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A Brief History Of Trees

When we moved in, the back yard was empty except for newly laid lawn and an old gum tree in the back right hand corner. Stripped bark circled the base of the tree like discarded snake skins.

Holidays at Budgewoi. I always woke first and walked along the lake, in and out through the paperbark trees, their upper branches filled with morning sky and magpie songs.

First grade. On my way to the bus stop I’d walk under the jacaranda trees on a carpet of discarded purple flowers, they looked like a trail of delicate, miniature trumpets.

I got stuck stuck halfway up while climbing the fig tree, and sat there calling for my dad to help me down.

In the rainforest at Cedar Creek, the water was icy cold and I let eels slide through my fingers while dad took photos for painting. The trees rose up, blocking out the sky. We arrived home during a wild storm. The next day the whole city was underwater.

At school assembly the Principal informed us that a fellow student had been playing in the school on the weekend and had fallen from the tree at the edge of the playground, onto the asphalt. He was in a coma.

Funeral. Walking back to class from church. Looking at the tree, trying not to look at the tree.

Every year. First day of school. My mum takes a photo of me and my brothers in front of the maple tree in our front yard.

Most weekends there was a barbecue, swimming in the pool (a thousand bloody kids!), backyard cricket games under the myrtle tree.

The sky was blue and bright and burning. We climbed up into the plum tree. We ate plums in the breezy shade.

Canoe trip on the Murrimbidgee river. After a hard day of paddling the first night is freezing and we drag the base of a giant fallen tree over to the fire, we barely got it on there, thick roots flew out in all directions like tentacles. We named it ‘The octopus fire’.

Parked by the norfolk pines at Manly beach. Checking out the Winter surf from the car while listening to Midnight Oil.

The only thing I liked about this house was the bathroom window. Every time I took a shower I could look into the upper branches of the tree outside the window, and imagine I was somewhere else. Somewhere wild.

Old friends: Three turpentine trees beside the creek along the valley track at the back of my house. The angophoras guarding the top of the track just before our yard. The ‘reading tree’ in the garden with leaves that reached all the way down to the ground.

Aboriginal meeting place, Mt Wilson.  The trees curved up from the ground, spaced apart, they looked like dancers waiting for their cue. I rested by a small creek. A rotting log had jammed in there and been hollowed out by the force of the water, now the creek flowed through it. Blue dragonflies hovered.

Arriving at the Social Ecology retreat, we walked down the track through fine rain. The trunks of the yellow gums were wet and shining.

Flying into Seattle. Everything is green.

The whole crowd moved from point to point in the garden. There were poems. Friends sang from the balcony. For our wedding vows we stood in a circle of birch trees.

My son running for the first time, through the apple trees, chasing his cousins.

When we visit the zoo, I always fill my pockets with eucalyptus leaves from the ‘Australasia’ section.

Conducting my first labyrinth workshop surrounded by cedar trees and madronas. We do our final walk singing, our voices trail off, one by one, as we leave the labyrinth. You could hear the waves falling on the beach below.

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  • Reply Kate Strong July 31, 2015 at 10:29 pm

    I love trees too, Dave. Wherever I go the trees call me. I live in Christchurch, the garden city of NZ and the grounding thing for me each time I go out and see our earthquake ravaged city is the trees. They are such towers of strength.

  • Reply Dave Rowley July 31, 2015 at 10:42 pm

    ‘Towers of strength’–That’s such a beautiful way to put it Kate, I can really relate to that. I would love to visit Christchurch someday. When we go back to visit Australia we’ll have to skip across to NZ and drink in all that natural beauty!

    • Reply Kate Strong July 31, 2015 at 10:49 pm

      Spring time is glorious here. 🙂

  • Reply Shulamit Ber Levtov July 31, 2015 at 11:17 pm

    Dave, I’m taking the descriptions into my mind and Opening to the experiencing they evoke in my body. Ahhhhh… Trees…… Yes. I can feel the “green,” the moist, the loamy smells of my memories of trees. I heave a sigh and relax. Thank you.

  • Reply Dave Rowley August 1, 2015 at 12:47 am

    ‘the loamy smells of my memories of trees’–they get in so deep and stay there, don’t they? Thank you, Shulamit.

  • Reply Dana Leigh Lyonsd August 1, 2015 at 12:35 pm

    Such a beautiful rendering of the trees in your life, Dave. Love how you capture their changing yet constant presence.

  • Reply Dave Rowley August 1, 2015 at 6:42 pm

    Thank you, Dana!

  • Reply Sarah Grace August 2, 2015 at 4:33 am

    Dave, your writing is so evocative and lovely! For me touching a tree, smelling its bark brings me right into the present. And grounds me. Reading this made me want to go outside and hug one. Thank you!

  • Reply Fiona Moore August 2, 2015 at 5:54 am

    Hi Dave, thanks for this. Evokes the presence of trees. Have you ever ‘heard’ a tree communicate? On occasion I’ve laughed out loud when a tree has whispered in the silent presence some nugget I needed to hear.

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