Sticky Mango Fingers on a Snowy Spring Day

I was standing at the sink of my tiny kitchen this morning with mango juice running down my hands onto my wrists. I held the slippery oblong seed gingerly in my partially paralyzed hands hoping it wouldn’t slip. I maneuvered it to my mouth and tasted the sweetness of the mango fiber that wouldn’t leave the seed by knife. The fiber and juice along the seed called my mouth to set it free, to allow it to be enjoyed. As my numb awkward hands carefully moved the seed to my mouth, my eyes focused on the fruit to help create the connection.
 
As my lips and tongue made contact with the seed, I shifted my gaze up to a wintry spring Pittsburgh street scene outside my window on Centre Ave. Fluffy white flakes swirling above the shiny black city street, tree limbs heavy with freshly fallen snow, bundled people stepping carefully through slushy curbs to climb into their car after an appointment. I stared at it all and wondered about eating juicy fresh tropical fruit while its snowing outside.

As I gazed upon the snowy scene and swallowed fruity sweetness, I recalled the many mangoes I’ve eaten from the trees in Ghana, Costa Rica and Haiti. And the sweet eggfruit I watched grow on the tree beside my cabin in Hawaii, all the while thinking it was a mango. The sweetness in my mouth brought back the sweetness of those adventures. Did I fully enjoy those times? I asked myself. And the answer in my heart was and is yes.

As I sit here, numb feet trying to feel the floor, typing with two fingers until I started to type this sentence and I slowed down to practice using more of my fingers type. And as I type more slowly, my mind has the space to wonder into the thought of yet another thing I could do daily to help my recovery process along. Wouldn’t it be great to do typing exercises to help rehabilitate my fingers and hands? Another great idea for faster more complete healing….if only I had the time, the energy, the focus….to do it all, to be everything I have ever dreamed of and do all the healing practices that will make it all more possible…if only…

Focus.

As I sit here typing, remembering my past adventures, I feel both proud and grateful for how fully I experienced the off the beaten path travels I have taken in this lifetime.  I love that trees and their fruit have played such a central role in my experience of being fully present for and in those adventures. It is fascinating to realize that I took very few, if any, of my days living abroad for granted.  Time spent on foreign soil, before and after my fall down the stairs were the richest days of my life. Why? What can I bring of those days to my experience of life today, here in Pittsburgh?

Focus. Memoir writing.

My love affair with fruit fresh from trees started in Ghana.  When I arrived in January 2004 mangoes were in high season and I gleefully ate many everyday.  I was enamored by the colorfully dressed Fante or Ewe women with huge smiles by the roadside stocked with massive mango piles stacked on rickety wooden tables. I would walk to them in the morning, trying out my Fante to say, “Good Morning! A mango is how much?” They didn’t sell just one, they had too many. So I would buy too many for too little, eat as many as I could, and give the rest away. Every day. I had never eaten so much delicious fresh fruit.

As January turned to February,  the piles of mangoes started getting smaller and the prices started going up.  I would barter with the women to get closer to the original prices, but they explained the mangoes were nearly ‘finished’s so they now cost more.  Simple supply and demand pricing.   Not too much later, there were no more mangoes. I was devastated.

It was the first time I understood what eating in season meant. We were in a small town on the coast of Ghana.  Far from the bustling capital of Accra, there was no grocery store in Elmina, getting shipments of mangos from other places. We had been eating the mangoes from the trees in the area, and in time we finished them.

When I expressed my sadness about no more mangoes, I was told not to worry because mango trees give fruit every 6 months. That meant I had a good chance of seeing another mango season before my year there was complete.  I accepted the lesson, and looked forward to the fall when I would again feast on mangoes.  That summer I started thinking about the book title for that grand Ghanaian adventure, “Waiting for the Mangoes to Ripen”.

I left Ghana in December of 2004 and somehow I didn’t get to see another mango season in full bloom. And I have yet to write that book.  I know I will write that book one day, just like I know I will write the book of Falling Down. Waking Up. It will happen in its own sweet time, just like mangoes grow in their season on their own time.

More drafted mango storytelling:

Eight years later I moved to Haiti to teach yoga. Again I arrived in a new country to a mango season just beginning. The mango trees in Haiti are prolific.   They have so many different varieties coming in all shapes, sizes, textures and flavors. But this time I wasn’t in a small town, I was in the capitol of Port Au Prince. There were three full service grocery stores in addition to massive markets and somehow there always seemed to be mangoes. I learned that shipments of mangoes come in from the Dominican Republic where they are cultivated year round.

 

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