A tree gave me a reality check

"For a tree that doesn’t speak, it gave me a lot to think about. This sounds very deep, but then again, roots are." – Natashia Brittion

I am the Marketing manager for EcoTraining and on an early morning wilderness walk I was led to the iconic Rhodes Baobab tree found in the Northern Tuli block on the Mashatu Game Reserve. I was accompanied by EcoTraining’s back-ups Chrissie and Harry. Towering at almost fifteen meters tall the grand Baobab tree is life to many ecosystems and countless wildlife ranging from large mammals to the tiniest creatures.

I found myself reflecting on its ability to withstand extreme climates and still bear fruit, its ability to heal and regrow after being struck by lightning.  The assumption is that humans are less tolerant to the elements and often avoid any conflict that confronts us, preferably taking the path most traveled; never straying or allowing ourselves to be put in such precarious situations. The reality is… standing and staring at the greatness that stood before me taught me that we as humans do not give ourselves enough credit and that nature’s phenomena have an abundance of lessons we could learn from.

Lesson 1: The Baobab tree taught me to observe beyond the surface, more deeply

The tree is positioned at the top of the mountain with an encompassing view that spans across the Mashatu concession. The sight is breath-taking and it left me in awe with nothing to say, but it made me think…a lot. This tree is in one place for its entire life and the earth around it is constantly moving at a rapid pace, roaming wildlife, new bursts of small plantations from pollination traveling in the wind, shifting rock formations and so on. Most of the time, we think we know what is going on around us. Our families are ok, friends are fine, my pet is content… but these are all shallow observations null of deeper thought. You know how we humans are – smile and the world will smile with you. We don’t like being vulnerable, exposing our inner self. This is exactly why deeper observation of your loved ones and even strangers are so important – seeing beyond what they show the world and lending your compassion to really make a difference in their lives. Look beyond the surface and you will see the truth.

Lesson 2: The Baobab tree demonstrates resilience but does not resist

I used to love climbing trees as a youngster – I had absolutely no fear whatsoever. I used to hang upside down with my legs perched over the branch with my hair dangling below my head and every time I trusted the strength of that tree that it would not break. I grew up and all of a sudden, I became afraid of heights and the realities of actually getting hurt kicked in. I became too scared to do many adventurous things weighing out the risk of getting injured every time. Looking at this majestic baobab tree made me realise how strong it really was. We are stronger than we like to believe when faced with adversity or fear. Trees appear rigid but when faced with extreme weather, they actually flow and bend their branches in sync with the howling wind or storms. They are not too rigid that they snap or break at the first encounter of wind. We can be more resilient to the things that test us and learn to bend and flow with situations, preventing damage and yielding positive results. Like a tree, the harder we struggle in the storm and rain, the stronger and bigger we become.

Lesson 3: The Baobab tree reminded me what it means to be sturdy and deep rooted

This baobab tree is mounted at the top of this mountain with its bulging roots deeply entwined in between the rock and soil. This tree has used this massive mountain as its foundation to support its existence. Yes, this made me reflect once again… did I really know who I was? Who is important to me? What is important to me? Do my values define me and were those values chosen for me by family institutions or were they my own beliefs? This all seems very deep, but then again, roots are. Our roots define who we want to be as human beings. Who is the rock in your life? Mine would be my family, bearing in mind family comes in many shapes and forms. Having a sturdy support structure in one’s life is the foundation that is going to elevate and protect us in good weather and bad. I love who I am and what I stand for.

I thank EcoTraining for this morning that changed my worldview. Sometimes profound moments occur in strange ways when you least expect it.