My Roots in the Orchard
(Forty-Eight hours before my flight)
Some lives intersect at the same moment in time. I am drawing parallels in connection with the women and children I may find on my mission. My goal will be to take them to host countries around the world. I can only imagine their fear as they leave their families and their homeland. As I prepare to head into the unknown, I am experiencing my own story.
As far as the eye can see, as deep as a tree’s roots can grow, and in every place on this earth, humanity must survive to share its story. I was born to immigrants after many tears, and when I passed from my mother's womb, I clung to her breast in the orchards. I didn't sleep in a crib, and wasn't rocked in a chair. I was carried through the sandy irrigation ditches of many fields, and the lulling hum of my family's voice was my first lifeline. My stories were about the working hands of my mama and papa who knew the energy of the earth. As the soil sifted through their hands, they understood when the ground was fertile, and when to make changes in a natural way. Papa would spit on the soil, and could tell what nutrients to add. There were so many years they were in survival mode. Once you were an immigrant worker, it was hard to break away. These are my people, and although they have lived a life of struggle, their mind set was to embrace a passage for freedom.
Over the last few weeks, I couldn’t help but think about my family and good friends that have served in Afghanistan for the last twenty years. Although the culture is very different, the US has become very close to the Afghani people. Our military has helped to build schools, hospitals and houses of worship. We as enlisted men and woman, have encouraged a peaceful cooperation in whatever capacity we are called to serve.
In my present state of preparedness, I have been thinking a lot about my life’s purpose and how very fragile life is. I know that my work there will be life altering, and I am trying to get a grip on my very short military directive.
One day before my flight
I am absorbed, hypnotized almost, as I look out at the pear orchard that I now own. The memories are collections of the past as I prepare for the future. I can almost go back in time, as though I am right there. I can see my mother's face, as she describes the evenings under the orchard trees, cast in a golden light. "You can reach up to the beams of gold and put them in your pocket". "We are very rich", she says, with a look of great knowing. She talked about the children that would be born into a world of strength and understanding and go beyond their circumstances.
The pear tree is a very special symbolic tree for my family. When a bare tree is first planted, it represents the skeleton of a person, and the land beneath them. When the bones of the tree grow taller, climbing high into the sky, it serves as a compass for all of the experiences encountered. As the trunk matures, sometimes it looks cracked, sometimes smooth. Strong and weak. No matter what the skeleton endures it becomes stronger.
The roots send out veins to grab desires, deep earthbound connections, and events from the past. Embodied is our heritage, and our culture, which we are reminded never to forget.
When you are a baby, you are like a seedling, innocent of the world. It is the responsibility of the family to protect, and teach the child. By the time your roots grew deep you would be the head of the family. We were told that the earth is our mother, and we could always go to her to express our joys or sorrow.
“Reach out and find new opportunities, work hard and grow”. As we grew up, this was my father’s favorite expression. He never complained about working in the fields. The other workers often came to him to discuss their problems, and called him Alcalde, "mayor". One day, the men who owned the orchard came to our quadrant and began to argue about which workers would harvest the fields. A terrible fight ensued and my father put a gentle hand on the men and told them in broken English, "There is no reason to fight, we will work the other fields as well". Family and friends applauded my father, and told him that he was a representative for the spirit philosophers that live in the pear trees.
The roots of a pear tree grew deep enough and could travel a long way to find water. If the trees were side by side they could actually talk to each other, and if one was bending over with growing pains, or hurt, the surrounding trees would send out messages for healing. There was never a day when my family did not offer time for thanksgiving. The work was very hard, but they knew that one day their children would live in a little house and go to school like the children on the other side of the picket fence.
My mother's kind soft face and bright presence was loved by everyone, especially children. When she walked, her wide hips swung as though she was gently swaying to a song in her head. The family gathered around her to hear her songs, and her prayers to the saints. So often she and some of the woman gathered around the barbed wire fence that separated the orchard, from the little houses across the road. My mother reached across the fence like a twining grape plant and gave the children little baskets of pears. Her hands dove up and through the air like a graceful swan. The barbed fence disappeared as gifts were exchanged. As they shared, the woman across the fence taught my mother how to speak English.
One day my mother threw her arms around the trunk of one of the larger pear trees. She asked the tree when she was going to have a child in her belly. Her cheeks flushed and her body became golden brown and swollen with new life. Her tears started flowing to the ground. She wasn’t unhappy, and wondered where the tears where coming from. Suddenly there was a stillness in the air, and mom positioned herself against the trunk of the tree with her arms wrapped around it like she was hugging a close friend.
All the family came very close to Adara, as she announced “The tree spoke to me, and she said, “Now you know what it is like to have sap running through you at all times”. I think I was conceived on that day.
On the day I was born mom went over to a pond fed by an Artesian well. Everyone knew why she stopped her harvest picking for the day, and she climbed into the water and clung to the mud surrounding the pond. It slipped through her hands as contractions became harder, and after a few screams and a loud guttural laugh, I was born to my family of new immigrants. They were not able to leave for maternity, and so they used a woven gauze tent that was kept like a shelter over all of us. Every half hour, papa would wet the tent to cool his family. We were recognized as the family with a new baby, and were congratulated. I was the first to be born in the US, and I began my first experiences with my dear family every moment of the day.
By the time I was six years old, immigrant children were able to go to schools that were built in the community, and the first thing I announced to my class was that I wanted to be soldier. Often times the army brought bags of rice, produce, and sugar to our homes on the periphery of the fields. I remember one officer once told me, that the life for my parents was very difficult, but one day I would run out to this field that would belong to me, and share my harvest. The pear trees are waiting to hear the stories and the laughter.