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Tree of Life

Updated: Apr 8

Warning: Mature content. Viewer discretion is advised.

Remember Dr. Randy? The Aussie sitting across from me on the plane to Brisbane who struck up a conversation the entire flight? Well, when he drew me the tourist map, he suggested I check out two islands just off the coast of Brisbane: North Stradbroke (Minjerribah) and Moreton Island. Logistically, it was more practical for me to visit North Stradbroke Island, so I decided to make a day out of it. To get there, I had to take an hour’s train ride to Cleveland Station and about a fifty-minute ferry to Dunwich, the port town on the island's western side.

The boat ride was dramatic, propelling us over monstrous waves only to send us smashing down into their valleys, all while bucketing seawater into the cabin. I was sitting near a door towards the boat’s stern, exposing me to the elements, so I switched seats to position myself in a dry area next to two male passengers. We started conversing, and I found out they were father and son, Rob and Dan, who lived on the island and frequently traveled to the mainland to shop and handle other business. Once we ported, they offered to drive me up the hill to Point Lookout, a popular tourist attraction. A local bus was available for transit around the island, but rather than wait for it to come, I accepted their generous offer.

The guys dropped me off at the Headland Park entrance so I could do the Gorge Walk, a 1.2-km scenic walk along Point Lookout’s promontory. Saying the view was amazing would be a major understatement. The boardwalk passed through natural bushland sheltering native wildlife and put walkers right at the edge of cliffs for striking views of the boundless ocean and impressive rocky outcrops. I moseyed to stretch out the walk, sometimes climbing onto jagged rocks for a closer view of the gorge and inlet, and other times sitting at various viewing points to see if I could spot marine life, but sea creatures never want to play on the surface when I’m looking for them. I did come exhilaratingly close to a family of kangaroos chilling on the hills, not the least bit rattled by my presence. I took a few pictures of them and continued on my way to avoid disturbing their family time.

As I walked, I started noticing the trees. Somewhere along this trip, I became fascinated by trees, observing for the first time their variety and beauty. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always known there were different species, but this was the first time I could recall being enthralled by the unique character of each tree. Even within the same genus, each tree has its own identity and can give you something vastly different to appreciate, like people. I lost count of the number of photographs I took of trees and can’t even begin to provide an accurate accounting of the amount of time I spent admiring them.

This scenic walk was no different, as I came face-to-trunk with native pandanus palms. They were a fascinating sight, appearing to grow from the canopy down with a singular thick trunk that branched into several smaller stalks as it descended to the ground and into the soil. I was transfixed by these palms’ ability to grow in reverse. I walked through a grove of these peculiar trees, snapping pics and gawking in admiration. Then things got awkward. Really awkward.

I couldn’t help but notice that, for some of the trees, the stalks branched out in such a way that the entire tree resembled a fully erect man. I don’t know if solo traveling was starting to get to me and play on my emotions, but I can confidently say that some of those trees had penises. On those blessed trees, one stalk deviated from the group to protrude from a section of the trunk about hip height, while the other cluster of stalks converged beneath that point to form the appearance of legs. The lone stem would either bulge out, angling up in the air, or hang low to dangle toward the ground. In both cases, the girthy stalk grew several inches before rounding into a smooth domed tip colored differently than the rest of the shaft. If that ain’t a penis, then what is it?

I needed confirmation that I wasn’t just being a dirty birdy out there on that island, imagining dick trees. I took a few pictures and posted them online for the people to decide if I was tripping or not. The caption simply read, “Is it just me?” to ensure I didn’t lead them to see what I was seeing. Sure enough, people broke their ankles to run to the comment section in astonishment over these dick trees. They wrote clever comments like, “Well, you are in Queensland” and “Wood'ja look at this nature's bounty!" My New York cousin blurted the obvious, "OMG, there's a lot of penises!" While my mom tried to act holy, talking about, "Y'all minds need to get out the gutter," like she didn't see what we all were seeing.

Then my St. Louis cousin became a pandanus oracle, explaining, "See, what we have here is the dick tree of life... You have your long ones, your short ones, your average girth, below average girth, and then your massive 'I’m afraid to let you touch me’ girth penis.” After we all had a hearty laugh, she followed up with a warning, “Stay away from that dangerous tree, Jessica.” And with that, I marched on.

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