Months after cyclone Marcus ‘Perfect Tree’ remains on it’s side with a flush of green leaves. Mighty and wonderful things are brought low, even this grand tree which seemed a permanent fixture of the vacant block, the tree marked the grounds for various circuses that came to town, it was a shady meeting spot. Several years ago when I was offered a good set of second hand schwable tyres, the fella told me he’d left them under The Big Tree. I knew the one… It was solid, reliable, forever… It seems forever has an expiry date.
Over the past ten years of commuting to my current job by bicycle I have gotten to know several ‘iconic’ (to me) trees. They are trees that have stood out in some way as interesting and have defied the war of attrition pitted against all things natural in our town. Withstood the disregard the natural environment under the heavy hand of ‘progress’, the exploitation of mindless developers and bureaucrats. These trees are significant to me because they are resilient, they exist in unlikely locations. Some stand out because of their near perfect form, some due to their size and others because of the scars they have collected.
On my regular cycle trips around Darwin I would take comfort in the enduring beauty of these woody entities and pay tribute, if only mentally, to their existence. I guess in a town like Darwin that is constantly reinventing itself, rushing to knock down the old and replace it with something newer, neater, emptier and rarely any better. The trees, (my trees) kind of symbolized a lifeline linking the present to something a little more stable than yesterday’s headlines! They had history, they were to me a kind of anchor to a desire for continuity, not necessarily permanence, but something lasting.
In the Days after Cyclone Marcus hit Darwin when so much of the debris was being removed from our roads I returned to my regular commuter path, now a vastly different experience. Many large trees had fallen, shady avenues were now stark and bare, the glossy canopy of Anula park had been lost completely. So many of my favorite trees were laying flat on their sides with foliage still green, some shattered and split as their hollow centres had given way, nearly every tree that had registered in my mind map of giants had tumbled to the ground. As the days passed their leaves turned grey and wilted, council trucks came and carved them up with all the other wood and removed them from where they had stood so majestically, not even the stumps remain, the only sign they were ever there are the piles of woodchips left behind after industrial chippers had mulched the lesser branches…
Now as I ride I try to remember where the trees stood, some, the ones that are not on parkland or blocking roads remain on their sides, but most are gone. What had seemed permanent had disappeared with a puff of wind. How long before they are forgotten? How quickly the landscape can change and we carry on as if all is as it always has been. I think of the casuarinas along our coastline, one by one falling into the rising sea… dunes being engulfed by the encroaching tides just a few centimeters higher this year than the last. I think back on the Yellow Spotted monitors that used to be so common and how the amphibian life was so diverse before the coming of the toads… And my kids who have only ever known two kinds. Green frogs are good Toads are for compost… So quickly it all changes and we carry on, but I do for now miss my trees.