As a friend warned me before I headed to Kenya, "Africa is the place where even the trees are out to hurt you." Now that I've lived in the North for a while, I'm seeing that he's very right!
The smallest thorns are from trees we like to call "wait a bit" bushes. These are small thorns - less than a quarter inch long - but they come in groups of three. Two are hooked forward and one, slightly further down the branch, is hooked back. If you brush past, it's like the tree grabs you and good luck getting yourself free. Acacia thorns are one to three inches long, white, and very strong. There are some thorn trees that look like a wild, curvy tangle of Dr. Suess-like branches, others are long and needle-like, and still others can be mistaken for small branches at first glance. They are easily four to five inches long and can be as wide as a half an inch at the base.
I think the most interesting thorn trees are the whistling thorns. The bark is yellow-ish and the tree grows crooked - a few feet one direction, then another, then another. It zig-zags to the sky with thorns that have often have a big black bulb at the base. Ants make their nests in the thorns and when the wind blows at just the right angle, the air passing through the thorn makes a whistling sound.
Walking barefoot around Korr is dangerous, especially since most thorns have some type of poison that makes them not just pokey, but makes your skin itchy and irritated at best, or causes boils at worse.
So today, Good Friday, as I read the story of Jesus' trial and crucifixion, the crown of thorns stood out. I could imagine it, and I know what it feels like to have one poke my toe as I walk (it hurts!). But to have these digging and scraping into my head, to feel the blood trickle down my forehead, to be spat upon and mocked, to have every blow push the thorns deeper into my flesh... this I could not even begin to imagine. And the thorns were just the beginning of Jesus' suffering for me. In so many ways, the desert is helping the Bible come alive for me. Today, this is one.
Sorrow and love flow mingled down
Did e're such love and sorrow meet
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?