Thursday, November 02, 2006

Merlene and the Machete



Bamboo grows so quickly, I've been told, you can almost see it pushing up through the sand. Or dirt. Or just about wherever you choose to plant it. And with a two-month stay at Jamaica's Whistling Bird stretching out before us, we thought we'd see the clump of new stumpy bamboo stalks sprouting along the path from our cottage to the beach, soon stretch way above our heads.

Our three-year old was the perfect height to measure a stalk of new bamboo. At Jim's suggestion, we lined her back-to-back with a recent sprout, which was just about ear-height. Snap a few photos now, he'd advised, and then at the end of our stay take another and compare the miracle of tropical flora. There were several looming tree-like bamboo stalks already swaying high up in the ocean breeze, and just a handful of new growth bursting forth to join them.

Line up, 'farii. Kick off your sandals, back up to the stalk and smile at the camera. We snapped away. Of course this was a pre-digital-camera journey, so we would have to wait for the film to be developed at home to witness our natural miracle. Each day we'd give the stalk a glance and do a mental review of where it may have been and how much it might have grown. We thought we might just take a new photo every week, we couldn't wait two months. How cool to watch it spurt up every 7 days, presuming of course that our daughter's summer growth would lag considerably behind?

But Merlene had other plans.

This is the face of the sweet, quiet, demure and always-just-barely-smiling Merlene. Dancing eyes, she has. Quiet, she would walk up behind you and rest one hand gently on your shoulder while casually placing a handful of ginneps or a fresh mango into your lap with the other. Then she'd just smile, gliding off, barely speaking.

And Merlene wields a machete with the same aplomb as your average American woman wields her lipstick.

Yes. You see where I am going this this, no?

We took our usual walk along the path to the beach one morning and were stunned to see all the new stumpy bamboo stalks, including our precious Summer Growing Friend, all laying in tattered bright green shreds. Just the grown-up bamboo, no infants to be found.

Unaware of our rather dorky Tourist Science Project, Merlene had just been doing her job. Keeping the place tidy. "Yuh mus hole dung de bush, seen?" For the "bush" unchopped on a regular basis, is the "bush" run amok.

Merlene and the Machete became our summer story, rather the Miracle of Mother Nature.

It's a better story.

2 comments:

dreadneck said...

Good stuff. Regardless of all those credentials, you're really talented. You write in a comfortable style where the reader feels like they are right there with you, privy to a little secret behind the scenes goings on. The pictures are earthy. Ever think about writing a book? I don't know why, and hopefully for all the best reasons, I think about that book "Where the Wild Things Are"...

kelsey.camille@gmail.com said...

Oh my Goodness.... this all seems like it happened just yesterday. Merlene! haha - I'll never forget the book the grils wrote, and graphicly illustrated, about the poor young bamboo, and the wretchedly mean lady who took its young life with her machete. Haha, an honest mistake, and hilarious at that. Merlene is the best.... and this painitng shows her true nature. Love it....