[Editor's Note: Hajar Hussaini (Russell Sage 2019) dedicated The Initiative To Educate Afghan Women's Annual Afghan Dinner and Awards on Thursday, May 17 at the Embassy of Afghanistan with the following prose offering:]
In my uncle's garden in Kabul, as the sun rises every morning trees begin to shake their branches with the early morning winds. There are nine trees in the garden. All trees have learned to live with each other without being a burden for another. Even though they are in close proximity to each other, none of them lean their branches toward another tree. Being well aware of their neighbor tree, it seems like they are dependent onone another. Not like humans who once dependent on another person, stop seeing the qualities of the other person. Trees celebrate their dependence to one another. They complement each other, and they are aware of this
One of those trees is very sympathetic and caring. A grapevine. She wrapped herself around pomegranate tree’s trunk helping her in carrying its heavy pomegranates. As if the pomegranate tree was a nine-month pregnant woman needed someone to rely on. Another tree is like an old wise man whose leaves whisper stories in the ears of other trees with each and every breezy wind. Sounds of leaves intertwining with each other areso soothing to one’s ear. But among all the trees, there was one that would captivate my eyes and ears every time I visited my uncle’s garden. I remember my grandmother used to say, “Everyone should pick a tree and a star that resonate their soul, and in times of utter sadness they should consult their tree and star,” this way she continues, “the earth and sky would be in your side no matter what you decide to do.”
I pointed at my star in the starry sky of Qom, Iran when I was 5. One of my oldest memory of my existence, but I did not have a tree until I was 13. We had moved to Kabul, and the first time my family and I visited my uncle in Kabul, I saw that tree and I was mesmerized by it. It was a melancholy tree. I couldn’t understand whether she is happy or sad. “She is complex,” my sister said. I did not quite understand what “complex” means. And I did not ask about its meaning, therefore, it struck me to be someone like her. Someone in the grey area. Neither good nor bad. Neither happy nor sad.
The tree was in the center of the garden. Its thin branches and narrow leaves were so long. I still remember how I thought of that tree the moment I saw her. It’s my tree, I said to myself. She was old. I could imagine how the old wise man tree watched her grow up to become a tree from the time she was only a shrub until that day that I found her. I asked her name from my sister, and she said bide majnoon [an epic Persian poem is about the story of star-crossed lovers of Leileand Majnoon, a very important tale in Persian literature] “It is said that Majnoon dreamt about Leile under this tree,” my sister said. The English name of the tree is weeping willow or some call it Babylon willow. Originally found in the dryclimate of Northern China the tree was traded through the Silk Road to other parts of Asia as well as to Europe.
Only a breezy wind was enough for bide majnoon to start dancing with its crispy leaves and make weeping sounds. This tree was naked, the most revealing tree of all. It would unleash its feelings so bravely, yet she was very self-confident. She was my persona. I knew even though I dreamt to be like she, I never become and I never will be her. Nevertheless, she is my friend on the earth. Wherever I see her, I pause and salute to her. I talk to her about my feelings, and I touch her.
© Hajar Hussaini 2018
Hajar Hussaini (Russell Sage 2019) is an honors student in the Writing and Contemporary Thought program at Russell Sage College, editor of the Russell Sage Review literary magazine and poet laureate of The Initiative To Educate Afghan Women. She looks forward to pursuing a PhD in Middle Eastern Studies after graduation.