There is a certain beauty to the everyday. It is a beauty that we often forget; we focus on the extraordinary, as those events are more unique and exciting. In times like these where there is a lack of social and cultural events, it is the everyday which we can (and should) turn to in order to find meaning and contentment. The Orange by Wendy Cope is the perfect poem for this moment in time.
I first came across the poem in the anthology She is Fierce. I had just finished school and I was excited by the future of university, but a long summer stretched out in the distance before I could get there. I felt slightly purposeless after the bustle of my final year of school with its exams and its responsibilities, and I was suddenly left with nothing to do for months. Yet, reading the poem brought an instant smile to my face.
The Orange brings a smile to my face every time I read it. In the past year I have felt confused and upset by everything that is going on. I feel at times like I am stuck, (suspended in animation) waiting for a time when music can once again be played in loud concert halls and poetry can be read aloud in cramped bookshops, and films can be seen by a full laughing audience in a cinema. Stuck at my parents’ house in Aberdeenshire, away from Edinburgh and any remote inklings of student life, everything can just feel pointless.
Yet nothing big happens in The Orange and the protagonist feels content. They have a purpose: a purpose to laugh, a purpose to share and a purpose to love. That is enough. The ‘peace and contentment’ that is talked of in the poem is not preached or made into a mantra. Cope understands that it is hard to come by, but she also understands that it is small everyday tasks that will lead us in the right direction.
Little tasks have become so much more importance to us all: we find happiness in cooking a new recipe, in telling a good joke and in finishing a book. I have struggled with this second lockdown but finding the joy in the little things (in my case, a good pear, not an orange) has helped me.
The final lines of the poem are a perfect demonstration of happiness. A happiness that is simple, pure and true. To my family, to my friends and to myself, we will get through this time. It is hard on us all but ‘I love you. I’m glad I exist’.
At lunchtime I bought a huge orange
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave—
They got quarters and I had a half.
And that orange it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park
This is peace and contentment. It’s new.The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all my jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I’m glad I exist.
Image: etcher67 via Flickr