The Mango Tree

I’ve been looking at trees a lot lately. In particular the mango tree that grows in my garden. The last mango season came and went and no fruit hung from the branches, but instead, a multitude of different forms of life took its place. When the sun sets around 6pm and the call to prayer warbles longingly across the fields and cities, a sharp continuous thud can be heard at the very top of the tree.

Silhouetted against the pink sky, a thousand beetles about the size of a thumb ricochet off each other and the branches, crashing into leaves and making whole boughs sway. The sound is loud enough to make me think perhaps a cat has jumped into the tree and has found itself stuck. A third sound enters, after the prayer call and the beetles, the scurrying of a gecko against the wall and another thud as it lands in the tree. A second gecko comes – the flurry of life above meaning dinner for these normally shy creatures.

Further down the tree, silently working from the ground up, march ants. Three different sizes, carrying leaves, bits of mud, crumbs from the kitchen. They work their way up the trunk, tiptoeing across the washing line and forming a huddle against the back of an ageing leaf. A nest is formed around them, and they are protected in the gentle sway of the leaf against the ruckus above.

Stretching out between the leaves is a spider. Steady, silent, waiting. A network of webs connects the community, some yellow, some black, one spider with a large swollen backside. They await the caterpillars, moths and butterflies that also call these trees home.

A few streets away, another sound is heard, the incessant whining of an electric saw. A sound common across the city where slowly slowly, one-by-one the trees are felled. Felled for land, felled to make way for roads, felled for wood. With each tree felled, one micro-world, all the beetles, the spiders, the ants, the butterflies, caterpillars and geckos lose a home. We speak a lot of protecting the forests, but we should also celebrate and protect the city trees too, the forgotten trees which obstruct telephone lines and whose roots uproot pavements. They remember to sustain life where in day to day life, on the road, at work, on campus we sometimes forget.

But for now, right now, I sit and appreciate this mango tree in my garden, and from her I get both rapturous noise and peace.