One of the best parts of our Liberian trip was being with students at Ricks School.
I worked with them on using symbolism in writing.
Majoe drew this picture and explained it. Here is what I learned:
The Kola tree (from which the cola nut comes that is used in our sodas) is considered very special in Liberia. Every home plants one in their yard.
When a child is born, the navel string (I had to ask Majoe about this: it’s the umbilical cord) is buried at the foot of the tree. This is a tradition, especially among the rural folks.
I’ve studied rural folklore all of my life, especially in my home state of Louisiana. The following passage is from my upcoming novel, A Good Place. It tells of the Southern tradition of planting a cedar tree where the first/oldest grave is in a cemetery.
With the building straightened, we looked at the lone cedar tree in the center of the graveyard. It had lost several limbs, which we began sawing up. Momma and Colleen straightened up some of the wooden grave markers knocked over by the limbs.
Momma turned to Colleen. “This cedar tree was planted when they put the first grave here. With its year-round green leaves, it represents eternal life.”
“It means forever—without end.”
I think knowing about our folk traditions is a part of our heritage. Whether it’s Louisiana or another continent, there is so much to learn.