But What About the Lemon?

Timi Under Lemon Tree

It might have made sense to adjust my circadian rhythm to West Coast time when I moved to California for the winter, but that’s not what happened.

To be fair, I still am working full time for an East Coast company, so as far as my workday is concerned, 6 to 2 is the new 9 to 5.

Fairness aside, it is somewhat strange to wake every morning, even on weekends, in deep darkness. And of course, my animals’ daily rhythms mimic my own. Not necessarily in terms of sleep — let’s face it, they sleep all day, no matter what! But in terms of feeding, and toileting, which in Timi’s case requires walking, which brings me to this morning.

Around 4:30 AM as I was stretching and yawning in bed, Timi made it clear he needed to go out. Still in my PJs, I bundled up California desert style (down vest, scarf and hat, UGG boots) and out we ventured, into the 48° darkness.

Having seen it rise the previous night, I knew the moon would be full, so naturally I looked for it. (One of the greatest advantages to waking up extra early is the opportunity for pre-dawn sky viewing.)

Nearly Full Moon-rise, Two Nights Ago

Sure enough, there she was, saucer-round and spotlight-bright, going down behind the San Jacinto Mountains which flank this valley and are thrillingly located right across the street, on the other side of Highway 111.

I did not have my camera with me, or I would have snapped a photo for you. Instead, I allowed myself to be present in the fleeting moment of moonset, bathed in silver light. Then I came home and found, lying on the plush grass under our lemon tree in the darkness, what appeared to be an orange. But it was not an orange. It was a giant lemon! A lemon so ripe, fat and juicy it had grown nearly as round as the full moon.

Giant Orange-Looking Lemon

This reminded me of an old story. I was a little girl, only four or five. My dad and I were driving into New York City in our 1956 Ford Thunderbird—gunmetal gray, with white and red interior—having one of our deep conversations. Apparently, I’d been noticing how the sun moves across the sky and I was curious about day and night, so Dad was explaining how it all worked.

“Imagine the sun is a lemon,” he began, “floating in the sky.” He held up his hand as if to place a lemon in the air, and I imagined it suspended there. “No—imagine the sun is an orange,” he re-suggested, thinking it a better solar representative. “The sun is an orange, burning bright and round.” Following along intently, I now imagined the orange.

Dad then went on to choose an apple for the earth, hung it in the imaginary sky near to the orange, and explained how the orange never moved, but the apple was spinning. It spun around once a day on its “axis”, and depending which side of the apple was facing the orange, that side would be in daylight. The other side would be in night. As the apple (Earth) continued to spin, its dark side would eventually turn to face the orange (Sun). That is why to the teeny tiny people living on the apple, the orange appeared to be “coming up,” even though it truly wasn’t moving at all!

I paid really, really close attention to this entire lesson, and when it was complete, I understood! The sun stayed in place, the earth turned, and as a result night and day occurred! However, one question remained.

“But, Daddy—What about the lemon?”

What about the lemon, indeed! My father burst out laughing. He loved this story so much that upon our arrival, he told it to the friend we’d been on our way to visit in New York. This friend loved the story so much, too, he soon sent me an unexpected gift: a realistic cardboard solar system mobile from the Museum of Natural History. This extraordinary present was assembled and hung from the canopy foot of my fourposter bed, accompanying me through childhood. I have not seen it in many decades, but I remember it well.

Meanwhile, I have a new idea. Tell me, what do you think? The lemon can be… the moon. 🌵OBC🦉

Lemon Identifying as an Orange
Mars Over Mountains, in Same Spot
Where Moon Set Twenty Minutes Earlier

P.S. Tonight, the full moon will pass in front of and “occult” (block out) Mars for about an hour and a half. Watch this celestial dance live and close up on the Rancho Mirage Library and Observatory YouTube channel, beginning at 6:15 PM Pacific time (9:15 PM Eastern)!!