Grow A Forest For Your Lover
May 3, 2014

Grow A Forest For Your Lover

How much do you love your lover? What sacrifices would you make? What lengths would you go to in order to celebrate their memory? You could build a magnificent mausoleum like the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan of India. Let’s give him his full title, Al-Sultan al-Azam wal Khaqan al-Mukarram, Abu’l-Muzaffar Shahab ud-din Muhammad, Sahib-i-Qiran-i-Sani, Sha JahanI Padshah Ghazi Zillu’llah. That’s one of the things I’ve noticed about really rich people – they even have more names than the rest of us. When Shah Jahan’s beautiful wife Mumtaz Mahal – the “beloved ornament of the palace” – died in 17th century India, he was beside himself with grief. The empress had a special place, a garden near the river Yamuna in the city of Agra. On the site of the garden Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal, now one of the world’s most famous and instantly recognizable landmarks. Unsurpassed in its day for opulence and majesty, it is often thought of as the greatest monument to a lost lover ever built. For those of us with less resources, we need to manage our loved one’s expectations carefully – as in “sorry darling, can’t do the palace, will a (insert affordable memorial of choice here) do instead?” Maybe you could plant a tree. Most of us could manage that I’m sure. Or maybe you could plant 7,000 in the shape of something your lover loved. That’s exactly what one Argentinian farmer did.

We would all like to do our best, I’m sure, but how many of us could create a memorial that can be seen from space? Pedro Martin Ureta’s wife Graciela died in 1977 while carrying their fifth child. Such was his grief that he decided to create a monument like no other. Some time before, the couple had been flying over the Pampas when Graciela spotted a farm that from the air looked, purely by chance, like a milking pail. Fascinated by the sight, she came up with the idea that they could do something similar and make part of their own farm look like a guitar, an instrument she loved. They vowed to do just that, but the demands of running a farm meant that it never got done before her untimely death. Graciela never saw her giant guitar.

But Pedro never forgot. It seems that he became more and more philosophical as he grew older and was full of regrets. He decided to make his Pampas Taj Mahal – his 7,000-tree forest in the shape of a guitar. Landscape designers had no idea how to go about it. They had never seen anything like it. So Pedro and his children began their labor of love. Planting mainly consisted of cypress trees for the guitar body with blue eucalyptus trees for the guitar strings. In the early days, wild hares and guinea pigs made short work of the saplings. Pedro almost gave up. He got a supply of scrap metal to protect the young trees until they were no longer vulnerable to wild animals. The guitar took shape. Sadly, Pedro has never seen the guitar from the air – he has a fear of flying.

Shah Jahan and Pedro might have made it harder to impress our nearest and dearest. They have both set the bar high. As a guitar lover, I might be biased, but for me, Pedro takes the accolade of top memorial builder. The emperors might have the money to build the expensive and magnificent, but Pedro and his kids worked with their hands for years to make their mark of love and respect. “It’s the closest thing to having mother alive,” says one of her daughters. Even if Pedro never sees his guitar from the skies, let’s hope Graciela looks down from wherever she is and thinks, “That’s my man.”

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

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Eric Hopton is a writer, musician, artist, and photographer. He has a degree in Social Anthropology and has always been passionate about travel, having so far visited 73 countries. His music and sound work has been used in many projects around the world and can be heard on Bandcamp and Freesound, where he has contributed over 1,300 sounds under his sonic alter ego, ERH.

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