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Standing in the Presence of Trees

Cultural Perspectives

Studies show that responses to trees are innate. We react to their presence with subliminal emotions and physiological acceptance. Seeing trees in urban settings has been shown to relieve daily stress and improve mental health. Trees provide nature’s equivalent of cathedral vaults under which we seek the opportunity to ponder. Sitting in a park or actively moving through a wooded countryside releases memories into our perception of an environment. In this verse from “Bitter Wood,” by poet Martin Carter, they symbolize honest work.

Here is where I am,

in a great geometry, between

a raft of ants and the green sight

of the freedom of a tree, made

of that same bitter wood.

People feel aligned with trees. Cultures throughout history have recognized the value of trees as sources of medicinal remedies. As part of the agricultural revolution that occurred with the advent of organized settlements and domestication of crops, trees have been responsible for fundamental changes in human history. We associate autumn with crisp air and riots of color in the crowns of trees, followed by their dry cascade as winter approaches. Pablo Neruda uses the apple tree to invoke a promise of spring to come.

Winter is yet gone,

and the apple tree appears…

In the night we shall go in

up to its trembling firmament,

and your little hands and mine

will steal the stars.

Trees in our daily lives help us to celebrate and to show our grief. Our dreams are permeated with trees. Many of our earliest childhood associations stem from play around them. Trees have given us the inspiration for court gardens. Fine arts and philosophy have benefited from their presence. Native literature renews our kinship with trees as reflections of nature within ourselves.

Apples are a favorite ingredient in cookery for all occasions. These Indian apple jalebis are also referred to as fritters.

Apple Jalebis

Makes about 16


2 apples peeled, cored, and sliced into thin rings

3/4 cup flour

1/2 tsp dry yeast

1/2 tsp sugar

1 tbsp oil

Oil to fry


1/2 tsp cardamom powder

1 tsp cinnamon powder

1 tbsp sliced pistachios or blanched almonds


Dissolve the yeast and sugar in 1/4 cup warm water. Let stand for 5 minutes. Mix the flour and oil together. Add the yeast solution to the flour and mix to a smooth batter (pancake batter consistency), adding water as needed. Set the batter in a warm place for half an hour. It should have a lacy appearance.


Heat one inch of oil in a frying pan. Put a drop of batter in the oil to check for sizzle. Dip the apple slices completely into the batter one at a time. Slowly transfer the slices to the frying pan. Fry the jalebis in small batches, turning occasionally, until both sides are golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes, and transfer to a serving platter. Garnish with cardamon, cinnamon, and blanched almonds or sliced pistachios. Serve hot.


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