Published On: Sun, Jun 7th, 2015

The Tree on the Moon

Thethree ofthemoonBy: Mohamed Urdoh

Cafe of Souls

My, there is a tree, a distinct tree the like of which has never been seen before; an invisible tree taller than any other one that was, is or will ever be. With roots sinking deeper to places where no other tree has ever been, its life borders on the infinite and its branches extend to every nook and creek on the moon. Its name is the Tree-on-the-moon and it is the meeting place of the souls of the fallen and the living and the yet-to-be-born.

Feeding from the subsoil nourished by the rich blood of innocent victims devoured by the twin beasts of the injustice and tyranny reigning in this world of ours, it is the impregnable fortress of the unbending human spirit and the shrine of its defenders whose resolve can never be spade by threats, terror, torture, oppression or even death.

My, listen to this; I bet it is going to be music in your ears: The tree has been here and, simultaneously, in all other dimension long before any living thing found its way to the universe. At first, when my mother told me about the tree one day as I was lying on her comfortable lap, I couldn’t understand a word of what she was saying. It was all so abstract and incomprehensible that I had to seek refuge in my childish daydreams. But, through repetition, she eventually made the story percolate from the topmost stratum of my mind to the lowest.

“Son,” she would start like this every time she revisited the story, “there is a very, very, very huge tree. There is no any tree like it anywhere in the universe and none will ever be.” Then, she would give a deep sigh complete with a dramatic facial expression, be silent for a second or two to generate suspense and resume with full vigor: “The-tree-on-the-moon is its name! It was so named because everyone, the born and the unborn is represented by one of its numerous leaves that can be counted only by God.” One more sigh and another short pause. Then she would continue “when someone dies, his leave becomes dry and falls down to the ground.” End of the story.

An unmatched story teller, her finesse, persistence and the vim she put into her voice finally overpowered me into submission. Consequently, I was left with no choice but to swallow the old lady’s account hook, led and line. And, as I understood the story better, it increasingly beguiled me to a point whereby I became my mother’s pliant – blind if you like – disciple. That is why the memory of the story remained something of an obsession in my head for many years to come. But, as I drifted away, emotionally and physically, from the shadow of my mother – something all mothers equally hate and love – the rebel in me started rearing his ugly head and eventually unraveled the world that I was familiar with, flinging me into a Terra incognito. Hence, many years and a lot of pondering later, I managed to plug enough courage to part roads with her, coming up with my own version of the story.

Hay! Stop staring me like this now. I know what is hovering in your head: what the imp! You may say. But you are wrong because I was never one. On the contrary, even in my childhood, I was an amiable little boy and usually amenable to mom’s rules. And that is why she always discouraged me from being near females, forcing me to spend more time with men so that I could bond with them and perfect my masculine traits. In a country like the one I came from, you can’t afford the luxury of being sissy. Your manhood is the best asset you have and, therefore, never cease honing it.

This fact notwithstanding, the story about the tree is the only one in her vast repertoire that I subsequently took issue with, albeit marginally. The main difference between her vision and mine is that the tree in question never loses any leaves. And that is why it is the meeting place of the souls of the dead and the living and the unborn. So, please relax and cheer up. For, your leave on the giant tree is very much alive and, probably, rubbing shoulders with those of the saints, freedom fighters and numerous other men and women who gave up their lives to assert our humanity.

I, for one, I’m thrilled; thrilled, because I had out-of-body trip to the moon last night and saw my own soul taking coffee with those of two of my departed best friends. The trio was in a cozy, little, popular place called the Cafe of Souls right under the shade of the blissful tree. Being absorbed in a very engaging conversation, the time slipped by so quickly before I knew it. Finally, when I realized I stayed much longer than I should and stood up to shoot back to the earth, a frightening, powerful roar pierced the air.

Suddenly, the Camel-in-the-sky, a character featured in one other disarming story my mother told me with gusto, appeared. As I watched the animal with a gaping awe because of its dwarfing size, the reassuring voice of my mother’s soul reverberated gently into the ears. “Do you see…do you see …that it has no tail? Remember how that wicked, old woman grabbed him by the tail and it snapped off? Well, I repeated that again and again and again. But, sweetie, as I told you its head is crammed with the wisdom of the ages. Son, don’t be spooked by its giant body and frightening roar. Listen carefully to what it says to earthlings and spread the message to all and sundry. That is your mission, the mission of every righteous son or daughter, especially at a time when the Here before is in frighteningly deep crisis:

Encouraged by my mother’s soul’s reassuring counsel, I paid a rapt attention to every single word coming from the giant animal’s mouth, memorizing it. Therefore, I can literally vouch for the authenticity of the following message and hope you will intently listen to and spread it.

The message:

“Do remember this always, O, ye people of the earth: Follow the advice of the soul and never the dictates of the ego. The ego is so demented, so vile and so selfish that it lures you into succumbing to today’s luxuries at the expenses of the morrow’s vital interests. Even worse, it is a ruthless manipulator stopping at nothing to exploit to the fullest its victim, the poor heart. My children don’t misunderstand my words. I’m not suggesting that you should be harsh to the heart since it is an innocent casualty of the deceit of the meanest entity. All I’m trying to convey is that you to prevent it from being used against you as a weapon by the wily ego and his equally vicious partner, vanity. I’m positively sure we are going to get the upper hand over these evils through our concerted effort. Haven’t we prevailed over the worst hazards: hurricanes, blizzards, floods, diseases, and famines, wars solely through our determination and perseverance and genius? Is there any reason why we can’t repeat the same feat?

There is another point I would like to impress upon you my children. You cannot beat the odds if you choose to remain hostages to the past. Consequently, be ready to fearlessly move forward, boosted by the good fortunes promised by the future and being undaunted by the bad ones it is bound to bring. But if you are unwilling to forego many luxuries and lack the desire to go beyond the door steps of your safe abodes, there is no way you can improve your lot. Thus, instead of fearing hardship and avoiding discomfort, allow them to be your allies and lead you to greener pastures.

O! My children,

the soul is gentle and generous and unobtrusive. Above all, it is neither deterred by suffering nor averse to facing difficulties or enduring pain and it is hardly lured by the frivolous or hampered by addiction to comfort. So, thanks to its patience and clear vision and persistent sobriety, it has a strong sense of purpose. That explains why it never fails to respond correctly to the demands of the times since it directly connects you to a healthy mind a happy heart. Against this backdrop, by trusting the soul you will be basking in a safe haven far away from the turbulent sea, the ego can dump you into. The failure to do so is too ghastly to contemplate, dumping into a territory that makes you regret you ever came to this dimension:


I strayed into the universe


I have not arrived where I was meant to be.

And this earth, my children, what a painful place to be. Plenty are the times when the soul is viciously assaulted by an incapacitating sorrow that renders the mind invalid through confusion and disorientation. And the memory of friends and relatives fades away. As if all this is not bad enough, the palate abstains from enjoying the taste of the most succulent food. So, you tell yourself, alas! I’ve had more than my share of suffering in this world and, henceforth, nothing is going to move me. But, soon afterwards, a worse day comes that shakes the very foundations of your life more than you ever expected. That is when you keep on weeping and weeping and weeping until you shed more tears that flood the rivers. For, you suddenly learn that you are a spiritual exile. And that is the worst state of mind that can befall the soul:

Oh! I feel vertigo

I am possessed by something

Something I know not.

Somewhere in between heaven and earth

A place belonging to nowhere,

In limbo I stagger.


The soul of the exile suffers. And its suffering knows no bounds. Demoralized, disempowered and impoverished all the time, it is drained of physical and emotional energy. For, leaving behind everything the exile is familiar with is as good as sinking into oblivion. Therefore, he always finds himself suck into a black hole that takes away but never gives back. And the soul ends up in dawdling in the realm of nothingness.

And yet, the mind of the exile does not stop to think. It thinks again and again and again. But nothing ever comes into focus and takes a definite form or a shape. There is only a bottomless void – an endless, dark zone where nothing is visible or moves – not even sound. It is a place so devoid of essence and meaning and substance that neither death nor life can define; a horrid place existing only in the mind and can never be shaken off. Thus, the soul becomes trapped in an emotional, intellectual and spiritual torture chamber where love and mercy have no place. It is a world where the absurd becomes the sublime and the sublime the absurd. But, alas! There is no escape. Things only get worse. Against this backdrop, the emotional, spiritual and intellectual maladies change into physical deformities.

Because of the oppressive weight that is burdening the shoulders I do wobble. Firm the feet are not on the sand covering the ground; the sand upon which they walk. And nothing goes down the throat. Oh! The stomach is in harrowing pain.”

End of the message.

At this point, I turned to the souls of my two friends, saying: Oh! The above-mentioned day is here right now. I am here for all those who are still in the world I came from – and, unfortunately, I’m one of them. It all started a long time ago. So, while we are all enveloped by a thick curtain of misery at this very moment, we will never cease missing your animating smiles, gentle demeanor, devastating sense of humor and convivial spirits that were the kernel of our shared experience prior to your departure.

Oh! sincere friends. That is not the only precious legacy you have left behind for us. Above all, we will continue cherishing and drawing inspiration from your selfless commitment to the cause of our freedom and the unwavering determination with which you fought for the betterment of the humankind.

For me, your physical disappearance is even more painful. I remember in the first e-mails we had exchanged our discussions on how we had chosen exile over oppression. In the first contact we shared for 29 years, I used a refrain that I always repeated with gusto in the good all days: “Greetings from the young man you used to take care of,” – that was what I said. As in the past, you dismissed the remark in a humorous manner. But, all the time, all our friends knew the opposite was true. In fact, I’m indebted to Somaliland Cyberspace for helping us to reinstate our contact. Personally, that was important for me because it made me relive my past. It brought into my mind flashbacks of the past: the day when we left Hargeisa for Mogadishu, the training period we did at Avizione, the flight to Germany, the comeback to Mogadishu, the house in Hodan neighborhood we shared with a handful of our colleagues.

I also reminded them of a nightmare I had at Collagio Somalia one night, only a week after we arrived in Mogadishu – for the first time. In the nightmare, a huge snake, I’m not sure if the was a boa constrictor, coiled itself around my body from tip to toe squeezing my bones together in its deadly stranglehold. Thus, I jumped in panic from bed, shouting help, help, help, awakening you and all our friends. By then, the union was only two years old and we were mesmerized with the idea of realizing our grand dream: creating Greater Somalia! Upon further reflection, I wonder if the nightmare were not a premonition of the heinous fortunes the ill-advised union held in store for us.

In fact, the most highly pronounced sign indicative of the bad deal the unity was came as early as 1962, when Abdirasheed Ali Shermarke introduced new taxis which throw Hargeisa into turmoil for weeks after the public took the arms in protest, and the second largest urban center in the now defunct Somalia became a ghost city after its inhabitants moved in their droves to the mountains where they established a tent city complete with its stores, restaurants, and all the other amenities characterizing a city.

Thus, was born the Bakaylo-Qalad period which demonstrated the iron will of our people to defend their freedom long before the SNM was born. Nor should we forget the abortive military coup launched by politically amateurish young military officers a few months earlier. But, no one can beat the foresight of such visionaries as Adan Arab, Abdullahi Suldan (Timo Adi) and Qasim who in their poems vividly reflected the disappointment of the masses of Somaliland with the unity in their poems during that era.

Against this backdrop, there is one picture which froze in the mind – The consoling image of Naaso Hablood to which I was writing only last night the following letter:

Dear Naaso Hablood;

I salute you from the bottom of my heart. I salute you for having been nurturing us and before us our ancestors since time immemorial. Numerous are the occasions when as a tiny-legged boy I misbehaved and your rebuking gaze made me run home and seek refuge on my mother’s lap, of course, without telling her that you caught me indulging in one of my little mischievous ventures.

Certainly, she would have understood my position had I told her your admonition to me since you did similar things to her, and her mother and her mother’s mother in their childhood. But you know the material children – who always want to have their own little secrets – are made of.

Oh great ones;

One important fact remains upper most in the heads of the People of the Hills whom we are and always have been. You and the other landmarks of Somaliland – Almis, Jivo Mici Dheer, Daalo, Surad, Shimbaberis, Sharlaganaadi, Sheikh, Gacan Libaax, Tabca, and many others – have bequeathed to us everything that is good in us by sharing with us the wisdom you have been accumulating throughout the millennia. Above all, you taught us not only the impregnable power of the soul but also that peace is its food, beauty the air it breaths and humility the water that quenches its thirst. And from that we draw our basic values and humanity.

But all that went down the drain when by the grace of God Meander came back to us seventy years after it was looted by foreigners and we immediately took it to a slaughter house called Union. God, how much do I hate this name! O, great ones, you think none is privy to your secrets. But I saw you on the evening of July 1, 1960. I remember not only your sad gloomy faces but the tears running down your cheeks as the People of the Hills handed Maandeeq to the butchers from hell. Yes, at the Beerta Xoreyada (Freedom Park) you did artfully manage to hide your sorrow, putting a brave face, which deluded many people into thinking you were so much happy as you had been four days earlier.

But in the evening, I caught you – without you seeing me, of course – venting out your true feelings. And although I was intoxicated by the magic spell of the false god of Greater Somalia like everyone else at the time – the look on your face spooked me. For, when you find the sources of your power and strength weeping, the ground under your feet shakes.

O! Great Ones;

That was not the only time I preached your privacy at a time when you were indisposed. I saw you once again shedding tears – but this time tears of joy – the day the people of the Hills, mountains and planes asserted in no uncertain terms their desire to retrieve Maandeeq at the May referendum. This time, too, I had strong emotions but they were pleasant emotions. Maandeeq was back for the second time from the jaws of death. The people had spoken on that eventful and blessed day, saying we will never lose sight of our Great Mother whose udders sustained our lives even in the worst of times.

O! Great Ones;

I remember one day. It was one of those days in early childhood when innocence still remains intact; when bad things and good things just come and go; when words like cause and effect are no part of your vocabulary. In one of those memorable days, there was a heavy pour down.

Mom mobilized all here efforts and experience to make me not to step out of the door for fear that I might get pneumonia. I always loved – as I still do – the blinding flash of lightening, the roar of thunder and the sight of dark heavy clouds in the sky. Above all, I was thrilled by rain drops and hearing their magic sound as they hit the ground. So, in the end, I slipped out and by the time she saw me I was running nude in the rain together with my playmates. That day, too, you gave me an admonishing look which frightened me to death. This is the reason why that far off day is still glued on the mind.

But after morphing to manhood and the concept of cause and effect made sense to me, I stared to gradually understand your invaluable role in my nurturing and that of everyone from the People of the Hills. So, it is not only the living among your children who are familiar with the great job you have been doing since time immemorial, but also all those entombed in the cemeteries strewn under your feet. That is why you are not only the repositories of our history but also the symbol of all that good in us. Thus, my current communion is almost of spiritual value. Admittedly, this spontaneous action is a response to an emotion-charged experience. Last night…only last night – that was when it all started. It was then that mass celebration of the downfall of Dhagdheer thousands of year ago visited me in a dream.

Dhagdheer dhimatay oo dhulki waa nabad

Dhagdheer dhimatay oo dhulki waa nabad

Long-eared is dead and peace is reigning in the land.

Long-eared is dead and peace is reigning in the land.

O, Great Ones,

We all sung in unison a similar refrain after the dictatorship, which, in effect, represented the Dhagdheerian spirit, tumbled. However, once the jubilations were over, we flouted our promise to never again lose sight of Maandeeq, its return being taken for guaranteed. We have forgotten that when a swarm of locusts visit your farm, you have a big problem in your hands since the adult ones squander what they get and fly away in a matter of days: the real nightmare is waiting in the wings.

Shortly after the unwelcome visitors depart, the eggs they left behind beneath the soil hatch and their babies are with you for weeks. That is when the real tragedy emerges; that is what you should reserve your real worry for. By the time this lesson seeped through into our minds, it was too late. The newly-born baby locusts – the politicians and soldiers who took the reins of power in the post-dictatorship era – had already hatched, causing enough damage. Making the road ahead bumpy and rough, the new generation of the vermin slowed down our progress and almost diverted our attention from keeping an eye on Maandeeq.

As a result, Somaliland had slipped back into violence in 1994-1996. In the end, however, they were bound to fail in their bid to bend the people’s will to restore and maintain peace.

About the Author

- #Arraale Mohamoud Jama is a freelance journalist and human rights activist with more than 20 years of experience as a professional journalist and human rights activist, as well as a writer and investigative journalist on a wide range of topics related to social issues, human rights, politics and security, economics, democracy, and good governance. He has written extensively on regional and international events, and has worked Somaliland newspapers, and Human rights organization. In 2008, he created the website #Araweelo #News #Network, and is based in Somaliland and is currently managing it; #Arraale is a specialist in investigating and reporting on human rights, democracy, security, and good governance issues. Contact: Send an SMS or MMS to + 252 63 442 5380 + 252 63 442 5380 /

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