A Lesson From A Tree

I stood by my herb bed and looked up. The moringa tree that I’ve moved there two years ago was now more than twice my height, a testament to the length of time I had neglected my garden. What used to be a row of chili, eggplants, lemon grass and various smaller herbs was now a thick mass of ‘kadok’ and ‘belalai gajah’. Lemon grass leaves both dead and alive were tumbling everywhere like a wild mess of tangled hair. Amongst them were vines, which I do not recognise, climbing whatever they could grasp and pulling them down with their weight.

And of course, there was the moringa tree, towering over the whole place like a misplaced giant among dwarves. The thick and sturdy trunk stretched up into the sky to where I couldn’t reach if I wanted to fetch some of its leaves. Moringas are not hard to care for once they’ve gotten themselves securely rooted. They could withstand the lack of water when I forget to give them their drink so unlike many of the other plants that did not survive my absence, my moringas persevered.

In the past, I would trim down my trees at least once a year to allow for an easier harvest and to avoid having its roots digging in too deep so I could easily move them around. However, with my exams taking place last year and my months-long eczema breakout, my garden was slowly being transformed into a mini forest and as the number of days grow, so did the difficulty of the restoration project. And instead of taking the sensible and rational route of early intervention, I let the tides of sorrow crept onto me.

One of my biggest frustrations is how passionately I launch myself into things that I truly love and yet in the end, they somehow die away into nothingness. Some of them happen because of chances and circumstances but many, many more are lost by my own hands, either by neglect, fear, frustration or lethargy. Often times I find myself letting my own bitterness contaminate the sweet taste of pure fervor, and the satisfying scent that accompanies the exhaustion after a day’s work had soured into a musty odour of fatigue. Little by little, I lost sight of the sparkles that comes with tiny victories and saw only the mountains I have yet to climb–and I couldn’t find it within me to take another step.

However, every now and then my zeal would return and at a whim, I would pack my backpack and step back out into the blizzard with the intense wish to gain back all that I have lost. The medals in my trophy cabinet back at home assured me that I have done it before and I could do it again–but the assurance last only for a moment. Fixing a mistake is often harder than starting anew and while you may lose the height of your skills, the memories of them stay, mocking you in your face. It doesn’t take long for me to doubt everything that I do and sometimes everything that I am; because if this present me is nothing like the person I was–then who am I?

But for now, I pushed all of those thoughts from my head and I had one clear objective. This tree is too big for my herb bed and I am going to move it to a more suitable home,  some place where it would be given all the opportunity to grow and bring us the first of the much loved drumstick fruit. I sawed the tree down to a manageable height and kept the leaves for my mother. I pulled the mess of ‘kadok’ and ‘belalai gajah’ for our ‘ulam’ until there is nothing on the ground but the trunk of the tree and the roots beneath. And with a rusty trowel in one hand, I thrusted it into the Earth and started digging.

As it is my habit when I work in the garden, I began talking to the plant, apologising for my neglect and telling it that I am trying to get back into the swing. I told it about how the last time I felt I couldn’t do something turned out okay in the end and although I don’t really feel it, I think it’s a sign that I need to pick myself up and move on. I thanked it for waiting for me even though I don’t deserve it. The tree never said much but it lets me talk nevertheless.

The day was not hot. The sun hid behind clouds and our mango tree provided me a lovely shade from the dimmed sun rays. Nonetheless, my lack of physical activities in the recent months had started to make itself known. Although the moisture within the soil couldn’t be more perfect (not too dry and not too wet), I started to feel tired after going past half a foot down. It didn’t help that the deeper I go, the harder it was to navigate through the root and avoid the sharp edges of the sides of the bed which was covered in tiny stones. So I grasped the trunk tightly in my arms and gave it a gentle but strong tug. It didn’t give.

Of course, it wouldn’t be that easy. I know that, I whispered, as I continued to dig. Say what I want about my own inner conflict, I made the decision to leave my garden and I have to make amends.

But, my dearest, my sweet, could you please help me out a bit?

I paused to look up at its leaves. The little green circles danced prettily as the wind blew, breaking its perfect mosaic for but a few moments. No, I gulped and pressed on. No, the tree had done more than I had done. It too had its struggle when the ground was dry and the moths fly by. I wasn’t the only lonely one. 

Relationships go both ways, do they not? But love, would you please, please lend me a bit of a hand?

The trunk did not answer.

Ah, you are just as stone hearted as I. Then so be it.

My hands are now red and a few of the cracks on my fingers which were about to heal had burst back open as they pressed on the hard edge of my trowel. The small bits of concrete jutting out from the inside of the bed are scratching me every other minute and the roots showed now signs of tapering off. My back was aching and I couldn’t find a comfortable position. I had forgotten how to whisper, or the fact that I have neighbours, and they could probably hear me having a full blown one-sided argument with a tree.

My child, the reason why I couldn’t go out was because of my eczema. Well, partly anyway. And if you don’t make way any time soon, I’m going to hurt it and that could cause another outbreak. Yes, patience, I know. I am trying to be patient but patience would not stop my hand from breaking. Do you want me to just saw your roots off?

The trunk stared me down.

Fine. Fine. Fine. You were patient, I will be patient too.

I groaned and went back in with the thinnest of patience. My hand was now shaking with a mix of exhaustion and frustration. I was covered in soil from head to toe and I no longer cared about keeping my hand safe. I stabbed the trowel into the ground again and again and again and the dirt that got into the cracks of my skin were now practically cemented with sweat and bits of blood. I was now a foot in from when I started. I placed my hand between the two main roots and tugged with all my might but I couldn’t move it even a bit. And I was starting to feel like a fool for even trying.

Please, I am trying to be better. I want to be better, I really do but it’s already so hard. Just the idea of it all seems so insurmountable. If I can’t even pull you out, my sweet, what can I do?

The trunk stayed quiet.

I was now desperate. I had done nothing today other than digging this hole and I have nothing to show for it. The sun would be setting soon and the roots showed no sign of thinning. I looked around at my garden in its horrendous state and asked myself if I have anything to show for all that I have done in my life. I just wanted to stop.

Then I paused and looked back at the tree. Something clicked at the back of my head and I eyed it tentatively.

Are you… are you trying to teach me a lesson on perseverance?

I waited for an answer which did not come. I turned to the pile of unearthed soil and back into the hole in the bed. The way I see it, I only have three choices. I could just leave the whole thing be and probably let the tree die now that I’ve upset it so much. I could push all the Earth back in but that would only get me back to where I started.

Or of course, I could keep going. I know that somehow, in the end, I would get to tip of the roots. Even if I have to use a stone as a makeshift shovel, I could theoretically get it done eventually. The tricky circumstances, the need for time and my own doubts are obstacles I need to overcome all my life, whatever the struggle. Whether the problem is restarting a garden, finishing a book draft or just pulling out a tree, I still have to face problems from within and without, and I have to learn to wait.

Okay. Well, I guess I’ll take it then.

With that I went back in, this time quietly, as I reflected on the things that I already know deep inside and even discussed about in my head but which are now being repeated to me. I thought of the many tiny knolls I succeeded to climb because I went on despite the obstacles. Silat routines, NaNoWriMo challenges, artworks, school achievements and public presentations. Even little things that I am proud to have done but never shared because they seem so insignificantly small. But I did them.

And so with the hole nearly two feet deep, I hugged the trunk of the tree, took a deep breath and gave it a sharp tug. Finally it gave way and I had in my hand another medal to add to my cabinet. I grinned at it and thought I could feel it grinning back.

Was my tree really teaching me a lesson on perseverance? You tell me.

 

NaPoWriMo Poem #9: Memory

A frozen drop of rain
On the misty window pane

A leaf hangs in the air
Caressing a lone pear

A peeping tail in the ripples
Water shining like crystals

A floating dandelion seed
Following the wind’s lead

A perfect balance of colour
In the bright sky of summer

A hand points to seven
Suspended in the second

A blinding white light
Everything gone from sight

Leaving just a memory
With the magic of photography

A ‘Space-Friendly’ And Easy-To-Grow Vegetable: Beansprout

My homegrown beansprout

Like many others who live in the city, we only have a small garden. Actually, it never did cross my mind of how small our garden is, until we decided to plant our own organic vegetables three years ago. Is there any herb or vegetable that can be grown without taking too much space for the city folk?

Last week, Mom soaked a bowl of green beans overnight for her ‘bubur kacang’. Anyway she was so busy the next day that she forgot all about them after straining the beans into a colander. The next day she found that her bowlful of green beans had grown tiny roots. So, instead of cooking them, she gave me the beans for my “experiments’.

And I decided to grow beansprout. I found out that growing green beans into beansprouts is certainly very easy. All I did was running tap water over the colanders (with the beans) every 4-6 hours or so. Don’t try to move the beans/seedlings around with your hands (you may feel tempted to do so, but you may pull out their roots). Put a plate under the colander to collect the water dripping from the colander.

The green beans had grown tiny roots! 😀

In a few days, the roots will be long enough to reach out of the colander into the plate of water below it. Even at this stage, I still ‘water’ the sprouts but I suppose you could leave it on its own. Another thing to remember is not to put too much beans in one colander. When that happens, the beans on the top couldn’t get enough water while the beans at the bottom may rot.

Roots growing out of the colander

Another good point in growing beansprouts is that you can plan when to start growing them so that the beansprout will be really fresh when needed. Soak the beans overnight about 5 days ahead and they should be ready to be harvested on time. And trust me, fresh home grown beansprouts are so tasty, crunchy and without that ‘commercial beansprout smell’ that even I who never like beansprouts before ate loads of them.

Fresh, homegrown, organic beansprout in mum's delicious fried noodle.

So with the price of vegetables rising up and the concern of the high level of chemical contamination in our vegetables, it will be a very good idea to grow our own vegetables. And if space is a problem, try growing beansprouts; you can even grow them in your apartment balcony, kitchen or even in your dining room! It is really cheap and easy while the result is absolutely wonderful. Maybe I should start a business selling tasty, fresh, home-grown, organic  beansprouts … after all fresh, organic vegetables can fetch a good price in today’s market!

Ready-for-harvest beansprouts (shoots)

Ready-for-harvest beansprouts (roots)

An evening at Pantai Rhu Sepuloh… With Uncle Nisar!

We took a trip to Kuala Terengganu on 24th of December, 2010 together with Uncle Nisar. That was his first trip to the east coast of West Malaysia and we were very excited to take him around our hometown.

On the evening of the 26th of December, we went to Pantai Rhu Sepuloh (Rhu Sepuloh Beach – near Bari). According to Uncle Fauzan who is my father’s good friend, there is a special place at the beach where we can buy fresh fishes and other seafood along the beach.

Walking along the sandy beach

After buying some fresh fishes and some tasty big prawns, dad drove us to a stall selling delicious ‘ikang celuk ttepung’ served with ‘air lada’ for tea. Of course they do have other food in their menu but the ‘ikang celuk ttepung’ is probably their most popular dish since their fishes were freshly caught. We also had some prawns, squids and fried noodle. The seafood were so fresh and tasty and not like the ones that we usually buy from the markets. After that we each had a refreshing glass of coconut drink.

Enjoying our ikang celuk ttepung

After tea, we took a walk along the beautiful sandy beach. We found a shipwreck and mum suggested that it may be Captain Jack Sparrow’s ship, ‘The Black Pearl’. Uncle Nisar told us that Captain Jack Sparrow was so popular in the USA that people would dress up as the captain to the cinema to watch the movie!

Is this all that is left of The Black Pearl?

Then we came to an area where the fishermen dock their boats. We met a fisherman who showed us some fish traps. I still could not figure out how the trap works; I really hope that Uncle Azahar can help me 😉

We went to see the fishing boats

Examining a fish trap

Finally we walked back to the car and started our journey back home.

Photos: A Glorious Rainbow Enlightening Kuala Lumpur

These are the photos of the beautiful rainbow that I snapped the other day… enjoy 😀 (please click on the photos for a larger view at them).

The beautiful rainbow

Do you remember when I told you that the second rainbow was no longer visible when I took out the camera? I was actually wrong! Observe the photo below. It actually has another very faint rainbow above it.

Can you see the second rainbow?

If you cannot find it, have no fear! I’ve edited the photo a little to allow you to see the second rainbow. I had increased the contrast of this photo below by 40% and decrease the brightness by 30%. Look at the photo below.

Can you see the second rainbow now?

I did not realise that the second rainbow was caught on this photograph until just now when I wanted to add it to my blog. Here are  two more photos of the rainbow for you to enjoy.

The second rainbow is also visible on this photo only that it is much, much fainter.

The last photo that I snapped. Even the bright rainbow is fading. I do not think that the other rainbow is still visible on this one though.

It’s official: An asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs

By Kate Kelland, Health and Science Correspondent Kate Kelland, Health And Science Correspondent Thu Mar 4, 2:07 pm ET

LONDON (Reuters) – A giant asteroid smashing into Earth is the only plausible explanation for the extinction of the dinosaurs, a global scientific team said on Thursday, hoping to settle a row that has divided experts for decades.

A panel of 41 scientists from across the world reviewed 20 years’ worth of research to try to confirm the cause of the so-called Cretaceous-Tertiary (KT) extinction, which created a “hellish environment” around 65 million years ago and wiped out more than half of all species on the planet.

Scientific opinion was split over whether the extinction was caused by an asteroid or by volcanic activity in the Deccan Traps in what is now India, where there were a series of super volcanic eruptions that lasted around 1.5 million years.

The new study, conducted by scientists from Europe, the United States, Mexico, Canada and Japan and published in the journal Science, found that a 15-kilometre (9 miles) wide asteroid slamming into Earth at Chicxulub in what is now Mexico was the culprit.

“We now have great confidence that an asteroid was the cause of the KT extinction. This triggered large-scale fires, earthquakes measuring more than 10 on the Richter scale, and continental landslides, which created tsunamis,” said Joanna Morgan of Imperial College London, a co-author of the review.

The asteroid is thought to have hit Earth with a force a billion times more powerful than the atomic bomb at Hiroshima.

Morgan said the “final nail in the coffin for the dinosaurs” came when blasted material flew into the atmosphere, shrouding the planet in darkness, causing a global winter and “killing off many species that couldn’t adapt to this hellish environment.”

Scientists working on the study analyzed the work of paleontologists, geochemists, climate modelers, geophysicists and sedimentologists who have been collecting evidence about the KT extinction over the last 20 years.

Geological records show the event that triggered the dinosaurs’ demise rapidly destroyed marine and land ecosystems, they said, and the asteroid hit “is the only plausible explanation for this.”

Peter Schulte of the University of Erlangen in Germany, a lead author on the study, said fossil records clearly show a mass extinction about 65.5 million years ago — a time now known as the K-Pg boundary.

Despite evidence of active volcanism in India, marine and land ecosystems only showed minor changes in the 500,000 years before the K-Pg boundary, suggesting the extinction did not come earlier and was not prompted by eruptions.

The Deccan volcano theory is also thrown into doubt by models of atmospheric chemistry, the team said, which show the asteroid impact would have released much larger amounts of sulphur, dust and soot in a much shorter time than the volcanic eruptions could have, causing extreme darkening and cooling.

Gareth Collins, another co-author from Imperial College, said the asteroid impact created a “hellish day” that signaled the end of the 160-million-year reign of the dinosaurs, but also turned out to be a great day for mammals.

“The KT extinction was a pivotal moment in Earth’s history, which ultimately paved the way for humans to become the dominant species on Earth,” he wrote in a commentary on the study.

(Collins has created a website at http://impact.ese.ic.ac.uk/ImpactEffects/Chicxulub.html which allows readers to see the effects of the asteroid impact.)

(Editing by Myra MacDonald)

Animals Love To Hear Quran – Video

As I promised all of you, here is the video of our performance (click here to read more) last month. The quality is not as good as the original video since my dad had to decrease the size of the file in order to upload it on YouTube. The video is also quite noisy because of the noise made by the inflatable tent blower which they used as the roof for the stage. If my dad uploads a better version of the performance, I’ll let all of you know. This video shows all four of us (Ahmad Ali, Anisah Afifah, Aeshah Adlina and I) singing the Animals Love To Hear Quran nasheed.

During the performance, we also sang the Khalifah Song and Alhamdulillah. I hope that you shall enjoy the video.

Answer to the Stowaway Passenger Quiz

Hmmm… seems like nobody hit the bulls eye. The answer is actually a…

…SNAIL!!!

Yup, it’s a small snail sitting on the windscreen. Somewhere on the Karak Highway, it glided to the roof of the car and most probably blown away because when we arrived at the rest area I searched for the snail but it was nowhere to be found. I was sitting at the front seat and was able to snap a few photos of it. Scroll down to have a look!

We found it on the hiding behind the wiper after passing the Gombak toll.

We found it hiding behind the wiper after passing the Gombak toll.

Later it moved from left to the right side of the windscreen and started to climb.

Later it moved from left to the right side of the windscreen and started to climb.

A better view of the climbing snail

A better view of the climbing snail

It's already climbed higher than it's previous position but climbing at a very slow pace.

It had already climbed higher than it's previous position but climbing at a very slow pace.

A few minutes later, it moved a few centimetres higher up. I guess it wanted to have a better view of the highway

A few minutes later, it moved a few centimetres higher up. I guess it wanted to have a better view of the highway

The snail can now feel the wind pushing it upwards

The snail can now feel the wind pushing it upwards

The snail's desire to get a better view drops while his fear of getting blown away suddenly struck it as it glided up the windscreen assisted by the 'kind wind'

The snail's desire to get a better view drops while his fear of getting blown away suddenly struck it as it glided up the windscreen assisted by the 'kind wind'

This was the last photo I was able to capture. Later, it glided up to the roof and disappeared. The poor old city snail who thought of moving to a nice town in Terengganu is now lost somewhere near the highway and had to learn to live the country ways. What a disappointment! 😦

Ps; I am now on my way to Terengganu accompanied by hopes of meeting Uncle Azahar at Zainun’s Nasi Ayam.

A Moringa Tree FOUND!

Every Friday, my siblings and I went to practice my silat lessons at Zaytuna Elementery School (Sekolah Sri Kenanga). We learn Silat Seni Gayung Malaysia with four other students of the school too. A few months ago, I had just realized that the miracle tree (moringa oleifera) beside the school building and as I promised May 13, GreenMalay and everyone else… I had uploaded pictures taken from my handphone after yesterday’s practice.
Almost two months ago... only 2 fruits...

Almost two months ago... only 2 fruits...

Yesterday... MANY FRUITS!!!

Yesterday... MANY FRUITS!!!

Moringa's flowers and leaves

Moringa's flowers and leaves

Another beautiful photo of its flowers

Another beautiful photo of its flowers

A close up view of its flowers and leaves

A close up view of its flowers and leaves

My little sister, Anisah (in her silat uniform) holding one of the many fruits.

My little sister, Anisah (in her silat uniform) holding one of the many fruits.

Those pictures are beautiful aren’t they?

Plaster Moulding

Everybody has his or her own way to pass their free time. Some of us enjoy gardening, photography or even hunting for FedEx vans, trucks and aeroplanes like my little brother, Ahmad Ali (refer to ‘FedEx – Ali’s blog’).

My favourite pastime is doing craft works. It has been my favourite hobby since I was a little girl and my best craft teacher is no other than my mother. So far I had tried glass painting, weaving, clay modeling, pottery, simple beading and so much more.

Recently we decided to do some ‘plaster moulding’. It is rather tricky and a bit messy. The measurement must be exact and so is the timing for if not you might have to throw away the whole thing. The result are beautiful especially after they have been painted and how I love to paint them!

We’ve moulded all sorts of items in different shapes and sizes… from fairies to princesses, seahorses and fishes, glittering mirrors to useful trinket boxes while enjoying each moment spent together with mum and Aeshah, my little sister. We also moulded fridge magnets in the shapes of fruits, cute little bears and some lovely sea creatures.

And how I enjoyed painting them … How wonderful it is to see how the white plasters turned ‘alive’ after being painted in beautiful shades of colours.plaster2plaster1