He who plants a tree, plants a hope

To lose a friend is the greatest loss of all.

-1st century BC Roman author Publilius Syrus (?)

One never gets used to the pain of losing a friend.  I thought I would, when I grow up. Years in the foreign service, moving in between careers and companies, you think you would.  One never does. I have learnt.

Do you recall the horrible things she has done, so the pain seems less.  Or remember the wonderful times spent. Which is the best balm? Or be amazed that out of hundreds of people in the sea of chaos, one crosses the river and finds the other.  Or the happier one is, the deeper the pain?   Something inside dies when a very good friend leaves.

Last week, rummaging through the storeroom at home, I saw that my baobab “stem”, a surprise gift meant for a friend, had grown shoots.  

Without water and sunshine.  The baobab had grown shoots.  In its paperbag. Without any help from me. Without water, without nutrients, without sunshine. In the darkness of the storeroom, when life first began, and waters covered the earth, a hope grows.  Its as if God telling me, that miracles happen. Life grows.

And so, I’ve planted my baobab.  A baobab in memory of a friend.  He who plants a tree plants a hope. One never loses a memory of a friend.

According to carbon-dating, some baobab trees date to 2,000 years.

I don’t have to visit Africa to see a 15-m one, as the Gardens by the Bay have brought in several baobabs from Australia.  I’m looking forward to the first tree planting on 24 Aug 2011 at GB!! Can’t wait to tell Dr T about my miracle tree. With his impish grin, and many other “tree” secrets buried in him, he won’t be surprised. “Now, you see…”  He would begin…  “And don’t call me, Dr T”… Afterall baobabs are known as the tree of life, with a fluctuating waistline, storing up water in rainy seasons which it can tap into, during the dry seasons.  In Africa, the fruit is used for food, and for medicine to treat dysentery, smallpox, malaria, you name it.

But a baobab in a pot.  At home, or in the office, where you can see it everyday. Definitely not “out of sight, out of mind”.  To plant a portable tree in memory of a friend, or a happy occasion.   At Maya Ubud, for $40 you can plant a tree. Honeymooning couples did. Including the President of Nigeria. As T pointed out, surely his country needed it too.  My first tree planting exercise was to commemorate Mrs M’s 50th wedding anniversary. They got 49 friends to help plant 50 trees at Labrador Park. I’ve not visited the tree I planted since.

[To find out more about the Singapore “Plant a tree programme” under the Garden City Fund, visit this link:    http://www.gardencityfund.org/pat/How_to_take_part.htm

I’m more pleased, to have a miraculous, meaningful tree, which survived my neglect. A baobab is a “easy-to-maintain” plant to have in the office. I am proof, with my accidental experiment that it doesn’t need much sunlight or water to grow. Perfect for the office, and as a gift! (Moneyplants and African violets are passé, don’t you think?) What a great conversation starting point. I’m sure your friend would be elated, to have such a meaningful tree as a gift, as mine would.

Read more about the baobab in Africa through this link.  http://www.plantzafrica.com/plantab/adansondigit.htm

Like a plant that starts up in showers and sunshine and does not know which has best helped it to grow, it is difficult to say whether the hard things or the pleasant things did me the most good.  He who plants a tree, plants a hope. (Lucy Larcom)

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