by MARIAH LIN
I have always been captivated by trees, by their majestic beauty and the powerful way in which their roots are able to transcend and break through concrete and rough surfaces.
Warka trees remind me of Ethiopia, and Evergreens inspire me to take a moment to appreciate nature and its beauty.
In my mind, trees are also synonymous with folktales and parables. When I a younger, grandparents would take me on their daily walks to the inner-city and we would always pass through rows and rows of coconut trees. With their tall, long trunks and flowing tops, they made a perfect resting stop on those especially hot and humid afternoons when it felt like we were melting under the glaring sun.
It would be on these walks that I would hear legends of fish, dragons and luck. I was then too young to fully appreciate the stories my grandparents would tell me—too young to realize the hidden morals, life lessons and beauty embedded in them.
Over the past few months, I have become increasingly interested in hearing the stories and experiences of individuals from different generations. Sometimes I can’t help but wonder how different things might have been during that time, had technology been more advanced. Would we still have spent so much time talking?
My grandmother finally bought her first cell phone a couple of weeks ago and now communication with her has never been easier. Although she is 7,522 miles and on another continent, it feels as if we are in the same room. While talking on the phone a couple of days ago, she began to tell me a story I have heard often over the years—except this time, there seemed to be a new meaning.
It was spring of 1939, right after the Lunar New Year in the city of Nada on the Hainan Island. A young girl of about 5 years old raced through the open market village and line of street vendors with her Amah following close behind her, yelling for her to slow down whenever she wandered too far ahead. On this day, the morning had just begun and the air was already thick and heavy with humidity. All of a sudden, the man who stood at the edge of the town could be seen waving his hands around, a signal that the Japanese invaders were approaching. She immediately raced back to her Amah and climbed in the braided basket. As the townspeople scattered into nearby hideouts, the Amah hurriedly carried the girl back on her back and raced deep into the woods and up into the mountains. Hours passed, and the girl was becoming bored, so when her Amah wasn’t looking, she ran back to her village home, where she found her mother resting in bed. Her mother hurriedly told her to climb out from under the bed and hide under the covers. A few minutes later, Japanese soldiers appeared, searching the room for children, using their bayonets, but thankfully finding nothing.
My grandmother was that young girl, I’ve come to realize she likes to tell me this particular story because it’s important to know where one comes from. At different times, it can mean different things, but this time, it was a reminder to stop to take a moment and admire the trees.