Last summer in Los Angeles I was feeling so lonely that I went out to buy a plant to keep me company. Nothing consoled me until I saw a little cedar tree with a sturdy trunk. The nurseryman said it was a bonsai, a miniature tree, and that it was over twenty years old. It was more money than I wanted to spend, but when you’re alone you have to take care of yourself.

It felt good to have something that had lived a long time. I put the bonsai outside in a sunny spot and named it Chaim, which means life in Hebrew, the language I was studying that summer. Chaim was my tree of life. After school I took Chaim home to Santa Fe at 7000 feet and where it snows. The foliage lost its brightness and became blueish; the bark turned grey.

Leaving Chaim reluctantly, I went to New York for further studies and began to feel a little blue and grey myself. When the snow melted I returned to Santa Fe, put Chaim outside in the mountain sun, and both of us took a deep breath. School is hard, two more years away from home, but if Chaim can do it, so can I.