We encountered a strangler yesterday when we were out walking. I didn’t panic and run for the hills, because the attacker wasn’t the kind that usually comes to mind. But just as deadly for the unfortunate host, however.
The victim was in its last throes, rotted and ravaged by termites, its light and nourishment usurped long ago by the invader.
It was a Strangler fig, the collective name for tropical trees from the ficus genus, grouped together because of their unusual form of propagation. Birds and animals distribute the figs’ sticky seeds in the branches of a host tree, where the seed lodges, then germinates, sending shoots down to the ground, where they thicken and spread. Eventually they envelope the host tree depriving it of root sustenance and light. If you look carefully you can see the small pile of wood debris in the fig’s interior that was the original tree.
I was drawn to the tree on our track because it was so artfully sculpted, a thing of beauty, with a fairy doorway at its base. Intrigued by the form, it took a few moments for us to realise the grisly truth. Dramas unfold slowly in the plant world. One tree was flourishing at the expense of another. The grisly truth unfolding as we carefully observed and tried to work out why.
I wondered about stealthy predators for we humans. While COVID19 came to mind because it is seems so ‘sneaky’ and intent on destruction (the worst kind of anthropomorphism. It’s a virus for goodness sake!). That wasn’t the analogy I drew.
I thought the most likely assailants were the ones in plain sight, wearing cloaks of normalcy, stealthy as figs. I’m talking about unhealthy attitudes like ‘them against us’ that encourage divisiveness. The tendency to play a ‘blame game’ to score political points. The use of fear mongering to sell news or assert influence. And thoughtless selfishness resulting in further spread.
As with the fig tree, I know I have to look closely to see what is really happening here … and then adjust if I am to flourish.
As Elizabeth Edwards so wisely said:
She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her away, she adjusted her sails.Elizabeth Edwards.
I want to share some more wisdom from Elizabeth Edwards that resonate with me in the time of the plague.
The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered…We know that. And yes, there are certainly times when we aren’t able to muster as much strength and patience as we would like. It’s called being human. But I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that I am grateful.Elizabeth Edwards