acacia blossoms

acacia blossoms

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

tree rave

I have been on a tree rave for the past few days. Admittedly the wild dogs have chased all the animals off the floodplains, and the cold biting wind has kept the elephants away, so the trees have a chance to stand in the center stage.

Bright sunlight and cold blue shadows dazzle at midday and play on the bark of sculpted leadwood trees, and broad acacias.  The last baobab in this area was finally eaten by elephants last year. RIP brother tree.  

This morning we were out at sunrise, a warm orange glow above the tree line reflected in the floodwaters.  I felt sure we would find the leopard and braved the biting wind to stand and scour the trees and grasses on either side of the track.  To no avail though - not this time.  Tracks of wild dogs, hyenas and jackals make patterns on the road.  The fine sand perfectly showing every crack and claw - telling us the details of the nightly procession.  Here and there elephants have crossed the road, their giant oval wrinkly footprints flattening out the sand. Baby elephant prints look tiny by comparison but are probably the size of a human handprint, which in lion spoor terms would be very big.

aardvark tracks in wet sand

We head into the back country, through waving yellow grasses and onto the rise where a massive sausage tree presides over a ridge of extraordinary trees.  The base of the sausage tree is ringed with elephant tracks, yet the trunk remains undamaged.  Just a jump away is a spreading camel thorn acacia which has been completely ring barked by elephants and will never see another growing season. I stoop to pick up one of the acacia pods - acacia erioloba - it looks like a smooth grey velvety ear and rattles with ripe seeds inside.  This could be  the last chance this tree has to sow its seed.  

I have to hug the sausage tree. On the side in the sun the bark is faintly warm.  I am not generally prone to hugging trees but somehow this one looked so big and round and strong, bedecked in a canopy of rich green leaves and loved by elephants. It felt commanding, matriarchal, patriarchal, whatever - I just had to show my appreciation.

how to listen to a tree

With my arms spread, I could only just reach nearly half way around.  My face pressed against the warm bark, I felt the strength of this tree - the energy running up from earth to sky.  I listened, pressing my ear to the trunk, the way i had seen that elephant do to the leadwood tree.  And yes, I could hear something, I am sure i did. The tree spoke to me.

In my Field Guide to Trees of the Okavango Delta by Veronica Roodt, it says 
"The Sausage Tree is deemed holy by many tribes and religious gatherings are often held in its shade. It is said that hanging one of these fruits in one's hut will protect one from whirlwinds"

the moon in the sausage tree

The green leaves shine against a deep blue winter sky. And there between the branches is a half moon smiling back at me in a lopsided way.  Meyers parrots swoop past calling excitedly.

We take leave of my new friend, the tree, and follow an elephant path winding through the back country which leads us to a series of small muddy pans, some dry now, and some still with a small base of water.  The elephants love this path too although there are none to be seen this morning, they were here last night for sure. Ghost elephants.

the three sisters

We link up with the familiar path close to the three leadwood trees I now call the Three Sisters.  They stand together but each have entirely individual characters. They are probably about the same age, although the middle one is slightly stouter. She had a swarm of bees in her bonnet last month when the bees were swarming. Her whole being vibrated with a low hum from their activity.  In my same book it says that" Hereros and Ovambos of Namibia regard  the leadwood tree as the great ancestor of all animals and people and they never pass it without paying it the necessary respect".

Around and in the wide view, trees shaped by seasons of elephants and sun, wind and rain, stand in pools of yellow grass like strategically placed sculptures. They cannot move but we can - yet we return again and again to the wisdom of the trees and I shall be back to hug my friend.


Diane said...

You write so beautifully that I feel like I am there with you. Pity about the last baobab they are such interesting trees. When we lived in the Hunyani valley, we had a large sausage tree right next to the house. When the 'sausges' dropped they made such a noise, I was always expecting something to break. I wish I was there now to give it a hug! Diane

Angela said...

Trees - yes they surely all have a personality! Just imagine they could wander about at night and peer into our windows... They grow so old, and they hear so many stories by birds and passing animals, I`d love to listen to them, too, like you and that beautiful attentive elephant. Oh yes, those sausage trees we first saw in the Valley! H tried to stir the half-hidden hippos in the Luangwa with their fruits. I still have a photo of that! And Baobabs are just amazing. Have you seen Janet`s facebook pictures, there is a great one.
Myself, I have a special relationship with two of our old apple trees. Both ragged and torn, and still bearing fruit every year.
I also LOVE trees. My sister Val!

Anonymous said...

Loved today's visit showing just how magical it can be in the bush, even if there are no animals to be seen, they can be enjoyed even in their absence and there's more to see than just the animals. I too love trees!

Lori ann said...

brilliant. sigh. just brilliant val. i do believe that tree was asking for a hug and had something to whisper to you, perhaps it was to promt this post and educate even more people about the preciousness of the trees.

everyso often i am compelled to hug one too...

thanks for the aardvark spoor pic, this is another fabulous letter from the bush i love so much.


Lyn said...

As usual, you took us along on your morning sojourn in the bush, giving us a tasty sample of the lushness and life that surrounds you ... loved the ellie pic and the three sisters especially. I never tire of your tales ...

Amanda Summer said...

what an evocative tour. i felt taken by the hand and shown these majestic trees, touching their bark, seeing the animals' footprints. such exotic things i have never seen but feel like i have now, through your eyes.

you are gifted with words♡

Val said...

Diane - hi, those sausage fruits are heavy - be careful not to sleep under a sausage tree, or park your car etc i will give th tree a hug for you :-)

Geli - tree's are awesome - made me feel so good yesterday x

Rob - that is so true - always something to intruige and learn from here!

Lori - even the aardvark tracks are different - three toes?? ha love them x

Lyn - thanks so much - i loved that ele stance too :-)

Amanda - loved your last two posts - havent been able to comment yet but will keep trying - thanks for your kind words!

tree huggers unite!! thanks for your comments everyone, blog on! xxxV

Anonymous said...

I've not tried tree-hugging but love the idea
Will make amends and also try to get a pic

Reya Mellicker said...

Ah trees. Once upon a time in some trance or another, a group of us realized that the tree is the deity in common for all species. It is our elder in every way imaginable. Very cool post as always.

Love the elephant listening to the tree. And how nice it would be to be protected from whirlwinds!

Mina said...

Trees have good energy and sometimes in big cities we forget about how precious they are...
Thank you for this wonderful post and reminding me of the many beauties of the nature.

Have a peaceful week!!

Val said...

janet - yes post a pic of your first tree hugging experience! i know it will be a happy one :-)

Reya - i read that many African tribal groups knew this of trees already - how cool is that?

Mina - city trees have such important work to do they really need to be acknowledged i feel.

thanks for bearing with me, i was afraid you would all think i was losing the plot! i can see this can become a regular occurence (tree hugging that is)
The energy is awesome and you cant help but feel it.

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