Thursday, March 7, 2013

Life as I Knew it

Shades of Green
 By: Jane Ray  

            There is no more beautiful place in the world than Nigeria during the rainy season. This is especially true if one should live in the bush. The daily rain washes everything new and sparkling, making even the dirtiest village seem clean.

            The rainy season begins with a line squall which blows with hurricane proportions. The sky darkens and it is as though the black clouds have been punctured, for the water falls suddenly in heavy torrents. Winds up to 70 miles an hour rip through the compound, scattering limbs and branches from the trees and even uprooting them. Tall palm trees bend beneath the fury of the gales. As the rain falls, making rivulets in the roads, puddles in the yards and filling the water tanks, the dirt spatters roof high before turning into mud.

            The earth becomes soaked causing hundreds of ugly, red worms to wiggle their way to the surface in writhing masses, causing squeamish people (like me) to step gingerly around them.

            It did not rain all day long during the rainy season, The day was filled with intermittent showers, and in between the showers, the moisture hung like glistening beads on the leaves of the trees and flowers, promoting rather rapid and vigorous growth.

            I would stand at the window of my house trying to identify the shades of green I saw after the rain. It was as if the colors were being squeezed from an artist’s color tubes, ranging from a green so dark as to be almost black on the mango tree to the delicate blue-green of the ferns growing wild, to the bright yellow green of the lacy fronds of the palm tree…and the colors went on and on.

            The mango stood out from the others by its size and its slick, magnolia-like leaves, while the other fruit trees – orange, grapefruit, lemon, and lime had the advantage of flecks of bright orange, yellow, and white peeking through the branches where the fruit grew on the trees.

            I could see the bush-like guava tree glistening with the dampness and as the vapor rose from the humidity, I could almost see the fan-shaped papaya tree growing taller while I watched.

            Everything flourished during the rains!

            Our driveway was flanked by several beautiful palm trees loaded with the blackish-red nuts the Nigerians pressed and used for cooking oil. A kapok tree 150 feet tall stood directly in front of our house and back by the Koto (where we burned the trash) the pineapple garden added yet another shade of green.

            There were many beautiful plants and trees in our yard that served no other purpose than to be enjoyed for their beauty and fragrance. The Frangipani tree was one. The changing hibiscus was popular as house flowers for vases and bouquets as well as corsages.

            Once in Lagos, a French lady crossed the fence between our yards and begged for just one flower to wear to a party. We told her she was welcome to pick as many as she wished. Later she sent for several choice blossoms and at Christmas time she gave our kids chocolate and a big red ball for two year old Chris.

             The bougainvillea, a thorn bush type of plant, grew on nearly every compound. White and variegated crotons and coleus were planted in neat flower beds next to the house. Poinsettias grew in crimson abundance and I never tired of seeing them growing in the ground. The only way I had ever seen a poinsettia before was potted at Christmas time.

            Many people imported roses from Ireland, growing them in clay pots to protect them from being eaten by white ants. When we lived in Ogbomosho, Stanley decided to try his luck with Irish roses and our conversation was soon dominated by “Rose” talk. We had beautiful “teacup” roses as well as a creamy apricot Peace and delicate Pink Queen Elizabeth.

            After a rain it was so refreshing to sit on the veranda and just enjoy the green, rain-washed world with its fresh, wonderful smells. During a rains storm once, I remember playing cards with another missionary couple. While the rain steamed off the roof of their screened-in porch while enjoying coffee and cracker spread with peanut butter. It seemed especially delicious! Perhaps the goodness of this simple treat was enhanced by the freshness of the cool rain all around us.


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