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Tree Swallows Chain


What do you see when you look at the picture in the header of this post? There is no right or wrong answer. I am curious about how others perceive this image.

Read on for the story and multiple meanings behind this photo, that took two separate hiking trips to capture.

For the past several months, I have participated in Sunday morning hikes. Every two weeks, I go out with a couple of friends from my job to explore the lush Antiguan hills.

On the first Sunday of October, I left the house at 5:45 AM to meet the crew. One of my friends is from Antigua, and she leads our treks through different parts of the island. The other crew member works alongside me in the education department and is a devout family man with Zimbabwean roots. We drove away from our meeting point at 6:00 AM.

In two cars, the three of us traveled from the north side of the island to the historic Nelson’s Dockyard located on the southern coastline. That morning's plan included climbing the Middle Ground path that begins in the far end of Nelson's Dockyard.

After unloading our cars, we walked toward the security gate. Due to COVID-19, the park is closed to vehicle traffic, but you can walk through the main entrance with a face mask. We greeted the guard, passed the British colonial rule's remnants, and found our way to the hiking path.

The trail starts with a set of wooden stairs that lead to the path.

Once we made it beyond the second of many locations with breathtaking views, we continued along the rocky terrain before reaching an obstacle. We had two options: use an old rope to guide us up the hill or take the alternative, safer route. The fearless spirits in us chose the rope.

The leader went first, navigating the giant boulders with her specialty boots and hands wrapped tightly around the gray rope. My coworker and friend followed while sharing another beautiful story about life in Zimbabwe. I pulled up the rear, taking pictures and video. Together, we made it up the hill without injury.

After walking for another ten minutes, we came across the chain tied around the rock and tree pictured throughout this post. As academics, we tossed around some possible hypotheses about the purpose and history of the mysterious sight. Nothing seemed to fit.


We continued on the path that eventually led us back to our cars. I turned the key in the ignition to my car and pulled away, with one regret. Not one of us took a decent picture of the chain that appeared to swallow the tree.

I went home and told my wife Gabriella about the strange encounter on that morning’s hike. Our conversation followed a similar philosophical turn to my hiking crew’s hypotheses.

After some time, Gabriella said, “the tree swallows the chain like the company you keep.” She further explained that the people you surround yourself with become a part of you. This truth is why it is essential to be mindful and selective of your friends.

As Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

I suggested that the tree and chain symbolize how life continues. We are here for only a short moment in time. Like the tree that continues to grow despite the metal chain wrapped around its trunk, life will go on once our lives end. If Trump is reelected, God forbid, life will move forward!

This tree that swallows a chain is a reminder to stay mindful of your legacy and live your life now! If you have something you want to do but can't find the courage, there is no such thing as "the right time."

This post is your permission to be you and make things happen!

Every day is an opportunity, blessing, and a gift. Do something that brings you joy with the time you have today. Engage in meaningful work that aligns with your life's purpose and challenges injustices.

Three of the photos in this post came from the second hike through the Middle Ground trail. Despite Gabriella’s fall while trying to hold the old rope while climbing the hill, the experience was phenomenal. Take a look at the footage captured in the video below, and let me know in the comments your thoughts on the chain, rock, and tree.

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