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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Parable of the Trees

I was rudely awakened out of a sound sleep early Monday morning by the loud, insistent, gratingly annoying buzzing of gas-powered chain saws. A phalanx of young landscapers, barely out of high school (who probably couldn’t tell a quercus coccinea from a tsuga canadensis), were swarming through the neighborhood, lopping off limbs from the bottom third of our trees. Most of the taller ones were brutally butchered, left with only small tufts of bare twigs sticking up from their denuded trunks, like long shrimp forks up-ended in cocktail sauce. The smaller, squattier trees seemed to be spared...but the majority of our tree population was decimated and, I fear, without enough leafage to harness oxygen dioxide and sunlight, now faces a slow death.

It was blatantly evident as they whacked and hacked away that the young men had no idea what they were doing. The lack of any semblance of knowledge about tree surgery and arboretum maintenance was quite obvious. Perhaps a little education of both them and the HOA board members to that effect might have saved the trees from the threat of extinction.

The care and nurturing of trees, specifically palm trees, provides an apt analogy for the care and nurturing of young people in a new, independently published novel, The Weeping Palm Tree: A Mhiship Fictional Story** by Gideon Yilpiring Dashe. Set in a small Mhiship (Chip) village in Nigeria, this short (50-page) parable recounts the story of Borlong Paul Makton who is selected by God in a vision of the blind minister, Adamu Katnyam, to save his people—through eduction—from, we discover, ignorance, greed, and pagan worshippers. It is a gripping, lyrically written tale—one that I easily imagined being related on a cool evening around an African après safari fire. Quite reminiscent of Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen, who also espoused the necessity of a proper education for native village children. Which is exactly the major theme of Dashe's novel.

One  is never too old to pick up a salient fact or two. And, certainly, one is never too young to discover the beyond world of books. Through The Weeping Palm Tree—I admit this was an atypical branching out from my normal reading boundaries—I discovered what it is like to live in a small West African village where a primary source of income is the harvesting and selling of bommi (am-ting)—wine made from palm tree sap. Where, for the lack of a proper education and the foresight of forest planning and replenishment, the trees eventually die out. And so does the wine. Borlong fulfills his destiny by becoming, through his education promulgated from the efforts of Christian missionaries and the conversion of his father to the ministry, the village savior.

Dashe, a pharmacist by profession, is a gifted storyteller. His writing is exuberantly flowery, tinged with common word usage and grammatical errors that are typical of one whose second or, perhaps, third language is English. But this only adds to the essential charm of The Weeping Palm Tree, augmenting its major themes and analogies. A devout Christian, Dashe also liberally infuses his writing with religious dogma and tenets upon which he bases the whole concept of education and enlightenment. The author, in this regard, does a bit more preaching than I thought necessary.

However, what I liked best were Dashe’s true-to-life characters. Some were quite serious; a few were very humorous; all of them, based upon people his life, were intensely interesting. And, more importantly, as I went out on a limb, as it were, to read this little novel, I learned quite a lot about a culture and way of life that was previously totally alien to me. But now, I can readily imagine being in the small village, participating in an aram, perhaps sipping a bit of bommi or mos...

...learning more about and becoming more familiar with the language and ways of the newly enlightened Chip.
** © 2010 by Gideon Yilpiring Dashe. 91-pages, including an index of names and phrases and a background description of the Mhiship (Chip) community. E-reader and trade paperback editions self-published through createspace.com.

2:55 pm est          Comments

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June J. McInerney, the host of this Literary Blog, is an author, poet, and librettist. Her currently published works include a novel, a book of spiritual inspirations, two volumes of poetry, stories for children (of all ages) and a variety of children's musicals. Her titles include:
Miss Elmira's Secret Treasure: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
Colonial Theatre: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Roarin' 20s 
Phoenix Hose, Hook & Ladder: A Novel of Phoenixville during World War I
Columbia Hotel: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
the Schuylkill Monster: A Novel of Phoenixville in 1978
The Prisoner's Portrait: A Novel of Phoenxville during World War II
Rainbow in the Sky
Meditations for New Members

Adventures of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Spinach Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A Collection of More Spiritual Poems

We Three Kings

Beauty and the Beast


Noah's Rainbow

Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding Hood



Originally from the New York metropolitan area, June currently lives near Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania with her constant and loving companions, FrankieBernard and Sebastian Cat. She is currently working on her sixth novel.

June's novels can be purchased at amazon.com, through Barnes and Noble,
at the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area,
the Gateway Pharmacy in Phoenixvile, PA

For more information about her musicals, which are also available on amazon.com,