In Queensland, luscious mangoes signal our summer holiday season over the New Year. So juicy and delectable, they are best eaten leaning over the kitchen sink!
A few years ago, my neighbour’s Bowen Mango tree used to produce so many mangoes, she couldn’t give them away … so she had it lopped!
Whenever I see a mango tree, I remember an Indonesian story retold by storyteller Helen East. My version goes something like this –
One still, summer’s night the moon shone full on a tall, dark mango tree. Cicadas suddenly ceased chirping and listened. Disgruntled voices were drifting up from the tree’s roots “After all,” they complained, ” we do all the work and get none of the attention or thanks!”
They muttered on about how hard it was deep down in the dark earth, holding the whole tree fast, while keeping water moving up to the trunk, the branches, those leaves and all that fruit.
“Look at that lazy trunk, just standing there!” they yelled, looking up.
Hearing this the trunk yelled back “ Not, so! My job is constant strain. Holding all this tree together in wind and storms is much harder. If I break, we all die. You forget too that I carry all the food back and forth to all parts. I’ve also had limbs chopped off for firewood, bark stripped by foraging animals: the pain of it all.”
Then the trunk added “It’s those leaves just hanging there, dancing in the breeze. I wish that was all I had to do!”
Surrounding branches swayed in disagreement. They thought differently.
“How little you know, “ whispered the leaves in chorus. “ All day long we convert energy from the sun sharing it with the whole tree. We’re up all night releasing air for the tree while it rests. We shelter you all from too much sun. Heavy rains often tear us down.You wouldn’t want to have our job. Look at the fruits, all they do is hang around, grow fat and glow with pride when they’re ripe. There’s the kind of job we’d like!” they sighed.
The fruits held their tongue at first. They knew it was because of their existence that this tree was valued. Then they indignantly pointed out how badly treated they were, often ripped off before they were ripe or gnawed at by bats and rats.
“We have the worst of all – such a short life. Though prized by humans, many of us can be left to rot at the base. The rest have to give ourselves up to be eaten, pulped, sliced and worse…”
A deep voice broke through the babble.
“Enough! … I spend a long time waiting for my fruit to ripen,” said the husky stone.
“We fall together. If I am cast aside and land on good earth, we go on. When I dry out, I force my case to split open so the seed can begin to grow into a sapling. I remake all of you from my core when a root descends and a shoot ascends. Trees like us have flourished for thousands of years. We all have our part to do in the growing …”
Just then, a woman came softly into the garden to look at the moon so the tree fell silent. And the cicadas began their rhythmic nocturne once again.
Sources – Story adapted from Helen East’s retelling “The Heaviest Burden” in BRAND, Jill, BLOWS, Wendy & SHORT, Caroline. The Green Umbrella: stories, songs, poems and starting points for environmental assemblies. London, Black, 1991:93.
Mango – Wikiwand article
All text and photos by Meg
Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License and also Copyright © under Australian Law.