8/19/10

Mulberries

I am watching the mulberries purple on a shrub we'd planted in April and given up for dead when it seemed to have withered in the hot yellow heat of that month. We forgot it, the cutting we'd planted, taken from my uncle's sandy garden near Chavakkad. It escaped our minds in the electric thunderstorms of May because we were mourning the loss of the rose-apple tree that had burst with fruit in the first few months of this year. What made the tree such a good conductor of electricity that it had to catch a fork of lightning, slowly brown and die?

And in our depths of sorrow over the loss of that tree - a pretty, dainty, pink and green thing - the weak cutting we'd ignored was somehow growing stronger. The electricity of the pre-monsoon showers had kindled something in it. It was greening, nodules appeared on the now plump stems. It had come alive. The man who'd come to clean out the weeds showed it to my mother: It's alive, it's growing.

Now, the first fruit are ripening, just a few, not the hundreds that the rose-apple had sprouted before performing its operatic death. As the first fruit purples, my mother and I think we can make preserves out of them some day. And she tells me how, in Muscat, in that house by the Corniche, birds would come and sit on our windowsills, their beaks stained from eating mulberries from a courtyard garden nearby. Stains they'd paint onto our walls and windows as they rubbed their beaks and dripped berry juices. A whole year passed before the purple streaks on our walls and our windows faded. Faded to a dirty brown that reminded us that somewhere, sometime, one of our neighbours had a mulberry bush.

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