The oldest tree in the world is showing its age.

It’s been tended to by an uninterrupted succession of guardians for over 2,000 years, but what remains of the Sri Maha Bodhi (the “sacred Bodhi tree”) is a large branch supported by a golden railing, surrounded by a protective and sacred temple. This tree is a very spiritually and physically significant part of one of Sri Lanka’s two famous ancient cities, Anuradhapura. The morning I was there, there were hundreds of devotees making offerings and sitting amidst prayer flags flapping in the wind. Lotus flowers were everywhere, the sun was shining, and a sense of gratitude hung in the air.

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Lonely Planet sums up the history better than I can: The huge tree has grown from a cutting brought from Bodhgaya in India by the Princess Sangamitta, sister of Mahinda (who introduced the Buddha’s teachings to Sri Lanka). The Sri Maha Bodhi is thus connected to the geographical heart of the Sinhalese religion, which isn’t surprising – there is an incredible sense of interconnectedness that exists in Sri Lanka, something about the island (which, fittingly, used to be named “Serendip” and is where the word “serendipity” originated from — you might recall that from a post I wrote a few months back) that has things falling into place and almost always, it seems, working out. I’ve been living in and traveling around Sri Lanka for five months, and I definitely feel that interconnectedness most poignantly when I’m in cities like Anuradhapura, enveloped in history and ancient Sri Lankan culture.

the famous "Lovers" sculpture from the 5th century AD
the famous “Lovers” sculpture from the 5th century AD

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I recently spent ten days traveling around Kandy, Anuradhapura, and Galle with my mom and her cousin, Laurene. They endured a few lengthy flights and an extremely long layover in Saudi Arabia to get here, and I’m so happy they came to visit. We had a wonderful time traipsing through an ancient city, relaxing at a beautiful bungalow in tea country, and chiiiilllling out on Sri Lanka’s beautiful beaches!

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mom in her natural habitat
mom in her natural habitat

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It’s one thing to be living and working in Sri Lanka, soaking up island life and exploring every crevice that I can – it’s quite another to be able to share one of my favorite places with my family. Sometimes traveling with family can be a bit stressful, but the days I spent traversing ancient ruins and hills of tea bushes with my mom and cousin reminded me that no matter where you are, traveling with people you’re close to can be such a comfort. It was pretty neat to host my mom in my first post-college home, a place I call my own. This was Laurene’s first visit to Sri Lanka, but it was Mom’s second (she visited Jesse and me when we were here in the fall of 2011) and as we visited some familiar places and explored some new ones, everywhere I turned there were old and new worlds overlapping. There were mundane conversations in the most exciting of places, long talks under starry skies, swims together in yet another ocean. It’s funny how, at the end of the day, even if you’re in the most fascinating of countries, the most beautiful of landscapes, it’s the afternoon cups of coffee and long talks on the bumpy roads that you remember best.

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