The morning after Gilbert had raked its eye across Jamaica’s spine, blasting through decades of complacency and careless wishes to experience a real hurricane, I went to see how a nearby neighbour was doing. Part of his roof was sitting in our front yard and when I got to his house, I could see that all of the roof had been blown off during the storm. He was all right, he said. He and his sister, both of them quite elderly, had retreated to the only part of the house with a concrete slab roof and his family had called and were on their way to help.
But, he told me, I could expect the next mango season to be a bountiful one. The hurricane would have pruned branches, shaken up the roots and new life would be coursing through the trees that had survived.
And he was right. The massive old Bombay mango tree in our back yard has never borne fruit as abundantly as it did in the post- Gilbert season. Not in the thirty years since Sept 1988.
It was an old and venerable tree even then. Older and even more venerable now. It has had encounters with subsequent storms that have brushed past since. This year hasn’t been a very good season for the old Bombay tree, in fact. Relatively few in number, with a high incidence of worms in the ripe fruit.
The height of the hurricane season is still to come.
I don’t believe that there have to be storms for there to be good crops, not literally or figuratively. But my Bombay mango tree may be aligned with my old (long deceased) neighbour’s words.