Patriarch of the Forest
"This is our Patriarch", says Amiran. I touch the trunk of the pistachio tree - Pistacia mutica, 800 years old, the oldest tree in Vashlovani.
The Patriarch is not a tall tree Vashlovani is a semi-desert and trees grows slowly in such arid conditions. But it has the unmistakable dignity of age, of a guardian of silence and slow time, a witness to cycles of life which far outlast our own.
The bark is sticky to my touch, coated in places with pellets of white resin - sharp and aromatic. Georgian incense, explains Amiran, which is burned in church. The long branches curve down to the earth, and form a circular canopy of shade and moisture over the juniper trees which have grown around it.
The valley around us is dotted with these clusters small communities in which precious moisture can be spared and younger trees find shelter under the canopy. Biologists call this a "light forest" where there is open grassy ground between the trees.