Published: December 12th 2009December 12th 2009
The Evil Ones
Lurking in in the Underworld
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It is a little known fact that like humans, plants can be racist. I know because on more than one occasion I have been a victim of vicious attacks. I have no doubt that it is racially motivated because I’ve yet to see a Motswana suffer any abuse from these barb filled bigots called Acacia trees. As I walk the trails between the school and home, on my way to the tuck shop, or when I’m just out for a stroll, they wait for me, silent and sinister.
At first they just toyed with me, a prick on the ankle, a slight scratch on the arm or at worst, the threat of a jab in the eye. I ignored it, thought maybe it was unintentional. I was totally Zen. It seems that my highly evolved spiritual response only fed their hatred, a long standing and aimless bitterness born from the trauma of
A Thorny Image
My Captor Awaits
spending one’s life rooted in a harsh desert climate, themselves victims of the searing sun and harsh winds. In my meditations, I knew them deeply, I felt their pain. With a silent blessing, I left them to themselves.
Then one morning as I cheerfully made my way along the path, humming softly to the rising sun, a small one, just a child grabbed for my ankle, but missed. I would have passed it unaware had it not caught my beautiful flowing skirt and viciously ripped it. And though it had done its damage, had its fun, it would not let go. I had to bend my knees nearly to a squat and try to stay on my feet as I duck walked backwards to prevent further damage to the cloth. It had the audacity to prick my finger as I worked to remove the spear-like thorn from the material. Still, I said nothing. When I returned home in the evening, I quietly mended my skirt harboring no malice.
Weeks passed without incident and I’d forgotten my earlier experience. On this fateful day, the sky had the soft glow of early morning. The air was still cool and fresh.
I traveled in long easy strides with my travel guitar slung easily over my back and my denim bag hanging from my shoulder. In keeping with local custom I was again dressed in a long full skirt. My joy was deep causing a song to burst forth from my soul. I was full of the idea of being a volunteer in Africa and looking forward to spending some of the day working with a student, a promising young songwriter. Then it came silently and without warning or provocation, a serious, malicious and coordinated gang assault.
It began with a small severed branch not more than a half inch in diameter and less than eighteen inches long. It caught my skirt in a guerilla attack. With my next step, I felt it scrape against my ankle. I was not alarmed. I thought I knew this game, so I simply bent down to remove the barb from the material. However, it wasn’t just one barb, but three, protruding from the cloth at different angles. It would require a bit more patience to extract, but still no serious problem. I shifted my weight slightly in order to better balance myself as I worked. That is when I was caught from behind. It was a large tree and twice it pierced the canvas of my guitar case like a SWAT team marksman. Startled I turned to face my attacker, a serious mistake. As I spun another caught my denim bag from the right and the small branch that still clung to my skirt was now caught in the fence that bordered my path. I realized that any movement on my part now had to be slow and calculated. I felt the pressure of the guitar case strap under my arm as the neck of the case was clinging fast to a branch above my head. Before leaving home I had crossed the strap of my denim bag over myself in such a way that the strap was on my left shoulder and the bag against my right hip. Then I’d hung my guitar strap from the opposite shoulder. Though this made it convenient for walking, it now left me trapped. If I bent down to address the thorns in my skirt, the guitar case pulled me up. If I attempted to reach up, the branch entangled in my skirt and the fence exerted a downward force. If I turned in either direction the straps of the case and the bag caught me in a thoroughly unpleasant embrace. I fought back panic. I could see no way to readily extricate myself from my attackers. Calm yourself, Shannon and think, think! I breathed slowly in and out, finding my center. I bent down ever so slowly feeling the straps of the bags working like a none too comfortable wonder bra. Just a bit more. Ouch! Just about have it….there! I had reached the small severed branch. I know in my heart that violence only begets violence, but what else could I have done? I snapped the branch in two leaving more than half of it dangling in the wire of the fence. I ignored the pricks against my ankle as I straightened myself. Let in dangle in the hem of my skirt for a bit. See how it likes that! Now that I didn’t have to worry about tearing my skirt I could get nearer to the tree that held my guitar case. Watching closely for new attackers I moved in and stood tip toed as I twisted toward the offending thorns. My purse dangled midway between my hip and the fence, causing some unpleasant pinching in tender areas, but I ignored it, focused only on freeing myself. I nimbly held the base of the longer, more menacing of the two thorns buried in my guitar case before quickly snapping it from its base. That dirty deed done, the other slid quietly out of the canvas. Liberated from the largest tree it was then easy to maneuver my way to complete freedom by withdrawing several thorns from the denim bag. Lastly, I moved a safe distance away from my stationary attackers and took the remaining thorns from the hem of my skirt. Free at Last! I am free at last!
What you may ask is the moral of this tale. Simply this: I was mistaken. The trees are not racist. Once I began to give them courteous attention and proper dumelas as I passed on my way to and from home, there was peace between us, except for a the few who insist on snatching my hat from my head if I fail to duck deeply enough below their branches. But hey, I know it’s all in fun.