Eat Mangoes Naked – SARK

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Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy is always good for a hit of colorful and uplifting. It’s 100 degrees in the shade. The hydrangeas in the garden are withered and brown. I just earned minimum wage for writing about why we need to train for endurance. Frankly, a week on a tropical island would help to put all of that in perspective. Eat Mangoes Naked will have to do. SARK dedicates this book to the exploration of pleasure, be it the pleasure of a deep bath that turns into a Caribbean lagoon or the pleasure of a quirky coffee bar where you throw ping pong balls at the kitchen door to attract service and the tables move almost imperceptibly as you sit at them.  Mostly pleasure, in SARK’s definition, involves the active use of the imagination and a healthy dose of whimsy to imbue the quotidian with a different flavor.

Try visiting your own home as a complete stranger. Sit in a different chair, pull a book off the shelf that you’ve never read and open it for a message, read poetry aloud in your pajamas, use the good dishes. She recommends stiffing your inner perfectionist and adopting a wobbly yoga practice, playing an instrument badly and composing music that speaks only to you, scheduling a completely unplanned picnic and not caring what you forget to bring. Have a massage, walk barefoot, ride a bike, read How to Draw a Clam by Joy Sikorski, volunteer to cuddle babies in a hospital, climb a big old tree in the moonlight and watch the moon through the branches.

The idea is to head back in time to the days when pleasure was just what you did for a living as a kid. Small, sensual things. Big daydreams. Eating a favorite food–plus seconds. SARK recounts a solo birthday on a romantic island when she impulsively introduced herself to a table full of party hats and shared a birthday party-in-progress with a group of fans of her work–birthday dinner saved from self pity, lots of laughter and new friends made.

I like her advice to write inspirational quotes on your walls in colored chalk. If it doesn’t wipe off, you can always re-paint. I loved her story about writing tiny notes–SARK is a scribbly artist so the notes were sure to be decorated–and handing them out at book readings with the instructions to pass them on. The inside held a message like: You are seen. You are known. You are loved. How simple is that? And how unexpected? She tells of a game in which you go to a bookstore with a friend–has to be a cool friend–and converse only in the titles of the books that you find.

Essentially, the trick to finding pleasure in whatever surrounds you at the moment is to savor the novel. If you can’t find something new about it then do something new with it. Mangoes are pretty messy, juicy, sticky and drippy. If you ate one naked and really, really got into the experience, you would probably need one of those Caribbean lagoon baths–and then you could pretend you were a mermaid, or listen to your entire collection of Leon Redbone albums until the water got cold, or make up mind-blowing aphorisms to chalk on your walls. It’s all good.

Eat Mangoes Naked: Finding Pleasure Everywhere (and dancing with the Pits)   SARK | Fireside   2001

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