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Four years ago, a dear professor and friend gave me a wonderful gift I did not immediately understand. It was an ordinary-looking little tree with big leaves, which came planted in a one-gallon container. “Here’s a palabra tree, a baobab from Senegal,” was all he had time to tell me before we were rushing down the hall to meet with the other two dear professors who had agreed to evaluate my master’s thesis/exam. I thanked him and started to look for a spot to leave the tree, but he said I could use its help at this meeting. I was never gabbier or more eloquent than that day, little baobab prompting words just by sitting there in the middle of the conference room table.

I’ve moved a couple of times and I’ve managed to bring the tree along. It’s now about five feet tall and lush with leaves. My daughter likes to measure herself against it. I like to have conversations with it and use it as a meditation tool. The tree has given me words to put into poems. As I wait to move to a new place and transplant an errant tree yet again, I reflect on baobab lessons I’ve learned over the past four years.           

Here’s 10 things my baobab tree has taught me (there are more lessons, but these seemed right to share now):

  1. Movement is not limited to N-S-E-W. Move on the vertical plane. Grow UP.
  2. You grow faster and taller when your roots are firmly planted.
  3. Your leaves (like “hojas de papel” on which you write) will give you a lift.
  4. You need not wait for everything to be perfect to start growing. Grow wherever and whenever. 
  5. If you die from the cold, curl back into your root and come back stronger.
  6. Take your time.
  7. Don’t cry over the leaves that yellow out and fall. Just let them go.
  8. Save some water/energy for later.  Be giving, but save some energy for yourself.
  9. When you feel stuck, go up like an elevator for a new perspective.
  10. Don’t confuse your wings(leaves/hojas) with your roots.   

Please visit this page for a quick reference on the amazing qualities of baobab trees: http://www.baobab-solutions.com/the_baobab.htm.