Hollow trees are usually diseased or have an unresolved decay issue developed from a wound of some kind. In nature, they sometimes die, fall, are removed instantly from the landscape or are disregarded as something on the to-do list. Hollow trees, however, hold secrets that are only revealed to some.
There is a hollow tree along a road less traveled that I have become acquainted with. When I first saw it years ago, I steered clear of it. I saw the hole in the side and thought that it surely housed “haints”. With lineage from the south, family lore states that a “haint” is a soul that is not at rest. If I could get close to the tree, I just knew that I would hear cries and whispers from the past. Imagined or real – I, to this day, do not get close to this tree.
We have, however, come to a reasonable level of understanding, this hollow tree and me. As the leaves flutter in the spring breeze and change colors in the fall, I always acknowledge it’s presence and the secrets it holds within. From the crooked limb above, I shudder to think what might have happened before my time along this less traveled road. I think of the stories the souls might share…one day. When I am ready.
Applewood Books, Inc., has a small set of publications called the American Roots Series. Publisher Phil Zuckerman chose a series of writings from some of Americas most famous writers. Booker T. Washington taught himself to read and write and his resume would actually put some to shame. I found this little book at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. I am always researching African American’s in Agriculture to include Horticulture. Thank you, Mr. Bunch, for making this Museum a reality. I truly cannot say THANK YOU enough!
In the book, Booker T. Washington on Mother Earth, I found new meaning in my hollow tree. Mr. Washington delivered a speech, for which the book is named On Mother Earth, as a lecture at Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute. Currently known as the Tuskegee Institute, Mr.Washington founded this Institute in 1881 so that African American men and women had a school of their own.
In his speech, Mr.Washington spoke of a man who started his successful business in the hollow of a tree. This man had nothing but the tree and the land it stood on. This was better than imitating a man. Comparing this to the mid-western culture where prosperous people started from nothing. Mr. Washington thought it best for people of color to embrace agriculture as a way to become prosperous. The proposition He left with his students was somewhat questionable by the recently freed African American community. Would we take advantage of the opportunity of buying land, embracing the beautiful climate and rich soil, to become independent and prosperous?
I will not share the rest of his speech because I think it is a powerful speech. It was not a speech that made him a hero in the African American community. In fact, many people of color scoffed at his approach to gaining independence through agriculture. I wonder how many would do so today? With interest in agriculture now “trending”, this proposition seems practical now more than ever.
Now about that hollow tree on the less traveled road, I look at her with respect, not fear these days. My hollow friend has stood tall for many years, roots somewhat exposed by water that rushes past when it rains. Through drought and snowless winters…she still stands.
Mr. Washington wrote ” You might as well argue that because a tree is planted deep down in Mother earth, because it comes in contact with clay, rocks, and sand, and water that through its graceful branches, its beautiful leaves and its fragrant blossoms it teaches no lesson of truth, beauty, and divinity. You cannot plant a tree in air, and have it live. Try it. “
He goes on to say, ” No matter how much we may praise its proportions and enjoy its beauty, it dies unless its roots and fibers touch and have their foundation in Mother Earth. What is true of a tree is true of a race.”
My hollow friend holds many secrets and probably some haints as well. I am not sure why I carried this little book with me for the past two weeks. I am not sure why I chose to stop and read it this weekend. When I did, it made me realize how much work there is to do to reconnect all people with this earth.
Is there a hollow (or not) – tree in your life that holds secrets, as well as wisdom from the past? Do you admire it from afar or choose to understand it better up close? Do you learn from the hollow tree in your life forest?
I am glad I have this hollow tree in my world. Her strength challenges me to engage with others in my community, share my love of gardening and embrace the beauty that surrounds me.
A few thoughts after forest bathing,
Teri, Cottage In The Court
Want to discover more about Booker T Washington? click here
Need more information about the National Museum of African American History, click here
Want to find out more about Applewood Books, Inc, and Phil Zuckerman? click hereby
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