In Sacramento's State Capitol Park, I felt like I was seeing much of the world at once. The classic architecture of the capitol reminded me of Washington, D.C., but the palm trees framing it made me think of a tropical adventure. I passed through English roses to find myself standing under a most beautiful tree, a deodar cedar.
The State Capitol Park features a tour of more than 450 different varieties of shrubs and trees from around the world. Under the deodar tree, a grayish-green so different from the neon of the palms, I forgot the Sacramento July heat and remembered short winter trips taken to the Sierra Mountains to the east. However, when I researched the tree later, I realized that it has much more remote origins. The tree is native to the lower hillsides (altitudes of only 1500 to 3200 feet) of the Himalayas. The tree brings green across multiple countries, eastern Afghanistan, northern Pakistan, northern and central India, southern Tibet, and western Nepal.
Although from a faraway place, the tree marked and claimed its own space on that Sacramento corner. Its drooping branches sketched out a circular roof above our heads. My daughter felt drawn to stay there, and she walked around and around the tree and balanced on the knotty roots that made their own hilly topography.
The name of the deodar tree reflects a word-family tree, a common origin of the word for divine found in languages from Europe to South Asia. The Sanskrit (ancient Indian) word for the tree is "devadaru" or wood of the gods. The "deva" portion of this word comes from an Indo-European root, "div," that means "give light" or "to implore." This same root gives us the English word "divine," Latin "deus," Spanish "Dios," and divine words in many other languages.
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