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 2: The Apple Trees

Our house in Qargha, Afghanistan, used to be an orchard, with many trees living side-by-side, producing red and golden apples decorated with red little spots. The trees were not happy when we first constructed a wall delineating the boundaries of the land. They had too little oxygen already.

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Despite the setback, they were very generous the first two years, but when we left for a while they decided not to produce nice apples, despite the attendance of a gardener or a so-called one. He seemed to be hard of hearing.

When we returned to the orchard, we painted the trunks white from the base up to the first branches. I remembered this practice from when I was a young boy in Kabul. Someone told me it’s a good way to prevent insects. I decided to follow tradition. The trees really looked good when we finished painting them, but the next morning it rained and not only washed away our artistic and well intentioned work, but the paint contaminated the tree roots. The apple trees became very pale.

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Our next bad decision was to prune the apples trees though we had no knowledge of how to do it. Nevertheless, they decided to bear fruit that year despite our ignorance.

The trees are upset but still confident that we will eventually figure out how to treat them. I am now seeking advice from gardeners, agricultural experts, and the Internet. Next spring, I think I may be prepared to improve the lives of the apple trees.

I learned my lesson: Listen to trees, talk to them in your heart and they will hear you. Development work is the same way; we can’t impose changes to Afghanistan with only our good intentions but without understanding the Afghan context.

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