Deborah Jackson

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

The African Tree


There once stood this beautiful, isolated tree in our neighbourhood. It had a short, squat trunk, but near the top its limbs stretched sideways, as if it were gripping the air on either side with elasticized arms. We called it ‘the African Tree’, because it resembled an acacia and grew in the middle of a fluttering field of grass. I pictured a drowsy lion sprawled under its branches, slapping flies away from its tawny chest with a flick of its tail. I imagined buzzards peering through the leaves with greedy glares and giraffes tearing off tender shoots.

File:Tree lion 2.jpg

I never knew what species of tree it was. I never captured it on film. It didn't cross my mind to pluck it from the air and keep a record of its existence. It was simply there every day, a vital part of our daily commute, a constant, a comfort. One day, as I wandered past, I saw a bald spot in the field and a pile of shredded wood on the ground. Tree-munchers, tree harvesters had chewed, chopped, obliterated our African Tree.

Now bland, block-like townhouses stand in its stead. Our little slice of Africa is gone. Although the site where it stood is crowded, it looks empty, hollow. A busy street to nowhere. I will always feel an ache when I gaze at that spot, a feeling of separation and loss. Solitary, resilient, and strangely misplaced, that tree belonged in a lonely Canadian field. A bold splash of colour to a dull day; a smile that shouldn’t exist; and a reminder that no matter how tangled and trapped we feel, we can always step out on a safari.

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