There is no sun without shadow – Albert Camus
I spent some time in South Africa with my daughter Rachel. We were captivated by the natural beauty of the region and one tree in particular drew us into its mysterious shadow. We later learned its name – the Ziziphus mucronata or more commonly known as Buffalo thorn tree and the tree of life. According to Ian McCallum, author of the captivating book, Ecological Intelligence, year-round the leaves are a combination of colors – green, yellow, and brown which are equated with the phases of aging: youth, young adult and older adult. The tree itself is resilient and provides food for man and beast. But it is in the unique placing of its thorns that the life lesson is most profound.
The thorns grow directly opposite each other in pairs – one points out and the other curves back toward the branch. The thorns symbolize a familiar message - we must look ahead, to the future, but we must never forget where we came from. However, McCallum takes the parallel further, the thorns are an image of what he calls the Human-Nature split: the thorns say yes and no, they are poetic… forward represents the push of the human spirit and the pull of the soul - complementary opposites – a crucial tension. Practically speaking I think of Exercise & Eating; Outdoors & Indoors; Spiritual & Intellectual; Work & Leisure; Reading & Writing as all complementary opposites – kept in balance and your travels on life’s path can continue with joy and peace until the final balance of Life & Death.