Secrets of a humble Jacaranda

IN THESE DAYS of earth-shattering news from every quarter, you might have news-fatigue. You might find yourself aimlessly scrolling through social media, not allowing your eye to catch on things that will tear holes in your sense of hope. And further to all of that, you might find your face turning sour in the light of platitudinous memes that darken and blunt your cell phone, forwarded from a slew of well-meaning acquaintances. Former ballet dancer Fiona Budd has created something of an antidote to all this fear and meaninglessness: A little book of tree wisdom.

This is a work that you will be able to read from cover to cover in the space of maybe 15 minutes. But that is not the point. This book is a cipher for your sense of self, the kind of thing that you might have neglected while you have become aware of the devastation of a pandemic, the mental crumbling and financial despair that lies in its wake and the catastrophe of large scale war.

It’s a project which whimsically gives voice to a particular tree in a particular context. And as readers of The Lord of the Rings will know from JRR Tolkien’s tree creatures known as Ents, trees take their time and speak with sagacity and pace that differs from how you or I may think or articulate. So, Budd’s tree will tell you to believe in magic, to hold on to your anchor. To feed your soul.

It won’t tell you how. That’s your job. You don’t need to find Budd’s tree, somewhere in a suburb of Johannesburg. But you might find a shadow each evening at the same time, cast against your wall, or a constellation of stars, that speaks to you similarly.

Clean of platitudinous language, this compact book is constructed with the comforting repetition of a refrain that almost feels like a call and response structure. Complemented with beautiful drawings from a young artist by the name of Jay-Lee Shih, the book touches all the values that fly in the face of the slickness of the ‘fast’ culture in which we live.

Time has been taken and thought invested in the printing, the type of paper, the bookmarks and the beneficiaries of profit in a project of this nature. Evocative in a small way of the I Ching or American composer John Cage’s way of being in the world, this is a beautiful addition to anyone’s life.

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