Luscious Oranges in Peak Citrus Season Lead One Writer to Reconsider the Notion of Unpredictability

A case for spontaneity.

  • Category
    Homes, People
  •  Written by
    Richard Lowe
  • Illustrated by
    Yuiko Sugino

When my family and I moved to Studio City in October 2021, our house came with three orange trees, a nice nod to the Valley’s history of citrus groves. But although it was the right season, they had no fruit. Our gardener explained that the previous owner kept the trees trimmed and that they hadn’t produced anything in years. Hopeful that they were resilient enough to reverse course, we told him to let them grow wild.

It worked. Our trees are healthy and on a predictable schedule of bearing golden fruit. Two years in, I love their whimsical way of telling time. In spring and summer, they produce fragrant blossoms. In fall, young green orbs sprout. In winter, juicy oranges finally appear. The cycle repeats with certainty, and I find that comforting.

I’ve been a planner my whole life. I had my first daily planner in third grade. When my friends asked what superpower I dreamed of having, I went right to clairvoyance. “That’s lame,” they would tease. “Well, I’d win the lottery,” I’d snark back. But deep down I knew they were right. My choice was probably the 11th coolest superpower. But I’ve just never liked surprises. So our orange trees blossoming on a rigid schedule? Yeah, that speaks to me.

We live in a society of schedules, appointments, and Google calendars. Because how nice is it to have everything planned out? Less thinking, more getting stuff done. Routine brings order: gym, work, lunch, work, dinner, repeat. 

Lately, however, I’ve been having second thoughts. (If middle age isn’t the time to question things, when is?) Looking back at my life, my best memories are of spontaneous, dynamic, almost alchemical moments when the universe moved me out of my schedule and let me discover life’s possibilities. Like 15 years ago when my wife and I got lost in the highlands of Ecuador and had to rely on our wits to hitchhike back to civilization before night fell. In hindsight it was an exhilarating adventure. I wouldn’t recommend it, but the truth is, I couldn’t recommend it. It’s not repeatable. It’s something that just happened.

How fun would it be if my orange trees were a bit more unpredictable? What if they were magic fruit trees that sprouted a different harvest every year, like apples or mangoes? Or heck—even almond croissants? I guarantee I’d take joy in checking to see what new food was dangling from their branches.

There’s a reason I use the word “magic.” Because surprise feels like magic. It sparks delight. Why scrub any chance of it from our own lives? Is opening ourselves up to the unknown sometimes scary? Probably. But it can also lead to awe and wonder. This next year, I’m resolved to try something new: Be a little less like my orange trees and save some room for magic.

Richard Lowe lives in Studio City with his wife and two daughters. This essay is dedicated to his wife, who has always encouraged him to be more spontaneous.