“Tree” from Overripe Fruits

28 Dec

Listen to the story while you’re reading! Written & read by:  Ritti Soncco  //  Recorded, Mastered, Sounds & Directed by:  Andreas Usenbenz

Every now and then, I find myself unsatisfied in the shower. I stand motionless as the pearls of water shudder down my crossed arms, bloated stomach, and unshaven legs. My eyebrows arch together as though they were knit to the bridge of my nose. My silence is the worst thing about my motionless dissatisfaction. It is the worst weapon I use against myself. The water scratches down my arms, rolls down my stomach, shimmies between stubble hair on my legs, marches across my feet – directly into the gutter. And I certainly don’t miss it.

*

Today I sat outside my house. My father is at work and stupid John is watching me. My dog is barking at him. Good. He is stupid. He says, “Do you have nice things for me?” I say no, toys are not nice, go away stupid John.

I sit on the patio, my skinny legs in blue tights, my hair loose and in knots. I have nine years that are mine. And when I look up, there is my tree. I will never love another tree like I love you. I already know that.

It holds court as I woo it, “You are nameless and you are mine. You are fruitless and you are loved.”

With my skinny legs in blue tights, I tippy toed to its black roots, grab a course branch and swing. My legs bend at the knees and I blissfully cling. I am the overripe fruit this tree will never drop.

I love its bark. Wide protruding black ridges that make swinging like this hard and soft at once. I love that it toughens my palms. All trees in the world should feel like this, and none of them do.

In my little blue tights and oversized shirt, I hear a deep rumble. I instantly let go of the branch, land a few feet away, slap my red palms together. No one else is around to have heard it. So I lift my nose up, close my eyes and concentrate. That smell… I had smelt the rain in the air for days. Now it was here.

Yes! Yes, there it was! My eyes opened to the dark formations in the sky and my heart waddled, leapt, paraded. My feet heard its march and stumbled into action. I ran around around the tree, springing over the black roots. My lips parted, released a little Indian’s little cry of little glee at a little war – then I stopped. My heart banged against my ribcage with sticks, demanding to be released, to be held in the wind bringing the purest air, the air scented with the sweet fragrance of rain. A windy kiss, the holy matrimony of promise made and promise kept. The rain was coming!

Wide-eyed in my little head, I stared rooted among roots, at the headstrong gathering of clouds stomping from the horizon. The leaves began to quiver, one by one, in an orchestra of movement. Little I and a tree watch the world focus on the clouds and the clouds focus on us.

Deliberate formations had gathered to build an army. Like bad-tempered frogs, they squatted on top of each other, moving as one. They stared straight ahead, straight at me and my tree, and ignored left and right. Most birds fled in awe. The clouds ignored the squawking of the adrenaline-junkie birds that stayed; these birds rose to meet the storm, dove, were flung, spun, twisted, regained control and rose again.

The clouds crept slowly, never losing focus or formation. They were fat and beautiful with a fanfare of dark rumbles that both excited and terrified me. They seemed to grow darker by the minute, taking the whole sky to a darker regime. I stood far below them, my clothes shivering in awe. Looking up, all I could see was their black bellies, frog stares and frog stomps. Then the clouds began their song.

Deep, deeper rumbles, and the wind became possessed. It screeched and screamed, spinning wildly against the garden. It threw itself headfirst into masses of leaves on the ground, kicking them up into the air. It flung into flexible twists, momentarily possessing everything around me, moving so fast I suddenly understood why we can’t see the wind.

How I long to be possessed by that wind! To be carried or thrown into the air like a weightless leaf! I long to run in blind circles under a discord harmony of my exalted screams – but I stay, shivering, desperately awaiting the climax of the clouds’ arrival, and the release of that rain. Their release will release me too!

The clouds mock my expectation: instead of a violent downpour vicious enough to tumble all the saints down from the heavens… The clouds whisper the softest rain. A rain so gentle and so steady, it harmonizes with the sun, flooding many new rainbows onto my garden, that glisten and pose before softly disappearing into my imagination.

I stand amazed. I decide to suck up as much air as I can. I run… Run into the steady shower, the warm raindrops, the glittering twinkles. I run out… Out of the whispered rain and back into my garden full of statues of rainbows…

My tree laughs at my game. It laughs as the rain pats its hard and soft bark, smoothing the ridges, worrying the leaves. As warm as its lava, as warm as my own blood, the rain embraces my tree. I run to it to join the embrace, throwing my hands up. My tree bends its branches to pick me up and carry me as swiftly as I dare, to its highest branch. I stand like a sailor on the highest mast, little me with nine years that are my own.

Up there: to be rocked by the wind in a vicious but not malicious cradle. To be drenched in the rain. To be dried in the sun. To sing a discord harmony of screams and laughs. Up up there, my tree holds me in my sweetest memory of childhood.

*

Every now and then, I close my eyes in the shower. I lean my head back against the arch of my neck, and feel the shower’s pearls run down my matted, tangled hair and down my back. I bow my head forward and the pearls race to my forehead, hold hands and jump-! I gasp. The water massages me, holds me. Each pearl pauses mid-air to shine on my body, before sliding down skillfully. I dance in the shower of water, in a tiny white tiled shower somewhere, and laugh because I can remember.

This story is timeless to me and is one of my personal favourites. To me, it summarizes all the impressions, hardships and joys of what a childhood in Africa really means: the connection to nature. There were no cinemas, no bars, no discos – nothing. We had to make our own fun. Nature was all around us and it became our natural playmate. It was all about avoiding snakes, climbing trees, wading in rivers trying to spot alligators, chasing bats away so that we could pluck mangoes. And in all my time in Africa, I was ill less than I have been since I moved to Europe.

I remember once, as I walked home for 3 hours in the blaze of the midday African sun, how it forced me to my knees and I had to summon all the strength left in me to just keep walking. I remember thinking: “If I can survive this African sun, then I can survive anything.” My childhood gave me inner strength, and the unshakable sense that nature is my brother.

The Audio Version you heard is a work-in-progress with the sound artist Andreas Usenbenz. Please visit his Website here and check out his amazing work. Andreas & I are working on an Audio Book of “Overripe Fruits” and “Tree” is our first collaboration. It’s a piece I am very happy with. So if you agree, please leave your comment here, visit his site, or follow him on Twitter.

Here’s to Africa. Rise, black star, rise up. You are the heart of the house, the blood in our veins, and the Mother of us all. Thank you for my beautiful childhood.

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5 Responses to ““Tree” from Overripe Fruits”

  1. bianca December 28, 2010 at 4:08 am #

    My dear ritti ,

    just listen to your awsome story.took me way back.if you are able to build up a strong backbone while you young nothing brings you down.
    keep your head up and be proud of yourself. 😉

  2. Adwoa December 28, 2010 at 6:46 am #

    Beautiful- I was so blessed to share this childhood with you! Love always, Me.

  3. Matteo December 28, 2010 at 9:36 pm #

    Wow…
    You brought me back there on Africa Drive looking up at the clouds and smelling the rain preparing to drench everything around us.
    Its one of the many great shows nature performs for us and you described it perfectly.
    Keep writing.

    A thumbs up also to Usenbenz.

    • rittisoncco December 29, 2010 at 11:10 am #

      Thank you very much Matteo. We should have included your whistling and bike bell 😉

  4. Rachel February 9, 2011 at 12:23 am #

    Ritti… scathed knees, grass burns on shins; Standing under torrential June downpours, swimming in the rain, screams of laughter echoing in my ears at the joy of freezing in the rain.. Watching in anticipated excitement for rainbows and unicorns in the clouds after the rain… searching for my pot of gold at the end of it whilst barefeet squish into the wet velvet grass…

    Climbing mango trees and plucking the most ripe of its fruit; like a like a little monkey, peel away the skin with my hands and teeth, sucking sweetness and vitality of the fruit in hungrily, juices drizzling down the corners of my mouth and hands, sticky and sweet. Feet dangling downwards leaning against a sturdy branch after gorging on mangoes, falling asleep, falling out of , waking up with a few cuts and bruises and a sore ego…

    Getting stuck on curving coconut trees, running barefoot scorching my feet in the hot sand on the beach. Standing in awe of the great mighty Atlantic waves multiples of times my tiny size… fresh coconut milk out of the coconut itself… sun-blessed skin and hair, tangled, matted, split to no end… The taste of salt on my skin and lips…

    That is my Africa… my home…. where my heart will always remain…with all of you who know what it’s like to drink from Her water and breathe from Her air…As we live in her heart, she lives in our soul and memories…..

    I love you and miss you all…

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