When I Was An Orange Tree

An orange tree, small and lush, poses timidly at the side of an ancient stone stairs, half-way between earth and sky. The stairs, from down, appear endless; some say God waits up there, not with open arms, but with idle expectancy, like He knew you’d come, but wasn’t really waiting for you to show up.

An orange tree, bent but strong, hunches slightly over the stone, neither guarding divinity nor displaying interest in earthly manners. Something about it is too ordinary, simple, confined, disarmingly so. You expect too much of it, yet it is an ordinary orange tree.

When man fought God for the very first time, he did so on the backs of elephants. His weapons were his confusion, his limited perception, and his yearning for the primality of faith. Not faith itself, especially after encountering God, for he found that this deity was just as confused, just as limited, and just as primal as he was.

Those elephants he rode did not descend down to earth with him. They remained stuck on the ancient stairs, after earth become too little to contain them. The orange tree does not remember who came first, itself or the elephants, perhaps it was too young to recall. But in the spirit of true orange trees, it kept the perplexities of the two distant worlds, and what transpires in the stretch of stone between them, to itself.

At noon, the orange tree faces its wobbling shadow, for hours and hours, but time matters not here. Here, the orange tree leads a calm existence, at margins of divine fury and human suffering, caring for neither. When God invited it to share a glass of wine with Him, it politely declined; these nights were reserved for observing elephants swaying with enchantment from the Sufi music played from across the ocean.

In a world so unbelievably vast, the orange tree owns nothing but the little space it occupies, but one day, when the earth was drowned in a flood so violent it uprooted God’s throne, the orange tree found itself drifting silently away from the stone stairs, away from the elephants and the Sufi music.

Away from the scent of Paradise’s winery.

It landed in a swamp. A large one circled by tall trees bearing no fruit. Green was everywhere, alarming yet dull, one tree replicating itself a thousand times. Somewhere in the swamp was a walled pond, filled with water glistening like a starry sky, and inside the pond was an elephant and her calf, doing a ritualistic bath, tossing water from their trunks everywhere around them.

For a moment, the orange tree was a hunter. Its silent observation manifesting itself in eyes, brown and alert, a malicious intent sipping through its body. But something was approaching. Something bigger than the orange tree. A large vehicle driven by two men came crashing on the tranquil green around them.

The elephants wailed loudly.

Water rippled, the whole scene wavered, the pair of brown eyes disappeared; the orange tree remembered it’s a tree, not a hunter, when the two humans’ faces almost cracked open, their vehicle running over the calf.

Blood seeped into the water, the elephant cried out, a sound so human and terrifying, the swamp began swallowing it, the elephant mingled with the green around it, and the orange tree no longer recognized who was an extension of the other.

Green was devouring everything around it, the scene had no beginning and no end. There was no stone stairs, no elephants, no odd vehicles, just an orange tree, drowning, aware for the very first time of its being, of its existence.

It’s an ordinary orange tree. It’s an extraordinary orange tree.

It’s an orange tree forgotten by God.


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