X: X-ray for Change

dead tree

On our landrover trips further into the bush on our Botswana adventure, we came across this very dead tree standing tall in the water. The tree struck me the first time I saw it; and again the next time at a different time of day and light. This was one of two photos I took the last time we passed it by. I loved the shape of it, especially how the branches were in symmetry at the top. And the tree and branches reminded me of an x-ray of the body, or some of it. I wondered how something entirely dead could look so lovely, and be in life-giving waters.

Over the last several days I’ve been thinking about that dead tree in life-giving waters and the symbolism it represents to me personally. For me, it symbolises the necessity of ‘doing’ or ‘practising’ a death meditation every now and then. Some I know do it daily, on arising. How to simply put it – it considers life and death together, the two most extremes that I can think of, the two most extreme opposites that have to do with us, with you, with me, and is an exercise of value. It makes me think about life, my life, others’ lives, loved ones past and present. I put a sort of an x-ray onto those thoughts and feelings –  interesting of course only to me – and thoughts and meditations on death of course enter the picture – ever changing and deepening (I hope) –

It is a task to attempt to hold those extremes in a healthy tension – but the task has value to me. The dead tree in water photograph is a graphic symbol of life and death residing together in symbiotic relationship. For me I must reflect on them, often. It is not morbid.


The first time I saw this spider web it was glistening in the bright morning sunlight, bejewelled and sparkling. This photo of it doesn’t do it justice, taken as it was at a different time. But, in whatever light, it was impressive. I thought briefly of Arachne (mere mortal) who challenged Athene (goddess) in the arts of weaving. Athene turned Arachne into a spider endlessly swing at the end of a thread. I thought of other myths and stories around the spider – and its web – it’s a very powerful symbol worthy of attempting to x-ray it and valuing the symbolism. I thought of the fine-ness of it, its elaborateness, its tension, its connections, its beauty, a tapestry, glistening like a jewel, so fragile, so strong, it’s threads sometimes used to make parachute chords.

I remember a dream from a long time ago in which I was bitten by a spider above my right ankle on my leg.

baobab2This last photo is of a baobab tree taken on our first walking day on The Island. Again, not a great pic … but this one was unusual as it has two trunks. The baobab tree is a mighty work of nature. Elephants love the pods from which tartaric acid is made and it’s used in food. They have a lovely lemony taste. I read in the Air Botswana in flight-magazine of a baobab that had recently toppled over. It was over 3000 years old. Before Christ, before Buddha –

So, x-ray and change – there’s always a new way of viewing an x-ray. 

Thank you for being with me on this trip – the A-Z trip and my Botswana trip. My US guests left for home last evening, and I am settling back into things, not least catching up on your blogs.

47 Comments on A-Z Blog Challenge X: Xray for Change

  1. Spiders webs can be very beautiful in the right kind of sunlight, such as in the early morning. I’ve seen that myself from time to time, but never anywhere as exotic as Botswana.

    It’s amazing to think of a recently dead tree that first began growing 3,000 years ago, before Jesus or the Buddha. If I’d asked my children to tidy their bedroom in those days, they might just about be ready to do it now.

    • Thanks Bun for coming by! The spider web I saw at different times of the day was so beautiful…

      Never ask children to tidy; either demand or leave as is and find a huge box to throw in all the other stuff lying around the house left by them. Then they have to find it when they’re desperately looking for missing item …

      Have a great weekend. ?

  2. The conservation forester who helps me make a long-term forest plan to keep the woods healthy keeps the dead trees where they are. For bird perches, for woodpeckers, for nesting sites in cavities dug by woodpeckers, for squirrel lookouts… I know the beauty of an ancient living tree (what a baobab!) and also an ancient dead tree. I’m getting lots of practice in taking in the beauty of a dead person.

    Around 1970, I read “The Teachings of Don Juan” who advised that we keep death on our left shoulder and consult our death about important things. That idea stuck with me and guides me as I face the wisdom and teachings of my psychological deaths and coming physical one.

    • Thanks for coming by Elaine … I hope Samantha above reads what you said about Don Juan and keeping death on the left shoulder … And yes, the dead trees serve an ongoing purpose as you so graphically describe. I think one of my photos shows a fish eagle atop a dead tree ..

  3. The baobab tree — another tree that lives thousands of years, like the ones I have seen here in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Beautiful photos, Susan, especially of that tree.

    Death meditation — this intrigues me. Would like to know more. Thanks.

    • I remember your lovely photos of the sequoia trees Samantha.

      Death meditation? If I could provide a link I would but a quick google search will give you much information. Thinking on death is also thinking on life inter alia …

  4. Hi Susan – the waters of the Okavango are life forming … yet some tress live for a while, then die, give us life on the dry ground, before the waters soak into their branches and stems creating life for others to live off … the Baobab is an incredible tree …

    Gorgeous shots … I remember the spiders’ webs .. huge and definitely fly catchers if not other things – such as thought catchers to linger and breathe a new thought …

    Cheers Hilary

    • What a lovely image of the cycle of life and death – the seeds from dead trees giving birth to new ones and the waters generating new life …

      Thought catchers … another lovely image Hilary thank you! All best, Susan

  5. Such fascinating pictures of dead trees and baobab tree. And that a dead tree is near water speaks about death amidst life and vice versa. Profound and thought provoking post!

  6. I have always been fascinated by dry trees and for me every time I looked at the dried tree with no leaves and just a skeleton, I would see it as a painting across the sky. Beautifully reflected upon susan “dead tree in life giving waters” vow what a concept. Then the spiders’s web and the last image of the tree was very good. Trees have always inspired me and so nice to know about the meditation on death..I remembered a retreat preacher asking us to write our own Eulogy in my younger days of life…which was fun at that time.. now I see the value of reflecting upon death.. Thanks for sharing and i am loving your journey too 🙂

    • Thanks Genevive for coming by. I remember hearing about writing one’s own eulogy … or what one wants written on the tombstone or how one wants to be remembered … it’s quite an exercise!

      As I write and look out from my study, there are so many trees, still green but in process of shedding their leaves. I love your image of dead skeleton trees as a painting across the sky … 🙂

  7. Some years back, as I approached the tree in front of my house, I noticed a squirrel there. Somehow, he/she seemed to know me. I could feel his spirit connecting with me in a definite way.

    As I approached the tree, he seemed ready to jump off the branch and onto my shoulder. I wish I had let him. But I took the cautious approach, and backed off. It seemed to hurt his feelings.

    I went to my house, and he followed me. I took some nuts, from a bag of nuts I kept, and made a trail, from my house, to the next door neighbor’s house.

    I had seen the next door neighbor sometimes feeding the squirrels, and figured that this squirrel was looking for him. The neighbor had a knack, and I have even seen at least one squirrel come up to him and eat from his hand. I hope I made the squirrel happy that day.

    It is spring time here, in the northern USA, and my tree is now starting to show its pink budding blossoms.

    • What a lovely imageful comment Marilyn thank you. That squirrel was happy for sure. I imagine you’ve had other such special moments of connection to an animal spirit. It is so wonderful when that happens!

      Enjoy your spring! So lovely to see buds blossom. My Y post (coming up later today SA time) shows a photo of a beautiful tree I took yesterday p.m. while out walking – pink, pink and more pink! Hope this finds you in the pink 🙂

  8. Like Sara, here, I think trees tell stories. I have used tree-drawings as a projective test when I worked with children. A large crown of the tree that is filled with ample and symmetrical branching reveals a child’s admiration of a full and well-balanced life. Attention to a large and strong tree-trunk often shows respect for maturity and for living life vigorously.

    • Thanks for adding to this Joseph. Now that you say about trees as a projective measure/test I can see how they would provide ample material for assessing the inner world.

  9. I love trees. I always feel like they have stories to tell, which is probably why they infuse my writing so much. Even dead trees command a presence, as you so insightfully noted. I’ve also thought tree branches resemble human blood vessels, and vice versa, and is an image I’ve used in meditation at times. The baobab tree is amazing! And the spider webs… also amazing, though spiders always make me a little (or a lot) nervous. 😉

    • Thanks for coming by Sara. I remember well your Hazel and Holly stories, among those gnarled trees and branches, getting to and leaving them. I agree about those branches resembling blood vessels – glad you noted that! I run a mile when I see a spider … I leave it up to my husband to not kill and just remove them.

  10. Life and death do go hand in hand. It is exhibited in many different forms. I do love your pictures of the dead trees in the life-giving water… it is a reflection of our soul. Thank you for your wise words.

    • Thank you Gwynn … this comment came through. Will check to see if there other comments from you which went into spam .. don’t ask me how this happened that this one did, but will check later

  11. Meaningful trees that I have enshrined in my conscious memory are: One mature tree near my home in Canada,1937, that I enjoyed finding well and healthy during my visit in 1960; A photo of a huge Bodhi tree with “tiny me” alongside it in 1984, this tree announcing who is less magnificent; A 2000 year old Olive tree, very much alive on Mount of Olives, in Israel, 1978, in the Gethsemane Garden, surrounded by an ancient Church.
    Trees can be photogenic and unforgettably symbolic !

  12. Susan,
    I am trying very hard to see the continuum. Very challenging when it involves a younger person and especially when they are precious to you.

  13. A great symbol, that tree, for standing partially alive, in life-giving waters, even if dead.
    I think it’s good to think, or meditate, about an end that will reach all of us one day. I did so for some time after a close family member passed, years back. I was never to see her again, but I had her in my memories, and wondered about all the afterlife talk, tried to imagine how I might see her in a different form. An ex-ray of the mind and soul. Thank you, Susan, for the insightful post.

    • Thank you Silvia for coming by and your comment. I too think of those who’ve died and have conversations with them. It keeps them alive in a memory sort of way .

  14. Welcome home, Susan. Thank you for the fascinating photos and inspiring insights. The image of x-raying the psyche is especially intriguing and useful. I’ll remember that. 🙂

    • Thank you Jeanie for the welcome home! It’s always great to be back. Now I’m back to walking in my neighbourhood and seeing such beautiful living trees while sometimes putting the x-ray onto my psyche.

  15. Such magic here Susan. Those juxtapositions of death amidst life, life admist death are always profound in my mind. They feel like such important reminders to keep expanding how we hold things, keep including more, keep evolving our definition of wholeness.

    • Thank you Deborah. Juxtapositions is exactly the right word as we keep expanding our consciousness of wholeness and how we view it and what it means to us each individually.

  16. I love photos of dead trees. There’s something in those images that make me stop in my tracks. There’s a certain magnificence and pride in them. They lived well, and here they are, still standing. I’ve got my own little collection of such photos… Thank you for sharing more of your adventures, Susan. Beautiful post.

    • There is a magnificence in them isn’t there Gulara thank you for saying so. Interesting that you have a collection of such trees. Thank you for coming by!

  17. I couldn’t see the spider web so I zoomed it–and found a giraffe! That was worth it.

    Love the baobab. I have them in one of my novels, but have never seen one in person. My fictional baobab has spreading limbs, about as wide as tall. Definitely like the two trunks.

    • Well done for spotting the giraffe Jacqui. The spider web is in the centre of the picture just off to the left. The other web is just off to its right and a little higher.

      I love baobabs. I MAY put up another photo tomorrow for the Y post for A-Z; maybe I’ll call it a yaobab.

  18. I love trees. I’ve always felt an affinity with them for some reason. What a stunning juxtaposition of life with death, death with life, that photo. Trees always take me deep.
    Now spiderwebs, they are absolutely fascinating. Fragile, yet so strong, being able to hold up against the highest of winds. I’ve never really thought of them as symbols but they are so symbolic, aren’t they? I loved your description of them.
    That magnificent tree with two trunks: wow! That had to be so old. I love massive trees and the secrets they hold.
    Great post Susan!

    Michele at Angels Bark

    • Thank you so much Michele! I love trees too … to think they were once just a seed, growing to their full potential, unless felled by other means …

  19. Commenting on only a small part of this beautiful post.
    The dead tree seated in water is a catalyst for meditating about the wholeness of death juxtaposed with life. It is an important mediation and, as we get older, some of us are capable of obtaining benefit from the healthy tension as an undercurrent of awareness. Thank you, Susan, for your outstanding contributions in this series of A to Z 2016! It is much more to your credit that you have been able to accomplish this at the same time that you were vividly occupied by the tensions of Botswana.

    • Thank you Joseph very much. Belated Pesach wishes to you and your family. We were in the bush on the 22nd April and definitely remembered that it was the first day/night of Pesach. My posts for the week of being away were written and scheduled to go up for last week before leaving on the 16th, returning last Saturday. I was able to comment back only since my return! From this last Monday I’ve been writing the A-Z on the actual days. Thank you for your kind words about my small contribution to the A-Z blog challenge!

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