the past, I would have just passed by the bananas without a thought. But since I’m 60 now, bananas cause me to philosophize:

Life is like a bunch of bananas you buy at the grocery store. You find the ones that are a little green because you want them to last awhile. The next day, you peel a slightly green banana and pucker your face a bit because it tastes a little sour and woody. But you figure, what the heck—you’re still getting potassium and fiber. The next day, the bananas are a little riper; the peel comes away a little easier, and the sour, woody taste is mostly gone. By the third day, the bananas are darn-near perfect. The firm, yellow peel slides right off, and the fruit is just soft enough to release the full banana flavor. On the fourth day, the peels are a little deeper yellow, but sure enough, the fruit is still succulent and sweet.

It’s the fifth day that you notice the change: the small brown freckles are starting to appear on the peel. The fruit on the inside is a little softer, and you need to be careful not to press it too hard when you’re slicing it on your cereal because it tends to mush up a bit. By the sixth day, the brown freckles have turned to brown spots, like skin cancer spreading over the yellow surface. The banana has taken on an almost sickly sweet flavor, and gelatinous tan spots need to be surgically removed from the fruit before eating it.

On the seventh day, you can smell the bananas even before you walk into the room. The over-ripe aroma smacks your nose as you come around the corner into the kitchen, and you look at the blackened skin of the bananas, trying to muster your courage one more time. Should you eat this shriveled fruit that today resembles the shrunken heads hanging around the front door of the local witchdoctor? You shrug and make a decision, based on hunger and practicality—or on aesthetics. To eat or not to eat, that is the question. Finally, you have to decide—one more morning on the cereal, or mash it up and make banana bread?

Bananas on their way to becoming banana bread

I think the reason I fast forwarded “Ten Canoes” last night was because after I turned 60, I’ve started noticing the brown freckles on my own banana skin, and I suspect that some of my fruit inside is going to mush. So much to do, so little time. Ergo, the decision to fast forward through a movie that’s taking just a little too much of the precious time I have left—before I go to that big banana bread in the sky.

Note: Although everyone who turns 60 tends to philosophize more, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the philosophy will be wise and deep. It might just be looking at banana skin freckles in a new, slightly near-sighted way.


middleson said...

I liked your analogy. :)

Anonymous said...

If you consider yourself a banana, then I consider myself a pineapple for my usually unruly and (longer than necessary in Shannon's view) hair and the fact that I rarely shave leaving bristles for an extended time much like a pineapple. Also, I am tropical, being native to Brazil and all.

2to4aday said...

I also believe you are a pineapple--spotted that the first time I met you so your admitting it was no surprise. However, the Brazil part was a surprise--I knew you were tropical, but I thought it was because you were from Southern Iowa.