BY Lisa Lindblad
July 28, 2010
On the open plains of the southern Serengeti stands a massive fig tree. It’s trunk measures over 20 feet around, and its capacious limbs, huge and generous, offer much needed shade to wildlife in the heat of the day.
And not only wildlife.
There are Maasai stories which speak of this tree. “My grandmother was walking across the plains when her time came. In the lap of the great branches she had her child and slept.” This is the tree that has harbored cattle herders in the rain and the lone warrior on a moonless night. Peter Matthiessen, in his lovely book The Tree Where Man Was Born, estimates that its spread is at least 150 feet and that it’s age is as old as man’s recorded history on this plain. “One understands,” he says, “why these monumental figs take on a religious aura for the Africans; they are thought to symbolize the sacred mountains, and the old ways of close kinship with the earth and rain, Nature and God.”
In this great tree of life all kinds of birds take up residence. On my last visit I swung up on to a lower branch and was met by a flurry of feathers and furiously beating wings skimming over my head. An Egyptian Goose flew low out of some dark crook, terrified by the intrusion. I crawled back towards the trunk and discovered a down-lined nest cradling a clutch of eggs.