But what, exactly, does this proverb mean? Who would throw a stone at a tree?
Those who know me well know I’m country at heart; I was raised in a rural environment – King George, Virginia. It’s the entrance to the Northern Neck, close to the Potomac River and not too far from the Rappahannock River. My maternal family goes back for a few generations in the same region of the county; and what was once known as Cherry Farms got divided and subdivided, or sold off, over the generations. I still remember when my family, no longer farming or raising animals in any great quantity, tore down the old barn (which was falling apart, it’s true, but I still regarded it as my secret fortress). Still, we “homesteaded” for years. My grandparents remained organic gardeners (excessively so – the garden was huge) and they raised chickens and hogs for quite some time. As did the neighbors – slaughter day and field burnings were always busy times. We even salted meat as opposed to freezing, and stored it in a meat-house to preserve it.
I grew up surrounded by acres and acres of forests; woods that I spent the fall and winter running through like an animal myself (summertime meant snakes, ticks, poison ivy, and poison oak – so I rarely strayed too far out then). I had a compass and knew how to use both that and the sun to find my way home; and I would spend hours exploring until I was thoroughly lost, and then find my own way back. So while I entertained myself during the fall, winter, and sometimes the early spring by wandering the woods for hours, summertime became lazy days with no school and nowhere to run.
We had to find ways to entertain ourselves.
One of the games we played on the long, lazy summer days had to do with rocks and the old walnut tree that stood between our land and what was once my great-grandmother’s land. We would fill our pockets with stones, and standing not too many feet away from the tree, one-by-one we would take turns throwing those rocks at the tree as hard as we could. And then, we would try hard to dodge the stones as they bounced back at us. It's just something country folk do!
As you can imagine, some of us got bruises because those stones would fly back at us as quickly as we threw them; and although we aimed straight for the tree, no one ever knew, for sure, which way the stone would fly. Sometimes we ran right into the stone (and got bruised); other times, the stone would fly at one of the others standing nearby and not expecting the stone to fly back at them. Of course our parents would always say, “It’s all fun and games until someone puts out an eye!” One day, the neighbor’s daughter got popped in the eye by a wayward stone. Thankfully it wasn’t small enough to lodge in her eye, but she had a shiner that lasted for weeks.
That was the end of our fun and games, at least as long as our parents were around.
Still, what has this to do with Ejioko?
We learn that a stone thrown at a tree does bounce back to where it came from, mostly; and it hits the person who threw it. But there are times, if the angle at which the stone is thrown is off, that it bounces back and hits someone innocent. In Ejioko we learn that the things we say, the things we do, are like stones; and unkind words or unwise actions are no more than stones thrown at trees. They do bounce back at us, and sometimes they hit us. We are bruised by our own thoughtless exchanges. And there are times that the stones we throw hurt innocent bystanders; and sometimes, those we love, our family and friends, are the ones who are hit by our stones.
And the tree at which they are thrown is rarely hurt.
Even though the diloggún is an ancient, orally transmitted “book” of wisdom, it reminds us that much of what we need to know about life is learned early on in childhood. Stones thrown at trees bounce back where they came from; and if they don’t, someone innocent could be hurt.
Be like the tree; be strong and don’t let the stones other people throw hurt you. It might take time in the greater scheme of things, but the stones thrown at you will bounce back where they came from. And be careful of the stones you throw, because Ejioko teaches that that the thrower of stones, or someone he cares about, will be the one hurt.
Even a hick like me knows that.