"The posture of the older oak trees reaching toward this sky had a jut, a wildness and entitlement, predating permanent settlement; memories of an unfenced world were written in the cursive of their branches." Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections.
An autumn forest grows on a triptych in my living room. It is signed with talent and poetry by Farideh Lashai, the celebrated Iranian master who honors me with her friendship. The leaves are brown and wilted and the branches are elegant. As the canvas is left bare and white in the background, we presume it is snow. An
artist will never tell you what she really painted but Farideh Lashai smiled at my interpretation.
In that same living room, a few feet away from Lashai's forest, is Ghada Amr's forest. Hers is a tangle of black threads that she sowed onto a background of faded trees on paper: her signature style. They convey the foliage.
We live happily with these forests in our living room. The theme is enchanting and peaceful. I have always been attracted to trees and their symbolism. Many fairy tales are evoked when my children and I traverse the small forests in Geneva. We call out for the wolf, we look out for the gingerbread house and always throw pebbles along the way to mark our path.
It took me forty years to understand the scientific life of trees. My son had a science exam about plants and their growth and I tried to explain to him within the own limits of my poor knowledge but with the capacity to FINALLY understand 7th grade biology.
I have always pointed trees out to my children. Our favorite without any doubt is the monumental cedar. They stand beautiful in the Geneva parks and even the youngest likes to recognize them. It stands proudly on our Lebanese flag.
I explained the symbolism and political importance of trees to my son as we distanced ourselves from the organic study required for the biology exam. I told him how long it took for an olive tree to grow and how the centenarian trees were bulldozed and uprooted in the Holy Land by the Zionists. He was distraught because he knows the Biblical story of the pigeon who brought back the olive tree branch when Noah's arc was sinking.
In Dubai, winter weather permits me to sit with a book on the grass and press my back into the itchy trunk of the palms that grow outside the school, as I wait for them to be released from class. I love those familiar palms that grow in the Gulf.
I also love winter trees in the freezing West. One of my favorite Tshirts is of a black winter tree, leafless and nude. The bare trees I once considered sad and melancholic, when I studied there, have become symbols of patience and promises to come. I "commissioned" my brother to take a photo for this post and the one beneath evokes his talent and my predilection for trees.
January 19, 2011
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