Where The Red Trees Are

This book tho
This book tho- cover painting of Shaun Tan’s “The Red Tree”


I am finding it very hard to believe that I have had a personal blog for years without writing very much about books. I am sure everyone is questioning whether I am who I really say I am and I am willing to provide proof that I am who I claim to be- so, today, I had to wear bottoms and I was miserable. 

But now, to correct my wrong doing- books! Oh lovely, lovely books. For a while I was really convinced in trying to prove my intellectual prowess to others (Hello, my name’s Azul and I suffered from crippling insecurity at some point) and attempted to commit to Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy only to conclude that if I were Russian, I would have nursed a vodka habit as well.

I am a lover of flowery language and have lost the need to silently prove myself by downing dour and dark literature. Occasionally I will entertain a new perspective through uncomfortable paths (ugh, non-fiction) but have shed the need to qualify every piece of entertainment I consume as an extension of myself. So what if I read children’s books and fairy tales? They make me happy. I have arrived at that point in life where I love the things I love guilelessly.

Like all good book lovers, there are those that I revisit quite frequently- I read “To Kill a Mockingbird” once every few years, and “The Day Boy and The Night Girl” whenever I can get my hands on it. The one I have visited the most as of late comes from the mind of Shaun Tan and is titled “The Red Tree”.

I wish everyone had a chance to sit with that book. Granted, I say that about almost every book I love and every author I crush on (holler at you Junot Diaz!), but with “The Red Tree” it is a matter of self-preservation.

In the spirit of honesty, you must know that I was once diagnosed with PTSD as a result of traumatic events that eventually led to my forced exodus. Currently, after 5 years and some avoidance, I have had to admit that I need help, specialized help. My reluctance to admit said need resulted in a full blown panic attack days before my birthday and ended with me inside a young doctors office, with a soft voice that seemed to punctuate the clicking noises on the typewriter she used to write my diagnosis (clinical depression)-she sent me off with a prescription and an appointment to meet with a therapist.

Later that day, in the quiet of my room, I sought “The Red Tree” and leafed through each familiar page with care. The story is that of an unnamed red headed girl who for some reason is sad- each painting (masterfully done by Mr. Tan) bearing a simple sentence or two, covering the enormity of feeling in great detail. I felt myself crying, small by the entire universality of it- sometimes darkness does overcome you and some days do feel as though wonderful things are passing you by.

Hidden among the chaos of each image is a small, red leaf. You have to look for it among the other images of bottles, and gigantic floating fish, but it is there, different every time. In the end, our read headed heroine walks to find a red tree- just as you imagined it would be.

In the past five years I have found myself going back to that book, helping my mind go through the simple exercise of allowance: Allowance that I do not understand, allowance that I miss home, and family and friends, and sounds and sights and smells. Allowance that some days are heart breaking, and some days are great and that the current cross to bear does not always have to be responded to in smiles or affirmations that end in some variation of “fine”; allowance to cry, and mourn and laugh and start and recoup and not always win every battle.

I sat with the book in my hands and allowed myself some tears because I understood that some days I must strive for simply finding red leaves, hoping for red trees, and knowing that somewhere out there, they exist.
I have faith that I will find them.

To purchase “The Red Tree” you can click here.
To view a video presentation of the book, click here.


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