A round trip, a recording and another ring on the tree

Another year, another roadtrip. This time a flash roundtrip and an opportunity to revisit meeting the Big Tree, the lessons learnt from it and the growing that has happened over the last year.

This time last year we were just back from our road trip to George. We had made something of a history tour of it. We stopped off at Bloemfontein and visited the Museum of the South African War, then drove to Nieu Bethesda to discover the glass art and history of that little Karoo town. Our final destination was George to visit Matthew’s son, Tristan, who Matthew had not seen in over a year.

George is part of the Garden Route in the Southern Cape Coast of South Africa. A breathtakingly beautiful part of the country and one that had been severely affected by the lockdown restrictions and international travel bans. The country was slowly emerging from the fog of various stages of lockdown. The autumn weather was mild and sunny with a starchy crispness to it.

It was on our last day in George that we met the Big Tree, the 800 year old yellowwood that inspired our Act like a tree teachings and the subsequent ABC of life as we know it, that followed.

The Big Tree

Another year, another roadtrip

Another year later, this last weekend, Matthew was back in George with Tristan, without me, Chantal, and on a completely different mission. 

Tristan had lived in George since February 2020, after being stuck there on a visit to his uncle when lockdown hit. He and his uncle had kept each other company while locked in, building a geodome greenhouse from scratch as their lockdown project. When restrictions were lifted Tristan explored the environment by paddleboarding on the rivers and lagoons, hiking the mountains and motorbiking the backroads. He found solace and expression in the coastal town and planned to make his mark in that part of the world.

At the end of April this year Tristan came up to Johannesburg with his grandparents so that the three generations could be together for the first time in decades. On the day of his departure back to George, Tristan announced that he had decided to move back to Joburg. Young people, always full of surprises. Matthew was thrilled at the prospect of having his son back in his city. Now how to get his stuff back home? 

Easy solution: a quick (12 hour one way) drive down with his Dad, in my Kia SUV, a big enough vehicle to fit his accumulated life. Friday morning 06h00 saw them leave, arrive in George 12 hours later, spend the next day collecting themselves and Tristan’s stuff in order to haul it back home on Sunday. A 24 hour round trip in 3 days!

Travelling through the Karoo, near Philippolis

An opportunity for reflection and recording

The trip allowed for some reflection on what had transpired over the year since we first met the tree and what it had taught us then, as well as a chance to consider the learning and growth that had transpired in the year that had gone by. 

We had planned to do this week’s podcast episode on Act like a tree anyway so it seemed fit that with two of the three of us back in that part of the world that we grab the opportunity to properly engage around the topic. 

On their day of “rest” we three, Matthew, Tristan and Chantal, hooked up over Zoom and had an inspiring conversation about trees, trips, finding oneself out of the dark places and always growing. It was fun and spontaneous, energised by a younger voice and a reminder that we were all one year wiser. We have grown another ring on our respective trees.

At the end of each podcast a poem is chosen and read. The poem for this week, written by Chantal, is shared here as it adds to the message about trees, living and learning. 

Tree rings

The rings on the trunk

Tell a story

Of a resolute 

Upward and outward climb

Not unfettered

From the batterings 

Of storms - natural and not

Each layer another chapter

Written in sap and bark

Of times long gone

Hurt or happy

Etched deep

On the upstanding bole. 

If only a translator

Could murmur the narrative

Reveal the history

Savour the space

Of growth in time

Teach us the will it takes 

To keep layering

While standing 


Chantal Dawtrey

Remember the ABC of life as we know it:

Act like a tree...

Bring the light...

And choose love - always.

Act like a Tree principles

Act like a tree principles
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