A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

a tree grows in Beirut

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on June 21, 2008

When I last lived in New York, my mother ‘s old-school references to its boroughs used to entertain me greatly. Whenever I told her about visiting friends in Brooklyn, she would say, A tree grows there, I hear. And – sometimes against my will – her archly sage response made me laugh.

For those of you thinking, what? why is that funny? let me explain.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is the title of a mid-century American novel about a young girl growing up in early 1900s Brooklyn. It has been on the curricula of middle and high school English classes ever since its publication – so even people like me, who never read it in school, have it in our cultural repertoire.

Since I haven’t read the book, I’m a bit sketchy on its details, but I do know that the tree in question is meant to be a symbol of resiliency: it, like the main character, grows and thrives despite all odds.

We’ve been watching this tree fight similar odds since its neighboring building was chopped away earlier this spring:

Yes, that tree is now standing on the literal edge of a precipice – but it still seems to be hanging on.

And whenever we pass it, I hear my mother’s voice and think: a tree grows in Beirut.

From Beirut to Brooklyn: we’ll be there next week!

(Another shot of the tree:

We’re not sure whether the lot on which the tree sits was built up, or the lot next to it was dug before the now-torn-down building was erected – but the contrast in elevation certainly is striking.)

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