Published in New York Spirit
My childhood hopped in my grandparents’ garden. The entry gate of the house was arched with fragrant white jasmine and pink Rangoon creeper flowers that curtained half of the outer wall. It was an identity for the house as there were no assigned numbers on that small street comprising of fifteen houses at that time. “That flower vine house”.
The small flowerbed inside had flowers, herbs, succulents and vegetables as per the season. In spring, it was full of colorful flowers that had the power to mesmerize anyone who saw it. There was a guava tree, Poinciana tree and a red hibiscus tree. I adored the hibiscus tree. So did the squirrels, bees, hornets, hummingbirds, sparrows and butterflies. I played games around him, talked to him and adorned him with lights on Diwali. He was the best friend amongst other plant friends. I used to pretend as a teacher to all these trees and plants in my make-believe world. They used to listen to my whispers and respond with the symphony of wind.
One day a woodcutter came to chop down the Poinciana tree. I don’t remember the reason why it was cut down but I remember that I cried and resisted. I held onto hibiscus tree. Told him not to worry and that it won’t ever happen with him.
Years went by and I left the home for studies and job. The visits to the house got restricted to 4-6 days a month. I was not a teacher now but a silent gazer at the beauty of the garden while sipping tea. It was pure bliss. Few plants changed. The reconstruction took away the arched flower climbers- the identity became a house number now. But my hibiscus was as beautiful as before. We chatted telepathically now.
This time when I went, I was shaken to see the state of the hibiscus tree. It had contracted an unknown disease that was consuming the whole tree slowly. My grandparents were trying to save it and hence, apart from the spray of organic insecticide, the whole tree was trimmed down so that new leaves could sprout and give a new life. Yet, the white pests were not leaving it.
The tree must be probably 40 years old. I stood gazing at my friend and told him he won’t die. There is still energy left within him and I know he will fight and survive. He is still undergoing treatments, trying to stand back up. I know he will.
Before I saw the state of the hibiscus tree, I never looked back and realize how rooted I was with all these plants. I knew I loved being in nature but I did not know that my heart will cry seeing them suffer. I did not know that this affinity was not natural for people around me.
Trees are healers. Trees are worshipped in Indian cultures because the ancestors were aware of the energies they bring to us. Shinrin-yoku or forest-bathing is popular in Japan from the 80s. All this way before the revolution came across in the field of science to understand and concur that plants can sense, learn, remember and much more. They share nutrients and water through their underground fungal networks. They communicate with each other by sending distress signals to each other. There is a whole wood wide web in the forests! Peter Wohlleben, once a tree feller, resigned and wrote a book, ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’. It has interesting discoveries about the behavior of trees and is a bestseller now.
Nature has ways that are unseen to the shallow eyes of humans. Once you connect, you will feel the energy. There is unspoken wisdom that comes. You will cherish the solitude, you will know the sound of silence and ways of this planet. Our body is made up of panch-bhuta – five elements of nature – air, water, soil, fire and ether. Disconnect from nature makes us ill- mentally, physically and spiritually.
Destroying forests is equal to axing the branch we are sitting on. Pollution is already making it a gas chamber for us. We will perish if we don’t mend our ways. Nature? It will find its way once the destroyers are destroyed.
Diminution of empathy, the disconnect with nature, greed and short-sightedness is what is causing this catastrophe. The bond has to be refurbished. There is a need for inculcating the values of empathy, interconnectedness and love for nature from the very beginning so that the kids grow up to be responsible and compassionate adults. As adults, we need to be in constant touch of love showered by nature.
Make it a habit to spend some time tending your plants and a daily nature walk. The serenity nature brings to a mind bubbling up with chaotic life is miraculous. Hug a tree. Be one with nature. You are it!
May we all see the connect of nature with us!