NOTE: I posted an all-points bulletin asking people to send pictures of their favorite gardens — theirs or someone else’s. I periodically feature these garden or gardenish images (with descriptive narratives) as they are sent to me. Please feel free to submit.

Wahid Omar

Part 1

Once upon a time there was and there wasn’t an Afghan garden.

The garden in the house where we live is a reflection of Afghan life: it is chaotic and all over the place but also tries to have some sense of organization and be representative of all Afghan gardens. Rose bushes, geranium, apples trees, apricots, vines, willows, and poplars are just some examples of what would make an Afghan happy.

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Each tree and each corner has some kind of story to tell about the way they came to life, the way they grew, and the way they continue to live until they die (or someone else kills them). Just like human beings, a garden is the mere reflection of life, a re-creation of each body and soul. As such they have great stories to tell. We start with the famous willow tree.

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When we first planted this tree five years ago, the village chief, Ali Khan, said it was a mistake to plant a willow tree because it is a sign of departure. And he did not like the idea of us living near his village. I argued, of course, against it, saying that a willow tree is very poetic and great to look at. After the second year of living in the house, we moved back to the city. The chief was right: we’d departed.

Three years later, we returned back to the house located in the Qargha region and the village of Ali Khan. We were happy to return. The chief was still alive, but tired and older. I told him I came back because of the willow tree and he smiled ruefully. Nevertheless, he was happy to see us.

The willow tree had grown six to seven meters tall and it kept growing, blocking our view from the second floor of the house.

My wife and I discussed cutting it down. Not only was it growing too tall, it was also suffocating the rose bushes under it.

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Had the tree overheard our conversation? One day it decided to react.

On a Friday afternoon, an unusual windstorm hit our village forcing the tree to bend toward our first-floor window. In a panic, I run outside and attached a piece of rope to the tree to pull it back up straight. The storm became harder and rain poured so quickly that in a few seconds, small pools of mud begun to form all around the garden. Suddenly, the rope got loose. I took a few steps back, trying to steady myself, then fell – splash! — on my back.

Covered in mud from head to toe, I made sure nothing was broken and dashed home to shower. I’d deal with the tree later. I woke the next morning with bruises and talked with my wife about the fate of the tree.

We decided to compromise. We gave it a haircut. The willow tree is thriving and we have freed the view on the second floor.

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Next time: The apple trees.

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