Trees have always fascinated me. In my native land, Guyana, fruit trees abound and flowering trees lined the main avenues of our capital, Georgetown. They beautified our city and brightened my life. Before I was born, their robust trunks had withstood the forces of Nature. They will continue to stand tall and radiant long after I have passed away.
When we moved to Fortaleza (CE), I fell in love with the cashew tree: o cajueiro (ka-ju-ay-ru). Native of Northeast Brazil, it flourished in the hot tropical climate and sandy soils of the region – responsible for over 95 percent of the nation’s cashew production. They are cultivated commercially for the production of cashew nuts, one of the major exports of the State of Ceará to the United States. The shape, vivid colors, and nut of the caju (ka-ju) became a new fascination. The pseudo-fruit made a delicious juice rich in vitamin C, calcium, phosphorous, and iron.
Most of the cashew trees in our condominium rose to only two stories high. About twenty feet away from our third-floor apartment stood the largest cajueiro, four stories tall. During our early years, the tree seemed stunted: little foliage and no fruit. On sleepless nights, I would stand at my bedroom window and look out onto the still, quiet night. The cajueiro was my only companion: a witness to my desperation after I was left alone to raise my sons in a foreign country. Although it no longer bore fruit, the cajueiro stood tall and strong. If I were to succeed in providing for myself and sons, I had to remain grounded; to stand tall and strong.
Time passed. When afflicted and broken, I observed the cajueiro with its scanty crown. It reminded me that, when faced with obstacles and setbacks, I had to focus on building fortitude for survival and on developing as a professional.
Then one year, a miracle happened. A deluge inundated the canals and streets of drought-prone Fortaleza. The cajueiro came to life. New leaves and blossoms sprouted. Over the following years, its crown filled out and expanded. Fruit adorned its limbs. Boisterous birds moved in.
The cajueiro extended its limbs towards my window, providing a curtain of foliage outside my window. During the caju season, I could reach out and pick the ripe fruit that hung within my reach.
I, too, had grown: as a mother, provider, and professional. When the opportunity arose for a better position, I was ready to move forward.