Under the Marañon Tree

A large tree grows beside our house; no one that I can speak with can tell me how old it is. I was told that before the wall and before the house, when there was only an empty pasture leading to the river, there was the marañon. Its effect on onlookers is mesmerizing, with its huge trunk bending, twisting and sprawling from the earth to the lofty heights that overlook the roof of our house. A Bonsai master could not have shaped a more artistic pose. It gracefully drapes across our wall, as though having a neighborly chat with the young mother next door while watching the activity in her yard. It is like the grand matriarch of the neighborhood. It feeds, shelters, and houses freely. Marañon is Cashew. Its flowers supply the bees in February; its yellow fruit feeds the birds through April, May and June, while its shade protects all. The colorful array of birds that fills the tree is as varied as splashes from an artist’s palette. The fruit of this tree is sweeter than mango and considered a delicacy. Neighbors used to gather it while their children collected the seedpods of the withered fruit to roast on flat stone plates until the hard shells surrendered their tasty treasure. Then, ten years ago, someone bought the property, built a house and sealed themselves from the neighborhood with two large metal gates. Subsequently, what everyone had shared became the property of one. The marañon tree and the river were no longer the casual access of the folks that lived in the barrio.

Our dining area has a glass extension that runs from ceiling to floor, and Mother Marañon grows just outside this windowed space. I am creating a garden room in that spot that offers me the sensation of sitting up in her bough, almost like being in a tree house, sharing space with the yellow birds and parrots. This is one of my favorite areas of the house. Witnessing how the tree changes with each season has given me more understanding of some research Ordin had done before we ever left Hawai’i. Some of our friends there had one of these trees on their property, and since we love the nuts we were intrigued. However, the more we researched and read, the less interested we became in having a tree like that on our property. It just seemed that the rare nut was not worth all the trouble. In three months, I have become a convert from research to experience. I have found that nurturing by a marañon is a privilege.

The benevolence of the marañon amazes Ordin and me as we have watched its progression. While the birds work the branches, the fruit falls prolifically, supplying a generous prize twice a day. Rosanna has rewarded us with fresh juice made from the fruit, the taste of which brings to mind the word “ambrosia”. The frailty of the fruit causes it to be so luxuriant that it is considered a reward to anyone who comes to the house. When area children know we are approachable, they will ask to scour the ground for the hard shells and the fruit. It is such a thrill to share our discovery and there has been more than enough for each neighbor to share in the abundance.

Even Pueo has developed an appreciation for the spreading limbs. She climbs the huge branches to observation points that allow her to study the neighbor’s caged parrots from a safe and sheltered distance. Time and again, the young mother and I will chat from one house to the other, she from her small veranda that faces my house, while I stand at the open Zen door. This habit makes Pu and Ordin a bit uneasy, but I brace my foot at the doorsill and feel perfectly safe. One evening Pueo came to the open Zen door where I stood talking. As she looked down to the ground below, her reaction was to try to coax me inside since she does not like the view. This time she withdrew and left the house through her cat window, going down the stairs to the ground below. I was unaware that she was no longer at my side until the flowering vine at the base of the cashew tree started to quiver. Then, a dark streak shot up the tree; it was Pu. She did not stop at the parrot observation point but continued two limbs higher until her elevation was even with our heads. There she sprawled on one of the limbs, ready to join the visit. She was one of the girls, and even if she had nothing to say, she and Mother Marañon would keep their eyes on us.

Excerpted and adapted from the ebook “Gringos in Paradise: Our Honduras Odyssey” by Malana Ashlie.

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