In the center of a cornfield near my house, all by its lonesome, stands the Africa Tree.
I don’t actually live in Africa. It’s just that seeing one majestic tree all alone in a big space reminds me of all those images of Africa. The beginning and ending of Nature on PBS. The Lion King. Countless other exotic scenes from movies and television.
Seeing it makes me wonder. How did it get there? How did it survive? Does it get lonely?
I discovered the Africa Tree on one of my after-dinner walks. About three minutes from my front door, an intersection divides a large corn field. So I walked up to the traffic lights and noticed the tree, just as the sun was setting behind it. Behold!
The tree, as you see, has a curious, asymmetrical look. This is because roughly half of it was sheared away, like a chef’s knife slicing a stalk of broccoli. What did it? Lightning? Wind? Who knows. Bottom line, some kind of trauma has befallen this tree.
What’s left has a nice shape and sits in a nice location. Whenever I walk past, I make sure to have my camera ready. Not on rainy days. Not on sunny, blue sky days. Those don’t work. There needs to be some sun, with interesting clouds around, for a good shot.
I lived in Tempe, Arizona for a spell, and the psychedelic sunsets there were world-class. But the sunsets that blaze behind the Africa Tree are almost as good.
So I shot a whole series of these sunsets, on many different walks. Some photos I sent to my friends. Some I kept for my collection. One made it to my phone’s display screen. It just made me feel good to see the Africa Tree.
Once, I saw something unusual – a large hawk sitting on a low branch of the tree. It squawked at me in a low, sandpapery voice, as if to say, ‘I see you, buddy’. I tried to get close to it without scaring it off, and here is the result.
Since then, I’ve not seen a single bird roost in its branches. That’s why I think it’s lonely. No birds, no animals, just Farmer Brown, twice a year – when he plants the corn, and when he harvests it. I imagine the tractor has to give the Africa Tree a wide berth. Maybe the farmer appreciates it too.
I hope the Africa Tree stays around for many more years. I’ll be keeping tabs. Wherever I happen to live, I will always drive by the cornfields to see how its doing. If it’s not there, I’ll be sad.
Hang in there, tree.