Trees In The Family

My friend, Mel’s mother lives in a place called the Southern Highlands which is about a 90 minute drive from Sydney. It is a beautiful spot, full of native forests and an abundance of wildlife. June has quite a bit of land down there. It is full of trees, hundreds of them, yet she has honed in on just one of them – an enormous brush box. It must be at least fifty feet tall and the spread of its canopy is immense. It would be impossible to estimate how many creatures lived in it.

Every time I visit June takes me out to the tree. We have coffee and cake beneath its spreading branches. ‘I can’t tell you how much this tree means to me,’ June says. ‘It gives me clues to the secrets of eternity. Generations of birds live in its branches. It possesses a quiet assurance humans are unable to attain.’

June has stipulated in her will that the tree never be cut down. That Mel do everything in her power to keep it hale and hearty after her mother is gone. That tree means the world to her.

She is not alone. I have a tree as dear to me as any human friend. She stands in the local park. A dear old girl, facing the bay with branches that touch the water’s edge. She knows my deepest secrets and the longings of my heart. My dear old Moreton Bay Fig.




Even on drizzly days when the water is grey I can sit here without getting wet. If I sit very still I can catch sight of the birds huddled in the branches. They sit in groups – gulls on one side, low down, closer to the water; wood pigeons on the other, cooing even as the rain speckles and bends the leaves. Above the gulls sit the mynahs, cheeky, bossy, constantly flapping their wings and rearranging their position. Above the wood pigeons sit the lorikeets, chortling softly to one another, bright daubs of rainbow paint. The tree is big enough to house them all without too much squabbling.

I met a schoolgirl there one day. She was writing poetry. ‘It’s really bad poetry,’ she said,’ but it helps me make sense of things.’ She often came and sat in the late afternoon to do her homework.

I met a tourist from Tokyo who had never seen a tree this big. He was used to concrete and neon lights. The tree was solid and dependable. He had taken over a hundred photos of it which he had emailed to his mother. He took photos of the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, Centrepoint Tower. ‘Send more photos of the tree,’ his mother said.

I met a pregnant lady just sitting and feeling the innate strength of the Fig. ‘I have lived opposite this park for years,’ she said. ‘Not once have I walked here and looked at the trees. I work and work and work in tall office blocks full of metal and glass. I want my baby to feel the earth. To know it. I don’t want him to be tied to a desk.’

She provides sanctuary, this old tree, branches soaring like hands raised in celebration. I would be hurt if she were lost, if some man without a heart came and cut her down. I hope that long after I am just a shadow she will stand, silent and majestic, gazing out like a sentinel over the bay.

19 thoughts on “Trees In The Family

  1. as devastatingly separate from natures call as i am,, i love trees.. old gnarled ones with stories to tell are my favorite,, but really,, just about anyone will do…

    this was a lovely accounting of your tree of life sel…..


  2. I just got back from a run in the woods in the rain. One can’t help but marvel at the majesty of a great big tree… it’s one of the things I love about running, it puts me in perspective.


  3. This was lovely.

    I have a tree in my front yard, one that my mother planted shortly after they moved here. I was six months old at the time. This tree and I grew up together, and she means the world to me.

    Twenty-five years ago, she was badly mistreated by my chain-saw wielding father (after he’d had a few too many beers) and he “topped” her. Now despite recovering well enough to stand tall and strong, she’s showing signs of decay. She’s shaded my house for as long as I can remember and Lord of the Manor keeps threatening to have her cut down, lest she lose her footing and fall into our roof.

    So far, I’ve managed to convince him it would be a mistake.

    She’s my Tree. She’s my altar. At her feet is where I place my offerings. At her feet is where I go to collect my peace. I cannot imagine life without her.


  4. What a lovely story and tribute to all trees Selma. They are such a source of beauty, shelter and even protection (from pollutants) and yet for the most part we take trees for granted.

    Long live June’s special tree! Hugs, G 🙂


  5. I often stare at trees in wonder too. It’s the fact that some are so old – they simply must be wise with all they have seen.

    We have an oak tree beyond our garden wall – I presume it is the same age at the Rosary behind ie about 150 years. When I gaze out of my window at it, I know that all my little problems are nothing – just tiny moments in time, inconsequential. And when I think of them like that I can handle them.

    Trees are wonderful things.


  6. Me too I can sit under my special tree in the park and just think and look at the world around me and wonder what the tree has seen and heard in its life time. Imagine if they would be able to speak, the stories they would be able to tell us – especially the really, really old ones!


  7. I think our connection with trees is so primal. They reach up from the earth to the sun, sometimes defying all probability. Weather the storms without complaint, other than the occasional creak. It breaks my heart whenever I see one felled by a storm, or – much worse – human interference.

    What a loving tribute to your faithful, stalwart old friend.


  8. I think I know your tree, mine maybe the one next to it, slightly smaller.
    thats the one I tell my secrets too, possibly because I feel guilty as its where Stan always does a pee.


  9. PAISLEY – I love the old ones too. The old fig is definitely a tree of life for me. Great way to put it!

    NAT – oh, totally. I like to keep myself in perspective too. I have this image of you now running through the trees, the rain lashing at you. It is very ‘Wuthering Heights.’

    KAREN – oh, your tree is your altar. That is truly beautiful. I feel that too although I couldn’t articulate it as well as you just have. There is a sense of reverence about a tree like that. I hope your dear tree stays around for many years to come.

    GERALDINE – don’t worry, June’s tree will be around long after I’m gone. She’ll get a law passed or something to protect it. LOL.

    RELUCTANT – I do love an oak. Such serene trees. We don’t get all that many of them here because they are not native to Australia but they are lovely. I can just imagine the oak growing there behind your garden wall. How FAB!

    TBALL – oh, they’d have plenty of stories. Wouldn’t it be amazing if somehow we could understand them?

    MELEAH – there is a fragility and a poetry about a weeping willow that is quite striking. Gorgeous, gorgeous trees!

    EPIPHANY – you are so right. Our connection to them began in the dawn of time. I don’t think we truly understand how important to us they are. She is a good old girl, that tree!

    KATE – I think you know that tree too. And I know yours. We’re lucky we have that park so close by. Stan is a wee rascal, but when you’re a pup and you’ve got to go, then you’ve got to go. XX


  10. I often walk out on to the decking and marvel at the tree… right there underfoot.

    Tree’s have a hidden beauty that’s not appreciated until after tyey’re dead and dissected, polished and nailed down, just like on my deck.

    Therefore I hope my beauty is not so hidden that it won’t be seen until after my death.


  11. There is a huge oak tree in the park where we used to live – I really miss seeing such a magnificent beauty on my walks now, even though we live in a lovely area. That tree is really special. Maybe I should pay it a visit one day.


  12. DAOINE – oaks are magical. There is no tree quite like them. The ancient Druids thought so too. I would love to live near a forest of oaks. It would be brilliant.


  13. Where my daughters go to dance class there is a nearby river with very old majestic trees along it’s banks. I have quite often sat under one in particular and just soaked up the peace and quiet. The funny thing is it’s right on a busy road and yet when I’m sitting there I am oblivious to the noise. I have often wondered about the many stories these trees could tell if they could talk.

    Wonderful post as always Selma. 🙂


  14. The trees where I live are all fairly young, under twenty years old. I do, however, drive through an area of forest preserve to and from work each day. I can actually take a shorter route, but I’d rather have the scenery


  15. There was a big old dutch elm in front of my parent’s house. When it died (of dutch elm disease, of course) it was almost as though a person had died. I still miss it. Or should it be him or her?


  16. LINDA – I used to do that years ago when I worked in Bondi. Although my job was nowhere near the beach I used to drive along the promenade every day. It was such a nice drive in those days. And the palm trees were glorious!

    RICHARD – awww, you are so sweet. I know exactly what you mean. When we sold our house about six years ago now, the new owners cut down all the trees in the garden, including the most gorgeous pink and white magnolia you have ever seen. I was inconsolable for weeks!


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