For as long as I can remember, I have always lived next to a tree. Growing up in Kathmandu, our ancient house had a courtyard with only one tree. The tree grew on a raised brick rectangular mound along with some other small plants. The tree was thin and windy and acted like a green umbrella providing shade to the small plants and an ancient well situated next to the rectangular mound. I learned later that this was the night flowering jasmine tree or parijaat flower tree in Nepali.
As kids, we spent countless hours playing on this courtyard under the shade of the parijaat tree. Every once in a while the green moss on the yard would be speckled with the white and yellow of the parijaat flowers. Our grandmother, the matriarch of the household would immediately dispatch someone to carefully collect these flowers to offer to the household deities next morning.
In this house, I shared a room with my sister and my parents, a long rectangular room that was divided into two. My parents slept and entertained on the outside room. My sister and I slept on the inside room and later used it as a study and for storage, napping, and any time we needed some space. There was a low bedding on the floor right next to a wall to wall window that looked out to the tree.
I spent countless hours on this low bedding finishing my homework from schools or preparing for multiple exams. My mother, my sister, and I, all three would congregate on this bedding in the evenings talking, sharing, laughing, crying, and sometimes just working silently. Some of our most joyful and most difficult times happened here, overlooking the courtyard and the stoic and silent tree.
I did not realize this until recently but the tree was our silent, green, and reassuring companion that stayed with us and listened to all of our challenges, heartbreak, joys, and wishes. Fast forward a decade, the house and the courtyard are empty and falling apart slowly but my mother tells me that the parijaat tree is still alive and sprinkles the yard with flowers from time to time. My heart aches for this tree like it would for a long lost friend. I cannot help but think she was our guardian who was sent to watch over us.
I left Nepal and moved to the US and eventually to an east coast city for a job. I lived in an old brick house and my room looked into yet another courtyard with trees. The courtyard belonged to a church. I spent hours sitting on the window hunched over my books and computer, all the time aware, that the green of the trees was there waiting for me to feast my eyes upon. Alone in this city, navigating the ups and downs of professional and personal life, I often turned to those green friends when I needed to feel the compatible silence of a dear friend. No judgement, no advice- just the green earthy and soothing presence that immediately calmed my mind and warmed my heart.
Now I live in yet another US city with a family of my own. Our neighborhood is green and situated right next to a trail. When the weather allows, I find myself automatically gravitated toward this trail. The tall green trees invite me take a walk, luxuriate in the silence, and feast my eyes and calm my mind. Days and times when I feel like the walls are closing down on me and I feel stress and despair in me rising, I make myself a tall mug of tea and hike through this trail. I let my mind wander and come into a silent commune with my friends and most of the time I feel a sense of quiet and reassurance.
I have a daughter now. She spends far too much time on electronic devices. As one of our first adventures together, we are trying to complete this trail- my husband and I and the toddler. We are halfway through the trail. Every weekend when we have a little bit of time to spare we jump into our car and dash off to the trail, eager to finish off even small bit. The rain, the sun, and my growing pregnancy has hampered our effort, but we are in no rush and enjoying our little adventure together. I am hoping that my daughter will also find a connection with these silent green friends like I did.