Life Life

29/10/2019 - 08:43

Only the rustling of the pine trees remains

It has been a long time since I held a pinecone in my hand. In Hue, the pine tree is not a strange tree, but the ones which I hold most dear are the green pine trees in Nam Giao Esplanade.

Pine trees in Nam Giao Esplanade

In the past, the Nguyen dynasty chose this place to conduct worship to Heaven. For a time, the Nam Giao Esplanade became a memorial site to the martyrs but later, the martyrs' monument was relocated and the esplanade was returned to its original state.

When I was young, the pine trees in Nam Giao Esplanade were friends to us children. Nam Giao Esplanade is divided into four "floors" from outside going inward. Standing at the highest point, one can see the Flagpole, Mounts Kim Phung and Ngu Binh. This was where in the past, my childhood friends and I played a game of shouting and listening to whose voices echoed the farthest.

Those were the summer days when my parents gave me the task of gathering firewood and scraping pine needles to use for burning. Pine is quite brittle and oily so it is good for burning.

On summer afternoons gathering firewood, we children had the opportunity to test our climbing skills. And I remember that it seemed like I had climbed all the trees there to break dry branches that had yet to fall to the ground.

On other days, when the branches were not dried enough for us to break, we raked the pine needles for the pig feed stove. My father made me a twelve-tooth rake from steel so I could rake more quickly and efficiently. 

The pine cones were the most precious because we could find in them aromatic, fatty pine nuts...

At the end of the day carrying the "rubbish" back home, my girlfriends and I would cleverly "build" mounds full of pine needles. Our small figures were lost between the two red mounds as we carried the pine needles home on our carry-baskets. And the pine cones were the most precious because we could find in them aromatic, fatty pine nuts...

I grew up with these pine trees. I witnessed students gathering at Nam Giao Esplanade to study every exam season. It was the place where, every afternoon, the boys would gather to play football... In the historic flood in 1999, this was the landing space for helicopters carrying aid cargo. For the first time, I saw what a helicopter looked like at this place.

Then the driving practice field got moved to another place. People started fencing and planting pine trees outside the barbed fence. The pine trees were planted on the land we used to jump rope and fly kites ... Nam Giao Rituals are restored and held whenever Hue has a festival. Our children have also grown, pursuing their dreams in parts of the world. Only the pines trees remain, growing every day and standing there as if waiting for us to return.

Nowadays, no one gather firewood or rake the pine needles anymore. Yet the dried needles still fall, creating a red carpet on the ground. On one afternoon returning to the esplanade, I saw a pile of pine needles gathered by the guard to burn. Suddenly memories of those childhood days flushed back…

Nam Giao Esplanade still has visitors like the old days, but the image of kids begging Westerners for pens no longer exists. Only the rustling of the pine trees remains amidst the city roads. And somewhere is the cooing of the pigeons, calling for each other while picking up falling pine nuts...

By Nam Giao

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