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Posts from the ‘Cairo Storyboard’ Category

The aura of trees

Every living being has its own aura, or energy field. Working this month on my chakras (energy centres, with their related channels up and down the body, the nadis) I am not surprised to read that we can learn to see auras. What really interests me is that it’s possible to develop the power by practising with trees.*

A huge and ancient tree may have a vast energy field – a kind of glow all around it that throws the plant’s shape into subtle silhouette. By training the eye on the tree and then moving our focus to the sky beyond, we can actually see the light energy as the particles vibrate on different frequencies, producing a swirling pattern of colours around its form.

I have always felt a profound connection with these wonders of nature. I rather think they are the true “wonders of the world”, far superior to the man-made monuments that have all disappeared, with the exception of Egypt’s Giza pyramids. As a child, I observed and drew them with passion; climbed in them; picnicked beneath them with the teddy bears; ate their fruit; collected their seed pods; composted their leaves and peelings. I helped my mother plant and tend an english oak, with the express wish to leave it for future generations (and scant regard for how big it was likely to grow in an urban back garden!)

Much seasonal colour and fragrance in Egypt is provided by trees, whose varied shapes and spectacular blooms are part of the landscape in countryside and town alike. Far more of them grace the streets of Cairo than you might imagine: Somehow amid the traffic and pollution, they hold fast, providing rest for the eyes and oxygen for the lungs by day.
Jacaranda 4.17

From Bombax malabaricum and Chorysia speciosa in March, through Jacaranda mimosifolia (above) in April and Delonix regia – the flame tree – in May right through to the gorgeous frangipani (Plumeria acuminata) whose waxy white and yellow flowers perfume our summer days, trees are integral to life in Cairo.

Right now, the flame trees predominate:

We can’t fit many of the big ones inside our garden. But we have set aside a fair amount of space for fruit trees, and the newest addition to the collection, the delightful pomegranate (Punica granatum) has just begun to flower:
Pomegranate flowers

Nearby, our lovely Calliandra haematocephala (the “powderpuff” tree – there’s a name to conjure with!) is flowering profusely. She arches over the grass, repeatedly flowering throughout the warm months; full of vitality, Calliandra is a great favourite with the bees just now.

I think the energy of trees works on many different levels; every part of them is filled with fascination for me, from the bark and the roots to the extraordinary variation in seed distribution. What we have around us in Cairo is just a snapshot of their vast wealth – and it never, never ceases to fill me with wonder.

* The Chakra Bible – Patricia Mercier, pub. by Godsfield Press, part of Octopus Publishing

Sheer indulgence

We came back from downtown Cairo last week not with a few books from my favourite store, nor stocks of organic food from the bio-shop, nor even gifts of locally made soaps, skin creams and cotton towels for family and friends overseas.

Rather, we had a boot full of plants, a bag of pepper and aubergine seedlings, and a pomegranate tree stretching almost from boot to windscreen. It was rather fun turning corners, negotiating roundabouts and getting through traffic on the flyover all the while holding on to the tree with love, trying to keep her steady.

The pomegranate is one of my favourite trees, not only for the bright green softness of the young leaves, nor the slightly whimsical form of the branches. I love them also for their luminous orange flowers, and for the strange beauty of the fruit.

We had spent a productive morning at Cairo’s Spring Flower Show. Armed with a list of items we needed, we were remarkably successful in tracking them all down, from traps to deal with fruit fly (to protect our guava crop) to bedding plants as gifts for relatives.

But there’s much more to the event than this. It’s sheer indulgence to take the time to wander round and enjoy the show, set in the once glorious – though now somewhat faded – former royal gardens in El-Urman Park, among splendid palms and a fascinating collection of conifers from around the world.

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Businesses represented were mostly from Cairo and the surrounding countryside. The breadth of items, covering everything from gardening equipment to seedlings, beekeeping paraphernalia to irrigation materials, was impressive and useful; normally we would have to travel all over to track them down.

Among the herbs were quantities of rosemary, thyme and oregano, but the selection was less extensive than last year. Seedlings, purchased by the plug, included aubergines, cabbages, capsicums, lettuces and tomatoes. I’m always interested in the packets of seeds: We usually buy basic seeds – coriander, dill, parsley, rocket – from a kind of general store or grocer’s shop, but more specialised seeds are harder to find. At the show, they come either commercially packaged or sorted into simple brown paper packets with handwritten labels:

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There were not so many fruit trees this year, as far as I could tell, but still there was a reasonable selection of citrus, mango, apple, peach, pear and so on. You can see bananas (which are not trees, but grasses) in the foreground here:

Fruit trees

But you have to be vigilant when you buy: Our pomegranate, lovely as she is, turned out to have been recently uprooted and placed in a suspiciously small container. At least it wasn’t an old tin formerly used for industrial glue or paint, which is common practice in Egypt! But this meant that the gardener had to be extra careful in easing her out of the pot and into the garden: More on this in a later post, as well as on the amazing cultural, historical and culinary story of the pomegranate tree.



Hazy Meditation Day

It came, and quite possibly went, in a cloud of dust:

Those of us who gathered in El-Azhar park on Saturday 18th to join in the worldwide day of meditation faced a few challenges probably not found in a forest ashram … Wind, air laden with dust and, by the afternoon, a thunderstorm passing over Cairo.

It may be spring in Cairo but there is still an unpredictable element, and that’s the weather. We are now in the month of Baramhat by the agricultural calendar (a system based on ancient custom and still observed today, especially by farmers). This is associated with Montu, the pharaonic god of war, for whom at least one pharaoh was named – which may explain a thing or two about yesterday’s conditions.

Early in the day the dust had not arrived, and I enjoyed mango trees in flower:

Passing beyond the elegant walk where the mangoes are planted, I came across citrus, a mix (I think) of bitter orange, orange and lime trees. The wind had blown quite a lot of blossom to the ground, but the perfume of oranges trees in flower was still delicious, and I loved the starry carpet:

Citrus blossom on the groundBy the lake, we practised pranayama and asanas, the former a little easier to do than the exercises in a crowded spot on uneven grass. Where better to do tree pose than in a park, you may wonder, except you do need a smooth surface to balance properly. So we wobbled around, showing little inclination to hold steady in a breeze – more like ships at sea than trees standing tall in the forest.

From laughter yoga to Raja yoga meditation: We tried a little of everything, passing from quiet and still inner contemplation to exuberant laughing along with our neighbours and back to withdrawal to the peace of our inner space. It was a great morning (I couldn’t stay through the whole day), a breath of reviving air whatever the weather chose to do. On my walk back through the park I was rewarded with sightings of a lovely stand of Bombax malabaricum trees, and what I think was Parkinsonia aculeata – all in flower:

Once back home, I heard the thunder rolling overhead as we caught the southern edge of a vast and turbulent weather system affecting the eastern Mediterranean over the past week or so, and – by next morning – found lettuces and beetroot in the raised beds covered in great blotches of dusty dried rain drops. What an odd day it had been!