On the Olive Tree, Harmony, and Subjugation

Olive Tree ii.
Paros, Greece, 2010. 280x350mm, from enlarged 8×10 inch original negative. Platinum-palladium (1:1) print on Revere.

Looking where I may walk, the horizon erupts. Symbol of peace, sprouting from wisdom and prestidigitation (how a goddess wins the people’s hearts), the olive tree also becomes humankind’s leeward desert.

Xerxes burned the sacred olive tree of the Acropolis. Palestine’s soul is scared by tearing away centuries of olive groves. Taha Muhammad Ali remembered his ancient land in memoirs and poems, and leaves us aching for our gentler selves, for the dove in us. Then we cycle back, the dove a reminder and no more, as Taha warns us in his poem, The Fourth Quasida:

A dove whose feelings of cold are fatal,
whose sense of strangeness can kill,
whose longing for the olive
grove is lethal

and as that peace wings away from us, he finishes:

…an endless migration in us begins,
and a certain sense takes hold in us
that all of what is finest
in and around us,
except for the sadness,
is going away,
departing, not to return.

We have this in us: to consume ourselves. Or is that for a grander union? Is there ever destruction, and only just a temporary state: loss, forgotten in a life blink, only our cyclic nature: consuming ourselves, anthropophagi?

Read My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness, Adina Hoffman’s loving, searing, aching biography of Taha Muhammad Ali. [review on The Jerusalem Post]

x40 magnification of the print, Olive Tree ii

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