True story; or so they say. But you may need to see it yourself to believe. Somewhere in Bomi County, there is a tree that is said to have the power to heal broken relationships. For all the Valentine’s Day hopefuls out there, this story offers sweet but sober reflection from the sagely pages of Liberia’s cultural heritage.
In Dimeh, Bomi County, home town if the late-great Liberian storyteller Bai T. Moore where the tree is located, the people call it the “Love Tree”. It is not clear whether this is where Bai T. got the inspiration to write his literary masterpiece, “Murder in the Cassava Patch.” In fact, the novel was based on a true story of a couple from his town. However, it is not clear whether there was any connection with the Love Tree, which has long been revered for many generations in Dimeh as a place to heal broken romances.
It is no pretty, flowery asset flaunting its branches like a peacock in the middle of town. In fact the Love Tree, which stands tall but unassuming among a number of imposing reed bushes in a very quiet corner of the town, is by no means flowery or attractive. One would have to be intently searching for it to be found near it. If you didn’t know it, you might pass by it many times until someone showed it to you. This, apparently, is the first lesson of the Love Tree: looks can be deceiving, so look deeper.
The Love Tree begets its name from stories told of many couples whose relationships had gone through severe tests and trials and, through the prayers of at least one person in each relationship, found healing. The protocol would be to go to the Love Tree accompanied by a citizen of Dimeh, and say a prayer for the rekindling of the strained or broken relationship. In due time, it is believed, the prayer would be answered.
Ma Jenneh Rogers, chairlady if the women of Dimeh and niece of the late Bai T. Moore, has firsthand experience. “I can remember at one point when my husband left me for years. Even though he had gone to another woman, I still loved him and wanted him to come home. So my parents took me to the Love Tree and I offered a prayer. That same year my husband returned,” she explained to the Daily Observer’s LIB Life crew. “We have now spent forty seven years together and our love has grown stronger since that prayer was offered. You don’t have to necessarily come with your partner if you people are in dispute.” Offering the second lesson from the Love Tree, Ma Jenneh says, “Just come with a clear heart and good intention and your problem will be solved.”
According to Ma Jenneh, however, the Love Tree does not help people looking for partners. There is shallow, clear-water creek – another shrine, so to speak – a few meters from the tree, where prayers for a spouse, children and many other heart-strung desires may be offered.
The idea that the Love Tree is only for people in strained or broken love relationships drives home a clear message, lesson number three: If it’s not broken, there’s nothing to fix.
Ansumana Varney, Town Chief of Dimeh, adds that the Love Tree “does not work for simple boyfriend and girlfriend disputes”. It only works for couples who have made a tangible commitment to each other; “either engaged or married,” he says. This explains the Love Tree’s fourth lesson: For mature couples only; no hanky-panky business.
Indeed the Love tree is a strange sight: it is actually two trees of different species, cleaving together. The area was a bit too shaded with reed bushes to get a clear photograph of the specimen. The first, a palm tree, stands perfectly straight with its large branches high up, basking in the sunlight, just above the reed bushes. The other tree has over the years literally spread its trunk and limbs around the trunk of the palm tree, like an embrace.
“See how the trees have grown into each other? Even if you and your husband or wife come here together with your dispute,” Ma Jenneh says, “before you leave from here, the two of you will find your love again.”
Love Tree lesson number five: Love grows.
Dimeh Town is one of Liberia’s leading cultural tourism destinations, full of tradition, heritage and – as we can see – romance! Situated on a hill along the Bomi Highway just 20 minutes from Duala, the town is home to several Liberian tribes, both Christians and Muslims. Established around 1898, we are told, Dimeh is full of riveting stories, many of them unpublished, like the private stories of countless couples who have experienced the healing power of the Love Tree.