It’s easy to lose perspective in the heat and noise of Kingston. Faced by the constant rising tide of the cost of living, it’s easy to forget why this country was dubbed called the land of wood and water. Though Kingston is embraced by the beautiful Caribbean sea and cradled by the Blue Mountains many of us rarely take the time to look up or look out. Our vision is blocked by that insolent taxi-man who just bad-drive you (and possibly sent you two pieces of his favourite claat to top it off) and the myriad of other things that annoy and frustrate.
Driving through downtown Kingston and seeing the dilapidated skeleton of a city that was can be heart breaking. But to focus on the decay and poverty is to miss the true potential of this city. To see only the noise and heat is to miss its beauty.
What I love most about Kingston is when the city blooms. It’s June and the poinciana is robed in fiery orange petals which have earned it its other names of flame tree and flamboyant. The golden shower tree, boasting massive cascading bunches of petals that are reminiscent of little girls with breaking-and-entering tendencies.
Neither the Poinciana nor the Golden Shower are endemic to Jamaica, but they are an important part of Jamaica’s over 3000 species of flowering plants. But Jamaicans have a strange relationship with plants. For many of us, unless they are potted, bought from a plant shop or gifted by a friend (and sometimes even a stranger) they are just bush, nameless, anonymous. And as much as our people, our plants reflect our multiple origins. They remind us that many cultures and beliefs are fused into who we are, they are a part of our out of many that has become one.
So these trees are a part of the reason that when I think I’ve had enough, when I hear another budget being read and mistake it for Canada calling, these trees remind me that I am home. Every time I see the Poinciana, the Poui, the Lignum Vitae, the Karato, or even the ignominious shrubs like the shame-a-lady and the ramgoat roses … they remind me that there is beauty here.
So for the love of trees I remain, and remind myself that Buju was right, those who can afford to run will run, but some will have to stand. And so I stand … under the cooling shade of a Lignum Vitae, hoping to gain strength and wisdom from its gnarled, hardened wood, trying to figure out how I can make a difference in the 50 years to come.