爱思英语编者按:中英对照散文《离太阳最近的树》。

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离太阳最近的树

毕淑敏

30年前,我在西藏阿里当兵。

这是世界的第三极,平均海拔5000米,冰峰林立,雪原寥寂。不知是神灵的佑护还是大自然的疏忽,在荒漠的褶皱里,有时会不可思议地生存着一片红柳丛。它们有着铁一样锈红的枝干,凤羽般纷披的碎叶,偶尔会开出穗样的细密的花,对着高原的酷热和缺氧微笑。这高原的精灵,是离太阳最近的绿树,百年才能长成小小的一蓬。在藏区巡回医疗,我骑马穿行于略带苍蓝色调的红柳丛中,竟以为它必与雪域永在。

一天,   司务长布置任务——全体打柴去!

我以为自己听错了,高原之上,哪里有柴?!

原来是驱车上百公里,把红柳挖出来,当柴火烧。

我大惊,说红柳挖了,高原上仅有的树不就绝了吗?

司务长回答,你要吃饭,对不对?饭要烧熟,对不对?烧熟要用柴火,对不对?柴火就是红柳,对不对?

我说,红柳不是柴火,它是活的,它有生命。做饭可以用汽油,可以用焦炭,为什么要用高原上唯一的绿色!

司务长说,拉一车汽油上山,路上就要耗掉两车汽油。焦灰炭运上来,一斤的价钱等于六斤白面。红柳是不要钱的,你算算这个帐吧!

挖红柳的队伍,带着铁锨、镐头和斧,浩浩荡荡地出发了。

红柳通常都是长在沙丘上的。一座结实的沙丘顶上,昂然立着一株红柳。它的根像巨大的章鱼的无数脚爪,缠附到沙丘逶迤的边缘。

我很好奇,红柳为什么不找个背风的地方猫着呢?生存中也好少些艰辛。老兵说,你本末倒置了,不是红柳长在沙丘上,是因为这红柳,才固住了流沙。随着红柳渐渐长大,流沙被固住的越来越多,最后便聚成了一座沙山。红柳的根有多广,那沙山就有多大。

啊,红柳如同冰山。露在沙上的部分只有十分之一,伟大的力量埋在地下。

红柳的枝叶算不得好柴薪,真正顽强的是红柳强大的根系,它们与沙子粘贴得如同钢筋混凝土。一旦燃烧起来,持续而稳定地吐出熊熊的热量,好像把千万年来,从太阳那里索得的光芒,压缩后爆裂出来。金红的火焰中,每一块红柳根,都弥久地维持着盘根错节的形状,好像傲然不屈的英魂。

把红柳根从沙丘中掘出,蓄含着很可怕的工作量。红柳与土地生死相依,人们要先费几天的时间,将大半个沙山掏净。这样,红柳就枝桠遒劲地腾越在旷野之中,好似一副镂空的恐龙骨架。这里需请来最有气力的男子汉,用利斧,将这活着的巨型根雕与大地最后的联系一一斩断。整个红柳丛就訇然倒下了。

一年年过去,易挖的红柳绝迹了,只剩那些最古老的树精了。

掏挖沙山的工期越来越长,最健硕有力的小伙子,也折不断红柳苍老的手臂了。于是人们想出了高技术的法子——用炸药!

只需在红柳根部,挖一条深深的巷子,用架子把火药放进去,人伏得远远的,将长长的药捻点燃。深远的寂静之后,只听轰的一声,再幽深的树怪,也尸骸散地了。

我们餐风宿露。今年可以看到去年被掘走红柳的沙丘,好像眼球摘除手术的伤员,依然大睁空洞的眼睑,怒向苍穹。但这触目惊心的景象不会持续太久,待到第三年,那沙丘已烟消云散,好像此地从来不曾生存过什么千年古木,不曾堆聚过亿万颗砂砾。

听最近到过阿里的人讲,红柳林早已掘净烧光,连根须都烟消灰灭了。

有时夜深,我会突然想起那些高原上的原住民,它们的魂魄,如今栖息在何处云端?会想到那些曾经被固住的黄沙,是否已飘洒在世界各处?从屋子顶上扬起的尘沙,通常会飞得十分遥远。

The Trees Closest to the Sun

Bi Shumin

Thirty years ago I served in the army in Ali, Tibet.

With an average elevation of 5000 meters, this area is known as the Third Pole of the earth. Here, ice-covered peaks rise like forests above a vast stretch of deserted snow fields. Either blessed by God or spared by Nature, clusters of Chinese tamarisk trees had impossibly managed to survive in the folds of the valley, their stems and branches having the color of rusty iron and their leaves spreading out like soft feathers. Occasionally they produce dense tiny flowers crowded into the shape of rice ears, beaming in spite of the heat and thin air on the plateau. Symbolizing the spirit of the plateau, they are the closest to the sun of all green tree species. It takes a whole century for them to grow into a small cluster. Riding on my horse through the grayish tamarisk trees on my medical-service rounds, I was even convinced that they would exist as long as the snow-covered plateau itself.

One day, our company quartermaster ordered all of us to go to cut firewood.

At first I thought I’d misheard him. Where on this plateau could we find firewood?

The answer was that we would drive a hundred kilometers to some tamarisk trees, dig them out and carry them back as kitchen fuel.

I was shocked, “Aren’t we going to kill off the only trees on the plateau?”

The quartermaster retorted, “You need to eat, right? Food needs to be cooked, right? To cook we need firewood, and the only firewood is tamarisk, OK?”

I said, “Tamarisk trees are not firewood. They are living. They have a life. We can use gasoline or coke. Why do we have to wipe out the only green color from the plateau?”

He explained, “To haul a truckload of oil up to our place, we burn two truckloads of oil on the road; for a jin of coke, we pay the price of 6 jin of wheat flour; and tamarisk is free of charge. You do the math!”

The soldiers took up their spades, picks and axes, and a large tamarisk-digging contingent set out.

Tamarisks usually grow on sand dunes. On top of a solid sand dune there may stand a proud tamarisk tree, whose roots, like the many tentacles of an octopus, extend all the way to the indented edges of the dune.

I wonder why the tamarisk trees do not grow on the leeward side of the dunes to avoid the many setbacks of life. A veteran soldier said I put the cart before the horse. It is not that the trees choose to grow on top of dunes, but that the trees fix the sand to cause a build-up of dunes. With the growth of the trees more drifting sand is fixed, and finally a big sand dune is formed. The wider their roots spread, the bigger the dune can be.

Ah, the tamarisk tree is just like an iceberg. Above the sand we see only one tenth of it while a mammoth amount of strength lies underneath.

The branches and leaves of tamarisk do not make good firewood, while its roots are strong and tenacious, and can join sand grains, into a cohesive whole as hard as concrete. When lit up, they burn steadily to produce a huge amount of energy, as if releasing in an eruptive manner all the radiation they’ve exacted from the sun over the past millennia. Even in the burning flames, the blocks of roots, like dauntless heroic spirits, still manage to stay in their intertwined shapes.

To dig out the roots called for a terrifying amount of work. The tamarisk trees and the land had long formed an inextricable relationship. We had to spend days scooping most of the sand out of a dune, thus leaving the dinosaur-skeleton frame of the tree standing there with its bare roots over the open wilderness. Then men of Herculean strength were summoned. Wielding sharp axes they hacked continuously at the roots, a living tree-root sculpture, until these last links with the earth were severed and the whole tree toppled down.

The year passed. All the tamarisk trees in sight were dug out except those most aged ones.

The digging job took ever longer, for even the strongest men were no match for the unyielding stems and roots. So we resorted to a modern technique – break them with explosives!

A tunnel was dug to the root area. Having put the explosives in place, we ignited the long fuse and lay down at a safe distance. After a moment of dead silence, there was a loud bang. Even the most weather-beaten tree would be blown up into the sky and fall down in pieces.

We camped out in the open. We saw on some sand dunes large hollows, left by the sand-fixing tamarisk trees which had been pulled out the previous year. The gaping holes looked like the eyeless sockets of a wounded face staring angrily at the sky. However, this heart-rending scene would not last long: two years later even the dunes themselves would disappear. It is as if there never had been a tree that had survived the hardships over thousands of years and fixed a large heap of sand.

I was told by someone who had recently been to Ali that the tamarisk trees are no longer to be found there, their stems, roots, leaves and everything of them have vanished in fire and smoke.

Sometimes in the depth of night the images of the aboriginal inhabitants of the highlands would pop into my head: where in the clouds are their spirits anchored now? I also think of the sand dunes once fixed firmly by the trees: have they been blown to all corners of the world? Indeed, the sand grains on our roofs can be carried far and wide on the wind.

(李运兴 译)