You know how people take a picture of their child in the same spot everyday for a year to see how they growing? Well, I totally missed the boat on that one! When I finally emerged from the fog of sleep deprivation and anxiety about being a parent, it was way too late to start that project.
So, I’ve decided to start a similar photo project. I’m going to take a series of photos of the mulberry tree in our garden, for a year, to show how the tree changes every season.
With mulberry trees the change is so noticeable and over the years I’ve gotten to know our tree’s personality very well. Just by observing it I can tell exactly when the seasons are changing.
So here is the first picture. Our beautiful tree in mid-winter, with just a few stubborn leaves holding on.
I have a love affair with trees – particularly mulberry trees. I’m convinced that this magnificent tree is the real reason why I wanted to buy our house four years ago. I saw it in the middle of summer, covered in massive leaves and the branches heavy with mulberries, and I just knew that it was the house for us.
But mulberry trees also occupy a significant part of my early childhood memories.
I believe memory is significant. It’s an important part of who I am and suppressing it (consciously or subconsciously) is what gets you into trouble. I’ve been on a journey trying to get comfortable with my memories and flashbacks – some are positive but many are terrifying. I believe that flashbacks and memories come to you because your body is telling you that it is ready to remember. So that’s what I’ve been doing. I welcome whatever memory comes my way – good or bad. It is my soul sending me a message.
So this is a story about a beautiful memory from my childhood.
My maternal grandmother had a huge mulberry tree in her garden. She lived in a modest two-bedroom cottage on the MOTH (Memorable Order of Tin Hats) smallholding. MOTH was founded in 1972 as a brotherhood of South African front-line ex-soldiers who served in the First World War.
Her cottage was right next to the Shellhole, which was the clubhouse where ex-service men could get together to celebrate the great friendships formed in the trenches.
The massive mulberry tree stood just outside the gate near the dirt road passing her house, opposite the Shellhole.
My earliest memory is picking its leaves to feed my massive silkworm collection. I was totally obsessed with silkworms and I made sure I found the best and juiciest leaves on the tree for my strange little companions.
My grandmother sometimes watched me picking the leaves. She would give me instructions on where to find the best ones (she always told me look higher up) and she would warn me about snakes (a valid concern, seeing that it was midsummer in the sub-tropics).
Sometimes she would bring one of those old-style wire patio chairs and sit under the tree with me. I loved her presence. It made me feel safe. It was what I needed.
But often she just left me there. I loved it. The branches hung low and I would sit under the canopy for hours. It was definitely the coolest spot in summer. I would listen to the garden bugs singing and I could see the heat rising from the gravel. It was my safe place and I could take refuge there.
The other day while I was looking at the mulberry tree in our garden it occurred to me that my gran’s tree was always green. It never shed its leaves in winter. Maybe that’s just how my brain decided to remember it.
My gran was a typical granny. She wore stockings, floral dresses and she always had a purple rinse. But she was a free spirit – she didn’t care much for material possessions. She was a strong woman, accepting, welcoming and a soft place to fall in the chaos of my childhood years. She lived a simple life – and I think that why I’m so drawn to simplicity and solitude now.
She was an extraordinary woman and her life was such a gift to me – I treasure it to this day.
I’ll upload more pictures as my beloved tree transforms again. I expect it to start budding very soon.