Saturday, April 23, 2016

Seasons change

The afternoon wind, which just started up a week or two ago, is twice welcome. It cleans the air and brings in a breeze if not cooling, at least fresher than the hot still sun dust- and smoke-clogged atmosphere. White melon vines dry and sink and are fed to the rabbits and on the back of a truck are sold jungle berries, oval and yellow-green. Their taste is rich, almost fatty, and the large smooth black seed has a lipid attachment that will attract ants who bury it down in the jungle mulch. This is a once a year treat and Thavarajah pays Rs 300 for a bag. He distributes berries to me and to the staff, so when I go to give people a handful they've already been munching all afternoon. The skins are thick and stick to the roof of your mouth. You can't eat that many and on the third day the ones I've been given that I didn't eat turn. 

A quieter day than usual, waiting for news from home. A family member is in trouble and I'm unable to concentrate. That's the way it is. After lying on my bed under the fan for hours I head for the pool. The serving boys are there and just today I don't feel like keeping them company and giving a swimming lesson. Anyway they're happy as can be to chat among themselves and laugh and race across the hot hot pool that is so grossly chemical-laden and I leave them be. Clinton goes to Qatar now in a week to work. He'll be there for two years, supposedly making Rs 55,000 monthly compared to his Rs 15,000 (plus tips) here. It's his decision and he must make peace with himself and his mother. He's the baby of his family. I want to stay out of the discussion. 

So instead of the pool I head for a hammock. The luxurious one made out of recycled woven fertilizer bags. The one that Julia saw the red ants on and that Thavarajah sprayed. I look up at the wood apple tree. My favorite. It is in the Rutaceae, same family as oranges. Its leaves, cute and compact, are just like the Ruta we grow in our garden to honor Janet's Sephardic grandparents. The story is her great grandparents brought Ruta from Turkey to New York and planted it there. It is medicinal and poisonous. Sprigs around the delivery bed promise a safe birth. Or is it that the Ruta was brought from Spain to Turkey?

I've told people here that wood apple is in the orange family and they deny. Vehemently. Until they think for a moment and recall. The fruit is segmented. That fruit, the least attractive. Scabrous and brown-gray, woody. You smash the outside and you can eat the viscous odorous gooey brown pulp with your fingers or make a juice drink. But where are the flowers?

I expected small flowers but even so never saw them. I love the unkempt form of this tree. All of the wood oranges. They are like Chinese scholars' rocks in their asymmetry and lack of pomp. Their jagged profiles. Their scraggly certainty. Never trimmed or hedged. Always wild. I look up from the hammock. It's not a profusion of fruit but a progression. Like ovaries were fertilized successively over weeks. Fruits of every size from fingernail small to almost ripe and baseball bunched. Several to a branch. I hadn't seen them. Hadn't lain in this hammock. Here they are, another sign of the season. They look like they're raining down, smaller ones higher up. But it's an illusion. 

Three or four days ago the coconut climber came by the pool, very early. He desexed the coconut just above the water. Down came the staminate flowers! Down came the females! All woody and sculptural. All very heavy. All with the accompaniment of mighty sheaves of fabric and lignaceous fiber. The pool was full of coconut. But the coconut tree would not fruit this year. Saving us from the possibility of falling.  

But falling is what one tree did today, right in the middle of the grounds. Just a few sandy feet from a family walking to the pool. Its roots weak and severed right at the surface of the sand. The crown heavy with fruit and flowers, about three seasons' worth, surprisingly heavy, gently waving until one gentle breeze, gently insistent, brought it crashing down. 

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