When Great Trees Fall

Our magnificent Pera tree fell down last night in a rapid rain storm with strong wind. Some say it was a cyclone. I am reminded of Maya Angelou’s poem, When Great Trees Fall.


Our great Pera tree once stood tall and proud surveying our island of peace. There are very few Pera trees on Ometepe Island. It was a delicious treat for the neighborhood children and a favorite roosting spot for our free range chickens.

IMG_3573Its a magnificent sight to see a Pera tree in bloom. The flowers have a deep magenta-crimson color, which resemble clusters of mini exploding fireworks.

When the blossoms fall silently to the fertile volcanic soil, they carpet the ground like purple sprinkles on a chocolate cupcake. The neighborhood children flock to the great tree, plastic buckets in hand, ready to gather the sweet delights.

“Are the Peras ripe?” the children ask.
“Not, yet, but soon,” I reply.

IMG_1190The Pera (botanical name Syzygium malaccense) has several other names including the mountain apple, water apple, Malay apple, and rose apple. It is not a native of Nicaragua, but originated in Southeast Asia and is widely cultivated in Central America, India, the Caribbean, and many tropical island countries in the South Pacific.

The Pera fruit has a waxy and shiny red skin, but its bell-shaped body and unique taste have no resemblance to any apples of the western world.

PerasThis year, our great tree was loaded with big Pera fruits. It was common to have a branch snap off our tree because of the fruits’ weight. I had big cooking plans for our fruits. Last year I made apple pie, apple sauce, and apple dumplings. We cut and froze the ripened fruits and then thawed them when we had a craving for a sweet apple taste. This year, I planned on making apple butter.

Last week the children came with their buckets in hand.
“Are the Peras ripe?” they asked again.
“Almost,” I replied again. “Come back in about two weeks.”

IMG_1808Last night at dusk, our great tree fell. The chickens were confused. They circled the fallen Pera tree, clucking in alarm. Then, they huddled together in the rain, silently surveying their fallen home. “Where will we sleep tonight?” they whispered to each other.

“When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.”

IMG_5129The Pera tree has very fragile and weak wood. It succumbed to the strong wind with barely a sound.

IMG_5138What will I tell the children when they return with their plastic buckets? Maya Angelou has the answer.

“And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.”

This morning we investigated our great fallen tree. We were lucky that it fell in the perfect place. If it had fallen to the left, it would have toppled our water tower and snapped our internet cable.  If it had fallen to the right, it would have damaged our guest house and garage.

We are hopeful that part of the great Pera tree can be saved. The trunk is still intact, and bunches of nearly ripe Pera fruits are clinging desperately to the lower branches. Pera trees grow rapidly, with a lot of selective pruning.

I may not be able to make apple butter this year, but I have faith that when great souls die, after a period peace blooms again. Of this, I am certain.

17 thoughts on “When Great Trees Fall

  1. What a beautiful tribute to a magnificent tree! I’m glad I got to see it in bloom, and thanks to your freezer we were also able to enjoy the fruit. I think it will be back though. Given some time it will flower and fruit again.

  2. Beautiful! Love how you have woven Maya Angelou’s poem of hope and renewal into the story of the loss of your Pera tree. I hope it will grow back stronger and delight you with its fragrant fruit again.

    • Thanks, Madhu. Maya Angelou’s poem is a picture of hope and renewal for every living thing. I miss Maya. She shared her thoughts about the world eloquently. Ron, my husband, made pera pie last night with the downed peras, and our gardeners pruned what is left of the tree. Our pera tree shared her wood with our neighbors for their cooking fires. She is going to grow back strong and lovely again. 🙂

  3. We have lost all our banana trees and a key lime tree to wind, but to lose a giant tree is heart rendering. Thank goodness there was no damage like there could have been. It sounds like your weather is just not going to let up.

    • Lynne, I know some people would think it is silly to mourn over the loss of a tree, but I just can’t help it. I know you understand. Our property has many old mature trees. We have 5 huge mango trees, one is very close to our house. Today, they are using ropes and tying themselves into the tree to cut the top branches that overhang our house. The falling mangoes have dented our tin roof and given me post traumatic stress syndrome! Just kidding about that, but we need to prepare for the windy season and the next crop of mangoes.

  4. Many years ago I lived in Northwest Colorado. I carefully planted and cared for a cotton-less Cottonwood tree and against all odds on the high desert plateau it grew and flourished. When I moved from that home, I actually felt saddened by the prospect of leaving my tree. Every time I drove through that area I would detour up to see how my friend was faring. It lived on for years, but some ten or fifteen years after I moved, the new owners neglected the tree and eventually cut it down out of the yard it had shaded for almost twenty years.

    I know how it is to lose a friend like a faithful tree. Hopefully others will grow to replace the lost tree.

    • So, you do understand mourning the loss of a “friend”. Your story touched me. Ron has planted many new tropical trees on our land within the past 4 years. We won’t live long enough to see them mature into wise old trees, but I think it is Ron’s legacy.

  5. goodness, the rainy season is stretching into november without giving you much of a break.

    those trees have such a dense presence, and there’s surely a big void where it once stretched its branches. they certainly are beautiful when in bloom and then the carpet of fuchsia. there was one tree in the back yard of the rancho, and the iguanas always feasted on the fruits, and i stalked the iguanas in hopes of good photos…

    you have my sympathies…


    • Oh, Lisa…the rainy season has lost track of time. It’s raining again this morning. There is a large canal on our beach. Yesterday, after cutting the branches on the fallen Pera tree, my neighbor kids helped me clean the beach and throw coconuts and rocks into the 2 ft. deep by 15 ft. wide crevice eroded by the waves. I think we’re going to have to build a wall to try to stop the erosion. It reminds me of El Matal on a very small scale. I told the kids that we don’t need another canal in Nicaragua because we have one on our beach. So, the kids got into the canal and made rafts out of sticks and pretended they were canal captains. If it stops raining today, we’re going to try to prune what is left of the Pera tree. Thanks for your sympathies my friend.

      • wow.. i am just seeing this (at two in the morning when the internet is working faster!) try putting some of those limbs in the canal, with the branches going ‘against’ the flow of water.. they work so well in trapping sediment and repairing the washouts naturally.. i did that often in costa rica – i’d get out in the torrential rains and find the trouble spots and dam them with broken limbs with the leaves intact.. so many times by morning the limbs had done the job… wish i were there to help you…

    • Your story reminded me of the Gnobe Bugle children on Isla Bastamientos in Bocas Del Toro, Panama. We spent six months there and we had a HUGE mountain apple tree (pera). We were used to them from Hawaii. When the fruits were ripe, the indian children would climb the giant tree and toss down loads of the red fruits to brothers and sisters below. It was a wonderful sight. I hope your tree makes a great comeback and the children come back as well. =)


  6. That’s terrible. You can’t do much about mother nature. I know youare grateful that it fell the way it did, if it had to fall. It could have been much worse for you.

    We have lots of trees snap off here in the desert where I live because we have strong gusty winds. Nothing is safe from that.

    Maybe another will grow up in its place.

    • Thanks Sunni. In the 4 years that we’ve lived here permanently we’ve lost several banana plants, a cashew tree, a jicote tree, and now our pera tree to strong winds. Each time a tree falls, it feels like a death of a friend. You’re right, there’s nothing we can do to stop Mother Nature from taking big bites out of our lives. 😦

I'd love to read your ideas and thoughts below....

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.