Tobago

Tobago
Horizon at Sandy Point

Friday, May 7, 2010

Trees for companions

Trees have been a comfort to me all my life. There was the guava tree  on the front lawn that I learned to climb. Imagine a girl in a large skirt trying to negotiate branches and then hang upside down ... and maintain decorum. Not a pretty sight. Not sure why the large skirt except that skirts were a fact of life, and one negotiated around them. When I tried to climb the orange tree, I was told that girls in the tree would sour the fruit! The cerise governor plum (full of tiny seeds, and hard so that it had to be softened before eating) kept us at bay with three inch long spikes at the base, but we still got to the fruit.

I love trees - they were, and are still, a part of my life. The breadfruit tree - a "magga" (Trini word meaning thin and barely alive, also "gnashy" - mainly of humans) almost leafless skinny thing - was prolific in season. It provided for breadfruit chips, mashed breadfruit made into a pie with minced meat, or boiled and served with butter. The five finger (carambola) and pommerac trees sometimes bore fruit directly off their trunks. And it was amazing that a stumpy little avocado could bear the weight of a crop of two or three pound pollocks - glossy green pears that ripened to the texture of butter. I adored the army of mango trees - Rose, Graham, starch, stone, zabico, long and Julie. But I didn't only love trees with my belly.

I look forward to the immortelles flowering above the cocoa. Poui, petrea, cassia, jacaranda, samaan, with their flowering and seeding, they all bear witness to changes in daylight and temperature, rainfall and weather patterns. If only we could be more sensitive to their signals. And their promise - in the direst dry season, the lime tree is covered abundantly with tiny white blossoms.

Today, my home is surrounded by trees - those of my planting, and those that have always grown wild on the hillside. I support all the calls for appreciation of what trees contribute (collectively) to human development and quality of life. As adults, we know their value - to water conservation, financial returns for timber, protection of soil, maintaining biodiversity, providing habitat for the wild things. But what I wish for is this: to allow children everywhere, to know and love a tree, as a friend and companion. To invent silly games like "one on a root" as we skipped across the above ground roots - like so many islands - of a giant "stinky toe." To play "pitch" among the orange marbles of a giant ficus. To whisper secrets into the bark of a towering flamboyant as they count to ten, playing tag or rescue.

I don't know how to force land developers to not clear-cut acres of forest. I wish for the help of the trees infiltrating young hearts and minds.

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