There is a wild fig tree in our garden. On quiet Sunday mornings when I sit on the stoep with a cup of tea, watching the wagtails bounce past, I look up into the greenness and struggle to find the wildness in the tree. It stands demurely and solidly with its smooth trunk and even on the stormiest days, there is no hysteria in the way it moves. In addition to the absence of wildness, I’ve scanned it for figs and not seen anything convincingly “figgish”. There are little fruit balls which are scattered about and when stood upon, they cling to the crevices between your toes – much like – well, the way fig jam would, I guess.
Strictly speaking, this wild fig is not in our garden. Its branches explore the flight path of all sorts of birds on our side of the fence. The roots have been even more adventurous. They were knocking at our front door and drinking from our downpipes. This is where the untamed spirit of the tree could be found – underground. And this is where the wildness got it into trouble. Its pioneering ways allowed it to develop a taste for cement, septic tanks and soakaways. The stoep tiles were being split by the broad brown backs of powerful roots. Walls cracked from invisible pressure.
A meeting was called and a tree surgeon invited. The consensus was that the Wild-Child needed limitations. Some said it had to go completely because it would continue marauding. Others suggested the curfew of a good prune … all very well to chop branches but what about the roots? The roots should be chopped … but would this beautiful tree survive? And it was done.
There is a stillness outside. A clinical 40% was removed above ground and the offending roots were severed and poisoned below ground. The light now floods into the house. Birds have adjusted. The new leaves are forming. Life goes on.
And I think about how things come and go in our own lives, pruned and poisoned. But I am comforted that wildness will always persevere – somewhere not immediately visible.