Thursday, June 28, 2012

What does a Country Bar and Jamaican Mangoes have in common?

Last night I had a walk.  All by myself, and not with the dog, I went out the door in the evening warm.   The weather had ended its fitful rains and all that was left of Tropical Storm Debby was a lot of wind coming in the wrong direction, off the Everglades. 

It was a bit like walking in a hairdryer toward the end of the walk but that's part of living in Subtropical South Florida in late June.

I was alone with my thoughts, walking North on Northeast 6th Avenue toward Oakland Park when I stumbled on something.  Looking down at my right foot I noticed the familiar orange color of a squished fruit.  I laughed at myself thinking, only I could be walking around town and have Mangoes find me.

This was a massive tree, more than 30 feet tall, shading the yard and draping over their privacy fence and sidewalk beyond.  Making a mental note of the location, I walked onward to the bar.

My friends were not there, despite my arriving late after having three different people ask me why I was alone and wanting to share their own drama.  One friend worried about where Mrs Dog was.  Another about his pending move.  A third saying hello and asking about how I was doing.  It's nice living in a small town, even if it is surrounded by a much larger neighbor.

After hanging around and watching the instructor do her Country Line Dancing routine for about 10 minutes, I left.   Country music is neither.  I really can't abide Country Music preferring the static of my own thoughts to that prattle.  Like the old joke goes:  Play the song backward and get your dog back, your wife back, and your truck back.

As I was walking back toward the house, I was thinking about that tree and how amusing it was to go out for a walk alone for the first time in recent memory and stumble across a small pile of fruit.  Literally a windfall, I thought, for the neighbor.  Enjoy it.

Going back more than 20 years in my thoughts I was trying to remember the name of a woman with whom I worked.   I couldn't remember her name, but I could remember the story and the love she showed in the story.  Like most stories of that kind, she was probably romanticizing it, and after all this time, I only knew of the highlights.

She was a born Jamaican.  Beautiful tall and statuesque woman with deep brown skin.   Sweet of demeanor, and pleasant to speak with.  One day we were talking over lunch and she started talking about the differences of what it was like to grow up in Jamaica and living in Suburban Jenkintown PA.  You couldn't walk long distances in Jenkintown, the roads didn't have reliable sidewalks for the task, but you could in Jamaica.  Where she lived, she'd walk down the road and said that if she were hungry, all she needed to do was reach up and pick a Mango and go on her way with sweet juice dripping down her arm.  On Jamaica, people didn't plant trees for decoration like we do here.   A tree had to have a purpose.  If you plant a tree it needed to give back to society more than the protection and shade it offers.  It should give forth fruit or nuts.   Apparently where this woman grew up, the streets were lined with gold in the form of mangoes.

That thought stuck with me to this day, especially as I bent down to pick up one choice mango from the swale for later enjoyment.

I've got a bottlebrush tree in front of my yard, but it is old with termites and dying.   When it goes, I'll have to choose what to plant there.  When I plant it, you can be sure that it will give something back.

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