Sunday, April 02, 2006

Farzhad's Tree House


His name was Farzhad. He left his home, and in the palm of the grey forest, he went looking for wooden sticks to build a tree house. Many did he find. Some tiny and week, some as thick as his right arm, and standing twice as tall as his did. He kept going back for more, getting almost as eager about culling his elementary building materials, as he was about assembling them into the ligneous castle he beheld in his mind. When the palm of the grey forest was full, and his arms and legs were sore with lifts and strides, he stopped. He sat down and started grouping the small and the large branches, the stiff and the supple, the crooked and the straight, and the graceful lianas that he hoped would hug them all together. One branch next to the other, one above the other, he started building. He started when he was seven, Farzhad.

When I saw him for the first time, sixty-nine were his years, and the tree house was finished only in his imagination.

Sitting with his family and mine around lunch in the mansion he built on the same piece of land that cradled his still unfinished childhood hideout, he told us his story. He told and I listened. He asked if I wanted to see the tree house. Yes, I said. I want to. He held my then soft fingers, took me to the tree, showed me where he put the first stick, how it slowly came and was still coming together, how he felt then like the king of the world, how every year he came back to work on it a little more, how every last piece of its frail skeleton was more him than any of his four children. Then there was this and that to be done on the rail and the roof, with this much wood, that much paint, and so much effort...

He kept chanting his litany for a passionately long hour. Yet there was one thing I did not understand. Why was it taking this long, I asked, and why of all the things he had done later on as an engineer, that was the only one he hadn't finished.

Why, he repeated after me, smiling. Because it was not supposed to be finished. The deadline on this one was not on paper. It was sculpted in the languorous spring clouds that kept coming back year after year. But why, I asked. Because, he said, the day he would be done working on it will be the end of his childhood. His unfinished tree house was what kept him young, and kept him going. Without it, he would quickly turn into an old and tired man, straddling through the last throes of his life. And that was the one thing he could not afford.

Young as I was, I did not understand what he meant. Yet somehow, with the same lianas that tied its sticks together, he managed to wrap his tree house around my juvenile memory for good.

I hadn't seen him or his family for a few years when, two calendars ago, on the 10th of February, Farzhad died. The last few years of his life were struck by an unrelenting illness. The one thing that kept him alive, Samira his wife said, was looking out his bedroom window onto the tree. Yet, of all fights, this one was too long and too arduous for him to win.

Towards the end, the tree house had also become the shadow of its imaginary self. The wood was cracked and rotting, slowly devoured by thick moss and weeds. Even the tree that held it was bending under its own weight. But it wasn't all gone. At least not yet. Many birds still found shelter on the decaying wooden platform, birds that were always chirping, even on the day Farzhad disappeared.

If you were to believe his family, Farzhad was not dead. He was very much alive. To them, his soul now resided in one of the birds hiding in the tree house, and was going to travel on from bird, to flower, to tree, to bird, to maybe another young Farzhad, until eternity...

Last summer, I took a trip up to the shouf village where Farzhad's family still lives. We spent the day together. We talked for hours, told jokes, stories, smiled. And then we cried. They were right. Farzhad was with us, right there, all the time. When I left them an hour before sunset and passed by the old tree house, a bird, one bird, was chirping to me. Fouad, he said, it's me, come look, this is what I've done with the tree house since I last saw you, you'll like it, and don't you forget about me, come back and visit, there's still so much we can talk about...


Blogger Mirvat said...

" you’re never really done for as long as you have a story and someone to tell it to".
bless you for this, it made me smile this monday morning.

7:00 AM  
Blogger rouba said...

your writing brought to mind the simplicity and wisdom of characters in my village that have never left and yet can tell you so much about've just reminded me of how much i want to go back fouad! keep writing pieces like this one and remind people that there's much more to lebanon than monot and downtown

11:38 AM  
Blogger Ghassan said...

you're a very inspired person Fouad.

12:47 PM  
Blogger FZ said...

simply lovely--thank you

3:31 PM  
Blogger Ecce Libanus said...

Always refreshing, always pellucid, always profound, always moving. Thanks Abolfouf!!

7:58 PM  
Blogger Mar said...

You're finishing the tree house for him, simply by telling the story. Upon reading your post, every reader will very uniquely, impeccably and differently, form a Farhad's Tree House in his or her own imagination.He's smiling down at you Fouad.

8:38 PM  
Blogger hashem said...

that was so inspiring...
i miss my childhood playgrounds...
the old garden "el-jall" in my grandfather's house.
He died 15 years ago. Last year, my grandmom, sick and frail, left it and moved to my uncle's house in Beirut. My uncle took the whole place down.
I couldn't but cry when I knew about it.
I, for the first time, felt old, and I lost part of my childhood for ever.

thanx ya fouad.

10:30 PM  
Blogger Mar said...

My uncle did the same thing!!! I've always wondered why he didn't just renovate it and kept the saga alive.It would have been way cheaper than what he paid to build a house from scratch. People can be so narrow minded sometimes, it's sad.

Grandma's house will always be there, in my heart and my memory,with its scorpions, stray cats, ant kingdoms and fragrance that make me long for teta's physical existence :(

Thanks Hashem, fouad.Mercy on the souls of our dead.

8:28 AM  
Blogger FZ said...

death transcended by the unfinished work of the imagination, magical perpetuation vs. transience, immortality in the life of the dream... so much is razed, and built again, and wonderfully singing--

12:08 PM  
Blogger Zee said...

Sorry, but I left a somewhat "nasty" response on my blog to your answer about Islam.
Why sorry? Because I love your artistic approach on this page, your musings, your artistic touch. I can't help to like what you do!
But on the matters of the Qur'an we just part ways. It doesn't matter really between you and me. It just worries me that cliches remain in peoples consciousness and nobody takes the effort to actually read the book.

10:21 PM  
Blogger Fouad said...

Thank you all for always finding kind things to say and for spending the time to read.

12:58 AM  
Blogger Ramzi said...

I too want an unfinished tree house.

7:19 AM  
Blogger Fouad said...

I think you already have one ramzi :)

10:44 PM  
Anonymous Samira Said said...

Hey ...thanks for the post .. Samira Said is definately wonderful singer..I'm a big big fan !

You can visit Samira Said Fans Website , you'll find everything related to Samira:)

6:38 PM  
Blogger Ramzi said...

Now I do.

6:49 AM  
Blogger Fouad said...


7:10 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home