From small beginnings

On the first clear day of September, towards the end of the rains, I visited the pine knoll, my place of peace and power.

It was months since I'd last been there. Trips to the plains, a crisis in my affairs, involvements with other people and their troubles, and an entire monsoon, had come between me and the grassy, pine-topped slope facing the eternal snows of the Himalayas. Now I tramped through late monsoon foliage - tall ferns, wild balsam, bushes festooned with flowering convolvulus - crossed the stream by way of the little bridge of stones, and climbed the steep hill to the pine slope.

When the trees saw me, they made as if to turn in my direction. A puff of wind came across the valley from the distant snows. A long-tailed blue magpie took alarm and flew noisily out of an oak tree. The cicadas were suddenly silent. But the trees remembered me. They bowed in the breeze and beckoned me nearer, welcoming me home - three pines, a straggling oak, and a wild cherry. I went among them, acknowledged their welcome with a touch of my hand against their trunks, the cherry's smooth and polished; the pine's patterned and whorled; the oak's rough, gnarled, full of experience. He's been there the longest, and the wind had bent his upper branches and twisted a few, so that he looked shaggy and undistinguished. But, like the philosopher who is careless about his dress and appearance, the oak has secrets, a hidden wisdom. He has learned the art of survival.

While the oak and the pines are older than I, and have been here many years, the cherry tree is exactly ten years old. I know, because I planted it.

One day I had a cherry seed in my hand, and on an impulse, I thrust it into the soft earth and then went away and forgot all about it. A few months later I found a tiny cherry tree in the long grass. I did not expect it to survive. But the following year it was two feet tall. And then some goats ate the young leaves, and a grasscutter's scythe injured the stem, and I was sure the tree would wither away. But it renewed itself, sprang up even faster, and within three years was a healthy growing tree, about five feet tall.

I left the hills for a few years - forced by circumstances to make a living in the plains - but this time I did not forget the cherry tree. I thought about it quite often, sending it messages of love and encouragement. And when, last year, I returned in the autumn, my heart did a somersault when I found my tree sprinkled with pale pink blossoms. (The Himalayan cherry flowers in November.) Later, when the fruit was ripe, the tree was visited by finches, tits, bulbuls, and other small birds, all coming to feast on the sour red cherries.

Last summer I spent a night on the pine knoll, sleeping on the grass beneath the cherry tree. I lay awake for hours, listening to the chatter of the stream and the occasional tonk-tonk of a nightjar, and watching, through the branches overhead, at the stars turning in the sky; and I felt the power of sky and earth , and the power of a small cherry seed.

And so, when the rains are over, this is where I come, that I may feel the peace and power of this magic place. It's a big world, and momentous events are taking place all the time. But this is where I have seen it happen.

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