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"A Tree Grows In Quicksand" - by Diane Kimbrell


© 2005 Diane Kimbrell


A Tree Grows In Quicksand

        I approached my past with the zeal of an archeologist digging for artifacts at the site of an ancient civilization.  Among the ruins I found a striking similarity between the prehistoric cavemen who cavorted around their campfire or stared dreamily into its flickering flames and my own family as we gathered around a TeleKing Television set occasionally grunting with pleasure or sometimes disgust at the images that flickered across the screen encased in a wooden box.

As far as heritage, my family branches far and wide to include the limbs of the Scotch-Irish, English, Dutch and German as well as the Cherokee Indian tribe (when I dance, it's been known to rain).  For this reason, I believe the tree to be an apt symbol of the family of man.  I figure if Eve hadn't sampled a bite of an apple from an apple tree and then offered a bite to Adam, none of us would probably be here.

In addition to having rich-in-diversity ancestors, we had a "real" family tree.  We called her "Myrtle."  It wasn't a particularly clever name; but in fact, it was her real name - she was a crepe myrtle tree - Family:  Lythraceae; Genus: Lagerstromia; Species:  Indica.  Myrtle grew in the backyard at our house on Gibbon Road in Quicksand, North Carolina.  A small town located in the foothills of the state, the township of Quicksand boasted 1,500 residents - 1, 501 if you counted Myrtle. She grew right outside Mama and Daddy's bedroom window where the sun couldn't shine because Myrtle was massive.  Her Pepto Bismol pink blooms were simply gorgeous.  And, like Jack's beanstalk, she seemed to have a magical quality that allowed her to grow noticeably larger over night. Without routine trimmings, she could've easily have overtaken our entire backyard and the next door neighbors' too.

Myrtle had a dark secret that we only learned about several months after we moved into our home when a hard-driving summer rain lasted several hours.  The horrific stench that followed that summer rain lasted for several days.  The previous owner of our house had obviously known Myrtle's secret but neglected to share it.  According to the plumber Mama was forced to call, Myrtle had accidentally been planted over the septic tank and through the years, as her roots reached down into the earth, they embraced it.  Tank and tree lived as one intertwined like lovers; and consequently, every time the toilet was flushed, Myrtle was nourished by it - which explained her enormous size.  Because her roots were so thick, a heavy rain would inevitably cause the septic tank to overflow-turning part of our backyard into a stinking swamp.  The stench often lingered for days throughout our whole house and throughout the neighborhood as well.  To correct the problem, Myrtle would have to be chopped down and a new septic tank installed - an expensive undertaking.  Mama decided that Crepe murder was not the answer and so we lived with Myrtle, dutifully pruning her and quietly praying for gentle rainfalls.  As long as we didn't judge the stench as good or bad, we lived peacefully with each other and Myrtle and enjoyed the beauty she provided.

We had other trees.  The apple trees-three to be exact - grew so heavy with little green apples that their branches swept the ground providing enough apples for the neighbors to pick for pies. Fortunately, they grew nowhere near the septic tank.  Thank goodness the damson plum tree didn't either.  The Mimosa tree that grew right in the middle of the backyard was great for climbing.  In fact, it was my hideout. I'd perch up there for hours crying over an old boyfriend or plotting ways to get a new one.    Our front yard was special, too. At the far end of the yard a rose bush trailed around and through the spokes of a very old wooden wagon wheel that my brother Jake had painted white. The road we lived on had a dangerous curve but in spite of it, drivers would slow down as they passed by just to gaze at that wagon wheel.  Mama actually worried that someone might sneak back in the dead of night to steal it.  Fortunately, we never had to worry about anyone stealing Myrtle. 

Myrtle still grows in Quicksand to this day.  Her magnificent blossoms and natural shape lend a Bonsai effect to the landscape that represents the Eastern philosophies of harmony between man, nature and soul.   My Cherokee kin believe that trees are sacred - some more sacred than others.  In spite of her illicit love affair with our septic tank, Myrtle is my sacred tree.  Her spirit stands to remind me that no matter how lonely or isolated I feel, I will always be connected to the family I love even if their actions (as well as mine) may sometimes stink.  Like the generations that have gone before and those that will follow, Myrtle will always remain (at least in my heart) - one of us. 








All work is copyrighted property of Diane Kimbrell.






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