‘Why do you call this strange looking tree the ‘Tree of Life?’ A pair of deep blue eyes twinkle as she stares up at me.
‘Sit.’ I pat the cushion beside me, ‘And listen carefully.’
‘The enormous baobab tree reaches out embracing the golden warmth of early morning Africa. The leaves shimmer as delicate sun rays bathe the bush in a mellow coppery glow. An echo like a mystery surrounds the magnificent tree…a tree that plays a special role in the African bush. With a trunk and branches that are twisted like powerful tendons of the veld, the mighty baobab boasts of being the most handsome and strongest of all trees. It has a network of roots that worm their way so deep into Mother Earth that they can feel the quiet, and the baobab can still quench it’s thirst when all around…the veld is parched and dying. With flowers that bloom at night and roots that survive deep within the darkness of the earth, the baobab has good reason to boast that it alone can bear the weight of the sky and clouds.’ Her little face is totally focused on mine.
‘Myths or legends would have us believe the arrogance of the baobab with its boasting ways angered the Gods…and they decided to teach it a lesson. With the strength of Hercules, the Gods yanked the startled baobabs, tearing their roots out from deep within the earth and replanted them upside down. Hence the strange look of the baobab today.’
With her mouth forming a perfect ‘0’ and her eyebrows arched liked question marks, ‘Did the Gods really do that to the trees?’
‘No…I don’t think so…but again,’ I raise my hands and wiggle my fingers at her, ‘I was not on earth thousands of years ago and they say it takes 800 years for this magnificent tree to reach maturity.’ I have lowered my voice to a whisper. ‘But, the earth and trees do play music to all those that listen.’ I lean forward.
‘What stories do they tell, Gog?’ A small frown furrows her brow.
‘The baobab has ears and hears many secrets. It smiles down on many miracles of nature that happen daily and also frowns down on some of man’s menacing ways. These trees see and hear everything. They are privy to ‘the miracle of birth’. (a clip of an elephant birth in the wild.) The baobab’s branches quiver with anticipation as the female elephant bears down, a grimace of pain crossing her expressive face. Agitated and excited, the female herd push and tussle forming an impenetrable wall of tusk and muscle around the new born as she lies vulnerable and gasping her first breath of precious life giving air. Temporal glands flow as the tight knit sisterhood encourage the baby with their powerful and versatile trunks onto her large padded feet. These noble animals are the essence of Africa…they are the soul of Africa, ancient and strong…just like the ‘Tree of Life’ who relaxes with a contented sigh.
These same branches tremble as only hours later….an evil life force pulsates through the trees snapping branches in the sun fried bush. The smoke from a mopani fire teases the matriarch’s senses and a squadron of flies shred the uneasy quiet. She is suddenly full of fear and aware that mortality shadows her and the herd. Heartbeats on the run as the trees explode in the crossfire and the elephants lie torn and dying in the dust. (An old headline…but the attacks on these animals is constant.) The small calf, only two hours old…settles near her mother…unsure and bleeding.’
The baobab is bereft. It has been put on Mother Earth to sustain life. A single tree can hold up to 4 500 litres of water. The soft fibrous flesh and bark are fire resistant and can be used to weave rope and cloth. 80% of the trunk is water…a valuable source of liquid during the long scorching droughts. The leaves and fruit provide high levels of vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium, iron and potassium. The tree gives of itself to animals and humans alike.’
Her eyes are huge and full of tears. ‘So the Tree of Life is a good tree?’
‘Yes, and that is why it is called the tree of life. It teaches us all a valuable lesson but sadly there are many who don’t listen. We all want to grow good strong roots like the baobab, and give life…not take it.’
‘Is that why you work with Chengeta Wildlife? She asks and my heart sings because she gets the gist of the story. I nod vigorously.
‘Trees are the lungs of this wonderful planet and without them, we cannot breathe. Being a part of Chengeta Wildlife helps me to breathe. Chengeta Wildlife reminds me of the Tree of Life as it is a force for good and I am part of a solution to ensure that elephants, rhinos, lions and other endangered wildlife will continue to leave their marks on the sand. The only difference is that the Tree Of Life is a silent witness to the miracles of the bush…and the carnage…but we have a voice.’
She takes my hand, squeezing it tight. ‘ I want to be a part of the solution too.’ She smiles.
You too…can be a part of the solution…take a look at our website.
Don’t be a silent witness