Last week, I started to tell a story about my relationship with trees and how a particular lemon tree epitomises that relationship. At this juncture, if you read the first part of this article (if not, I encourage that you do so at www.fadeafrica.org), you would have had a brief insight of years of struggle and benefits that came my way as a consequence of my interactions with trees. Just recently, one of my sons visited me at my lodge at the Nelson Mandela Gardens in Asaba. On the morning of his second day with me, we took a drive to my hometown where I have planted thousands of trees over the years. We sat under a lemon tree in my country home to have breakfast and talked about a lot of things. When we needed to have tea, I collected some lemon fruits from the tree and some lemongrass which we washed. We then poured some boiling hot water into the pot with both lemon fruits and grass in it, added a bit of fresh, organic honey and voila, tea was ready. As we drank, my son could not contain his glee at having what he termed the best tea he had ever had. I immediately corrected him telling him that it was not tea but rather lemon juice and lemongrass with honey. It was such a morning for the two of us as we proceeded to have a few more cups, while I talked about the economy of climate change and the wonders of nature in providing all that we need.
It is a clear fact that all elements especially the three main ones necessary for life sustenance on Earth are derivable from the Land. It is this same land that provides all the foods and mineral resources that have made agricultural and industrial revolutions of the past centuries possible. These breakthroughs in the human industry have driven the acquisition of great personal and national wealth all over the world. It is now universally acknowledged that in the pursuit of our livelihoods we have not at all taken great care in preserving this Land that was so freely given to us. We have abused it in every possible way, forgetting that the Land is in equilibrium with the other major elements of life and through our abuse it is constantly in a state of flux as it seeks to re-establish its state of equilibrium.
We must understand that our continued survival on this planet depends on how we treat the land that has given us so much. The only sustainable way to replenish the Earth is to put back most of what we have taken from it. These regenerative processes will both have to be smart and organic. Artificial regeneration will not work. If we have derived so much wealth despite the fact that we have abused the Earth, we can equally derive immense wealth in creating organic ways that will help us replenish the Earth in sustainable manners.
Thus and in this vein, organic agriculture can create wealth; land reclamation processes will create jobs and wealth; development and deployment of solar power, wind power, and hydropower will create jobs in their millions; infrastructure development to ease human and vehicular movements around the country will create millions of jobs. The notion that fighting global warming is expensive and a job killer is flat out wrong; it is a notion embraced by the lazy and docile nations and their corrupt leaders who continue to steal from their hapless citizens that are taxed to fund the greasy, sticky fingers of unscrupulous politicians. It is a notion that is even supported by far-right politicians who out of political expediency support benevolent industries that belt out pollutants that caused ozone layer depletion and global warming.
As my son and I talked, the sun crept out above us in its energy-giving glory, yet we continued to sit comfortably under the lemon tree because it provided sufficient shade and coverage from the sun’s heat rays. I recounted that I planted this lemon tree in 2006, a mere 15 years ago. And I wondered how old the tree could live and keep fruiting if it was not cut down. That took our discussion to the advantages the trees have over humans, one of which is longevity. If only they could talk, I wonder the wisdom they could share. At old age, most fruit trees stop fruiting. This is true of the Mango, Coconut, Avocado Pear, Citrus trees etc. It is the same with humans. Such similarities about life trajectories continuously intrigue me about nature’s courses because there is so much about nature which we are not able to explore, understand and may never comprehend despite all the knowledge and science we possess.
Back to my Lemon Tree, the fruit is used in virtually every meal; chefs squeeze out their juices adding it to meat, fish, vegetables, puddings and even water. It is also worthy to note that the lemon tree thrives in every part of the world no matter the climatic conditions prevalent. On further research, it was discovered that every part of the lemon fruit is highly medicinal, from lowering stroke risk to helping in regulating blood pressure. Lemon use has been touted as beneficial in cancer prevention, helping to maintain healthy cell development and skin complexion. Lemon is also known to prevent asthma, helps to increase iron absorption, helps to boost the immune system, and is very good for weight loss. What is quite astonishing is that the Lemon tree is not farmed in my place. It grows more or less in the wild, with the seeds being dispersed by birds and humans from the remains of the consumed or rotten fruits. Our hummus and loamy soils are so fertile that just by dropping the seeds in the right place, germination is guaranteed.
However, my lemon tree which was deliberately planted has provided me with good shade and covering even from slight rain drizzles. On countless occasions I have sat under this lemon tree receiving visitors, arbitrating over some communal issues, and indeed I must say I have very wonderful memories about it that I will like to take with me when I am gone from this Earth. I then told my son that I would like to be buried under the same lemon tree as my final resting place. Watching him, I saw him tearing up silently and I wondered if I had gone too far with my bluntness about life and death. Holding my ground, I decided to refer him to a book I once read,“Being Mortal “by Atul Gawande which carefully expounds on the realities of ageing, mortality, and death even to the point of elaborating on the huge costs of long life and ageing.
In a system where every day you live brings you closer to the day you die, why then is it so difficult to have a conversation with those closest to you on how you wish to spend those ultimate final days and how you wish to be laid to rest? I will end with this week’s column with a story I always remember with fondness.
I come from a community of people where old age is revered. In my hometown, kindred meetings are presided over by the oldest man, called Diokpa. And the meetings are held in his house. I recall our then Diokpa who was in his early hundreds but with poor eyesight and impaired hearing. At that age, he was unable to leave his bed and some family members usually took turns to care for him, feeding and cleaning him daily. Despite all that, he was always interested in hosting the kindred meetings so his Uko (authorised spokesman) would go to him to discuss the days’ agenda before the meeting and would also return to brief him on the meeting’s outcome. On this particular day, before the commencement of the meeting, he asked his Uko not to start the meeting until there was a full quorum and the quorum must include some particular names he called out to him. Uncharacteristically, the names he called out that morning included the names of those that had passed on to the great beyond many years back. The Uko was very confused and decided to tell the elders what had transpired between him and Diokpa. At the end of the meeting, the Uko returned as usual for the debriefing only to discover the old man was dead. It was clear to all that the Diokpa had departed that day to continue his meeting with those who were there before him.