What Trees Do

tree june 19

 

What Trees Do

(Laos)

I want that tree to talk to me. Any tree, really. This is just the one I can see right now. It’s a big mango tree and they’ve carved a courtyard into the space around it. Like the courtyard itself knew from before it came into being who was here first. And who breathes and who doesn’t. The courtyard is made of concrete; large stones were placed in it before the concrete dried so you can walk on its crevices and smooth areas and it’s like how it might feel on the moon, if you close your eyes. It’s also practical: the stones create friction so you don’t slip when the floor gets wet, which is often because we’re at a sauna and there’s a concrete vat of water in the corner you use to splash cold water on yourself before entering into extreme heat with herbal infusion. The sauna feels like entering into a fire. Or talking a simulation test run of hell, if such a thing exists. You sit down and the fire hurls itself into your nostrils. You stand up and the flames engorge your head. You make a run for it and the curtain rips your skin off. There’s little space between these activities to simply sweat the toxins out. But out in the courtyard, there’s a breeze and endless refills of bael fruit tea. And the mango tree that reminds me how much I want to hear trees talk. I guess to me trees seem like witnesses. Flowers are pretty but they don’t live long. Same with ants; they run around and follow orders and carry their own weight, but though they see miles in their short lives, they don’t have the perspective of time, at least in the third dimension, which is all I know about time at this point. From my own lowly position in the scheme of things, big trees have been around for so long, have seen so many things change. Sometimes when I go to visit my parents in my home town, nothing seems to change there at all. Then one time I’ll go, and the old gas station at the corner across from the Loeb has been replaced by a Shell, and the butcher has become an Asian fusion restaurant, and even though the old Quickie convenience store is still there and has never even had a paint job, there is that unshakeable feeling that there is no stopping time. Which means I have become a witness, like the trees, even as they grow their own fruit and have their own way of wondering about seasons and the cyclical nature of time. “You like tree.” The Lao woman who gave me a sarong for the sauna is standing behind me. “Yes. Trees have great spirit,” she says. “Here. You put cream on skin. Tamarind and yogurt. Good for you. Make young again.”

 

 

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