Some trees have strong presences
I’m continually drawn to certain trees and visit and re-visit them. I’ve always loved trees. When I lived in the city I would gravitate to the parks, to the botanical gardens, and the massive Moreton Bay Figs of Sydney, with their fleshy limbs, their strange indentations, their hairy aerial roots. Trees are sacred in many cultures, especially in Aboriginal culture.
In the bush, the Angophoras reign, for me a favorite tree, their bark like flesh, ‘bodies’ graceful as dancers.
Trees have their own characters, revealed by ways of looking. In writing this blog, I discovered that there’s a whole ‘wood spirit carving’ community – carvers of totems, walking sticks, strange tree-men, who say they are releasing the wood’s ‘spirit’.
I’m not necessarily talking about ‘beautiful’ trees. A favorite poet, Robert Gray sometimes writes about pines – from his poem The Pine:
The rhythm amongst these
a music, all
in the back paddock
in the yellow grass
Some trees have bark like flesh, like skin, especially the Angophoras and the Scribbly Gums. From Judith Wright’s poem, Scribbly Gum:
I peeled its splitting bark
and found the written track
of a life I could not read
These intriguing designs, like a kind of writing, are caused by the larvae of the Scribbly Gum moth, Ogmograptis Scribula. Read about the facinating life-cycle of these rarely seen moths here.
Wright says, ‘Words are not meanings for a tree.’ This is true – I am imposing my own meanings upon the tree. In Gum-Trees Stripping, she writes:
Wisdom can see the red, the rose,
the stained and sculptured curve of grey,
the charcoal scars of fire, and see
around that living tower of tree
the hermit tatters of old bark
split down and strip to end the season;
and can be quiet and not look
for reasons past the edge of reason
Trees are sacred in many cultures, including in ancient Europe, which was once covered by great primaeval forests.
Trees are an important part of Aboriginal culture.
Watte Wanne & Dhunghutti Aboriginal Elder and artist, Aunty Kerrie Kenton writes, ‘Since time began trees have held significant value to Aboriginal people. Trees are not only culturally and spiritually important, but their importance also forms part of everyday life.’ Aunty Kerrie Kenton writes about the Parramatta area – see the full text of her article and see some of her artwork here.
Aboriginal poet and activist Lisa Bellear’s poem, Beautiful Yoroke Red River Gum talks about the survivors of genocide watching over the remaining Red River Gums along the Yarra in Melbourne. Read the full text of her poem here.