The Tree Connection
When I was your age I used to be a curious child. I wondered and I wondered. I wondered about many things, such as, where the birds slept, where the juicy fruits I ate come from, where the butterflies lived, etc. And I wandered around to get the answers. The sights and sounds of the forests provided me with answers to my curiosity.
I grew up in the central part of India in a small town that was hidden in a lush forest land. On long summer days, my best friend Eappy and I would wander around in the woods, sucking sweet nectar from the honey suckles, climbing up tamarind, mango and guava trees, chasing butterflies and getting lost in the magnificent world – until we heard her father’s whistles from far away usually around sunset. We ran home in the direction of the call.
We would walk to school often taking the short cut through the forested areas. Not many people knew about our secret trails. They were beautiful. I was happiest in nature. I felt free. Just like a butterfly. Eappy felt the same.
There was a huge banyan tree in our neighborhood right across from our home. It was probably hundreds of years old because its trunk was really big. Throughout the year, green parrots with red beaks would come by the thousands and sit atop the canopy of that giant tree. They would sing loudly. We had so much fun dangling in the air from the low hanging roots of the tree. Its many hollows and low branches were great for playing hide and seek.
The tree also provided for much needed shade for travelers and a home to many other animals such as squirrels and even monkeys. Sometimes, the puppeteer or the snake charmer would stop by and hold a show for the neighborhood children under the big canopy which served as an amphitheater.
On special festival days groups of singing women wearing colorful saris from all around would come and worship the tree (the banyan tree is considered sacred in India). They would decorate parts of it with orange-red vermillion artwork, and leave some sweets for offerings. As soon as they left we sneaked up to get the sweets, unless the monkeys got them first. But those days didn’t last for ever. One day the owner of the land decided that she needed the space to make a big house for herself and her growing family. She had the giant ancient tree chopped off.
With the tree gone, the pandemonium of parrots, the scurry of squirrels, and the troop of monkeys who called it home were also gone. The children were very sad. There was no space to play. No passerby stopped for shade and story telling.
Slowly, the woods that stretched from our home to school were cut off in sections to make room for the growing town. Gone were our tamarind, mango and guava trees and all the butterfly bushes.The fresh air and the beautiful sounds of the forest were replaced by polluted air and noise created by a large number of automobiles.
Eappy and I had no place to run around in the forest, no butterflies to chase.
Televison came to homes but nothing replaced the entertainment we had from the big banyan tree and the wooded forest. We missed them.
Soon we grew up. Eappy moved to live with her older sister far away. I moved to America to study at college. I often thought of the woods, the parrots and all my adventures with Eappy around the trees. I moved a lot in the years to come but wherever I lived, I looked for wooded areas to escape to. I searched for city, state and national parks and I visited them as often as I could.
A few years ago I had the opportunity to buy my own first home. “What kind of home do you want to buy?” asked the builder.
“A small one with hundreds of trees around.” I replied.
So when he found a piece of land that I could afford, I asked the builder not to cut any more trees than he absolutely needed for the smallest house he would agree to build. As soon as we moved in, I started planting more fruit trees around in any space that was left.
Soon all the fruit trees grew up. In spring beautiful flowers blossomed out of them. In summer the trees are loaded with apples, pears, peaches, figs and berries. All around our home is a curtain of green.
The birds chirp,
The squirrels dance,
The chipmunks chase,
The bees hum,
The bunnies frolic,
The cat snoozes under the shade,
My heart sings again rejoicing at the lost treasure I found once more.
When I sit and read a book in my little forest, I think of Eappy, the Banyan Tree and our woods back home. I imagine her sitting under a tree far away reading to her children and sharing the connection with the trees that we developed together.
Trees are a blessing, a source of life, a home for many and a song for the heart. No wonder, Guru Nanak has compared the Lord God to a fruitful tree…
So, Children, I hope you can develop your own connection to the trees as well. You never know what treasures await for you.
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