You know those experiences that occur so unexpectedly, ones you couldn’t have envisioned when you woke up that—or any other—morning, ever? Experiences so wonderful that they wrest you from your normal state of mind, regardless of how mindful it might be? Experiences that remind you of how infinitely varied the world seems, despite its perilously diminishing multiplicity?
I had one of those experiences this morning and have been in a buoyant mood ever since. After an hour of sitting on the San Pancho beach in Jalisco watching the waves crash on the shore and the human activity silhouetted against nature’s drama, I became thirsty. Half an hour earlier I’d finished the bottle of water I’d brought, and I wasn’t ready to leave. A few meters away, a black-haired young man wearing a fanny pack and huaraches stood behind a wheelbarrow sheltered by the shade of a beach umbrella. In it was a cooler containing pineapples and coconuts. Pineapples and empty coconuts formed a mound at the wheelbarrow’s front end. The vendor looked uncomfortable and wiped his brow with a rag every few minutes. During the hour I’d been there, I’d seen no customers, although he did disappear several times with a machete strapped to his waist and an armload of coconuts and pineapples and returned empty-handed.
I decided to get a coconut water. The vendor reached into his ice chest and removed a cold coconut, hacked off the top with one swift swing of his machete, and cut a hole in the nut’s top with his knife. He carefully placed the disk of fresh white coconut beside the opening and inserted a straw into the well of water. I paid and returned to my spot to enjoy the sweet, refreshing nectar, noticing how that flavor mingled with the perfume of the salty sea air.
Beside me sat a couple who had smiled as they arrived. The man, too, ordered a coconut water. Then, he returned the coconut, and the vendor washed it carefully with filtered water before cleaving it in half. He then took a curved knife and excised the white flesh from one half and sliced it into numerous crescents that he arranged in the intact half, sprinkling the entirety with salt, powdered chiles, and lime. He returned it to the man after inserting two toothpicks. As the man walked past, he offered me a bite, which I appreciatively accepted. I was curious about this delicacy, one I had neither seen nor heard of despite numerous visits to tropical venues.
It was delicious; I’d never tasted anything like it. Sweetness tempered by citrus and piquant saltiness. I knew then how I’d dispose of my now fluid-free coconut. I took mine to the vendor before leaving the beach—I wanted to bring this surprise to my daughter, then completing a conference call. He performed the identical ritual and refused additional payment. As I walked back to the hotel, cradling my coconut treat in my hands, I felt that elemental ripple of contentedness one feels only every now and then.