On the Shoulders of Trees I Stood…

Do you have a favourite tree?

People tend to look at me funny when I ask them this question. Surprisingly, while just about anyone can pick out a favourite flower, I haven’t met too many that have an attachment to a tree.

My memories are full of trees. Perhaps this speaks to my observant nature, but I think there’s a little more to it. For those of us who have lost their motherland, there are few reminders of home around the world, so we rely on the few things that can consistently be found in foreign lands.

For my people, the olive tree is a powerful representation of home. Palestinian farmers are famous for incredibly delicious extra virgin olive oil and their annual stock of spiced green and black olives. Memories of vast olive groves that extend beyond the imagination have become, quite literally, the final surviving branch of Palestinian identity, quietly and quickly disintegrating as I write this. Burning to ashes.

What does a burning olive grove smell like?

Ask a Palestinian farmer.

In mourning the olive trees, I grew up seeking shelter under date palms. I grew up beach-side, and quickly came to love this common fruit of several lands that granted me a new sense of home. There is something about a mighty tall palm tree that can pull even the most weighted heart up to heaven. In its shadow, there is very little that one can find wrong with the world, even with the bitterness of burning olive wood still scorching the nostrils.

We learn to forgive and love again.

Where I live now, there are no olive trees or palm trees. I wandered for years in this city and couldn’t find solace in so much concrete and snow. The best dates in town are imported from one of my old homes. The best olives in town are hand picked and sent to me in water bottles that I guard fiercely.

In search for new shelter, I decided to visit an arboretum, and found myself sitting under the shade of a willow. Unlike the other trees, she enveloped me in a big hug, almost as though she understood where I was coming from and everything I had seen. I could hear wind whistling through branches, willing me to give her a chance and entrust my pain to her. The willow brought the promise that there will always be other trees, and other homes, because home is in us all along.

And so I fell in love once again.

When I chose my house, I welcomed more love into my little family, with cedars, a maple, and a pine twice the height of my home. When I sit among them with a bowl of Palestinian olives or gulf dates, the world is too small and my heart is too full to carry any pain.

So, tell me, what’s your favourite tree?

P.S. Go paperless.

And remember… we design our own luck!

M.

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