Faith: the trees of life

The tree outside my window has nine leaves left, just. Hanging precariously, it seems as if each one is trying to defy the others by hanging on the longest.

Captivated, I’ve been watching it daily, as nature has taken its course through autumn into winter. It stands in front of my new home, to which I moved after three decades.

I had barely unpacked when an adjacent vacant block was suddenly gone, replaced by an all-encompassing building site. The construction took 18 months, the nightmare of constant earth-shattering noise and filth hard to bear.

Coping with the horror on my doorstep was indeed a first-world problem, I reminded myself daily.

And then blissfully, one day it ended, leaving in its wake a development of yet another 65 apartments, still mostly unoccupied, to add to our suburb.

But now, finding beauty and peace in the tree outside my window, I think back to another tree, a Cordyline australis. It stood defiantly between my balcony and the construction site, its trunk thin but strong and its leaves deep green, despite the cement spills and daily clouds of enveloping dust.

I would watch it and savour this last remnant of nature, symbolic in its simplicity, and a world away from the cranes towering overhead.

And then one morning, as I walked outside, to my alarm I was met by the sight and crunching sound of two tradesmen hacking and pulling at the trunk of this beautiful native tree.

Shouting at them to stop, pleading that this was public property, I managed a stay of execution as I called my local council's parks and environment department, fortunately finding an empathetic ear and a willingness to jump to the rescue in haste.

A battle to save the tree ensued, with on-going negotiation between the builders and myself. Their final concession was to leave in water the trunk and branches they had already hacked down, allowing time for them to be collected.

To watch the landscape gardener load them gently on to his ute, having researched the most suitable park in which to plant them, was healing to my soul, a wonderful antidote to the callousness I’d experienced that is commonplace now in our city, when ugly constructions are deemed more valuable than natural beauty.

The gardener kindly forwarded triumphant photos, arrows proudly marking the rescued Cordyline plantings complete with captions and a map to explain in which park their “new home” was located.

It was a reminder that in spite of and perhaps because of the world in which we now find ourselves, where greed and self-interest can sadly be the driving force, it’s the little things, like one single tree and the care and understanding shown by one committed arborist that mean so much.

Janine Joseph is a Melbourne writer.

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