May 3, 2012

Museum of Trees

Sky calling: Merta, 2012

Every now and then, I go though phases where I am interested in photographing only one particular theme/subject - for example, at one point, I photographed an awful lot of walls (which reminds me that I should do a The Wall Project post soon! It's been rather neglected). Similarly, my singular photographic obsession once happened to be regarding trees, my earliest images dating back to my university years in UK; after that, wherever and whenever I would chance upon an interesting/unusual looking tree, I would always find myself documenting it via my camera. Each tree had its own personality, its own quirks, further enhanced by its relationship with the energies of whichever place it was growing in.

Banyan tree: Delhi, 2007
One of my favorite trees, for instance, was a rather old banyan tree that grew in an open courtyard in the artist's centre in Delhi. It was so grand and sprawling and venerable and  - yet, it assumed a coquettish air when it fruited tiny red berries, a teenage girl delighting in acquiring her first pair of earrings.

In Meditation: Jabal Shams, 2011
I am trying to figure out the basis of my fascination for trees; I was tempted to say that it's probably due to the fact that I have been living in a desert country for so long. However, it is not as if Oman is completely devoid of trees; in fact, over here, the survival of trees in the harsh, demanding desert climate is worthy of admiration, representing their tenacious determination to live and flourish amid these challenging conditions. The relentless sunlight, wind, and heat pruning their trunks and branches into clean, straight lines, the desert trees present very visually interesting sights. In fact, I would go as far as to say that they resemble tree-sculptures and when you stumble into a copse of trees, their collective appearance is no less than a gallery or museum of trees. Indeed, their advanced age renders them as artefacts from a bygone era: like wrinkles on a human-face, the deeply grooved lines on the tree-trunks are markers of how much they have witnessed and experienced.

Leaves about to turn: Oxford, 2009
I had imagined a sea of green awaiting me before I travelled to UK for my higher studies. However, when I first arrived there, it was autumn-time and the trees' leaves had already begun to turn: it was if they were on fire, their flame-hued foliage something that I had only experienced in photographs, rather than in fleshblood reality. However, during that first term, simultaneously battling homesickness and attempting to amalgamate all the newness that I was experiencing into my life, I neglected to take any pictures of the trees. In the subsequent years, though, the burning trees ceased to become novel, instead possessing a blase beauty, much in the manner of a beautiful model seen so many times on a billboard that her beauty becomes an irrelevant, insignificant fact. 

I regret it now, though, not photographing those autumn trees; sometimes, trees in glorious full-leaf bloom are not quite as interesting as the ones in process of either losing their leaves or growing new ones. In my neighborhood, I often walk past a peepal tree; few weeks ago, it suddenly dropped all its leaves, the dried palm-sized leaves rattling around in the dry wind, like bookmarks misplaced from old books. For a couple of days, it stood there, elderly and fragile, its bare, skinny branches shivering under the onslaught of the sun; however, it was not long before bright green leaves began to grow again, their newness so glossy that it resembled their plastic peers. Year after year, it indulges in this repeat performance - and yet, I still continue to find this nature's magic trick of disappearance and appearance of the leaves so fascinating.

Veil of Green: Oxford, 2009
All said and done, one of my favorite activities is simply sitting in leafy trees' shades; when you gaze up into the interlocked branches and see bits of the sky in between, does not the sky seem bluer, more intense, when seen through that veil of green? In its dappled umbrella shade, there is a feeling of protection, reassurance, and comfort, making me think what a lesser, impoverished world it would be indeed without trees.

 Do you have happen to have a favorite tree?

*Thanking this post for the inspiration:) and I happened to chance upon this post today, making it a nice link to my ode to desert trees!

** Here are some other tree-related posts of mine over here and here

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