I asked my neighbour about its life . . .

Man and Tree
Convenient apartment living… to bins, front door and garage entry.

Another ‘branching out’ story inspired by comments to my Out on a Limb post, our city apartment’s leafy neighbours and the article Erskineville’s newest housing project. Dedicated to the G.O. for whom the big eucalypt tree neighbouring our balcony is a balm to city life.

“I’m a relative newcomer to what they call this now… the neighbourhood. A remnant from what it was two centuries of human time ago, a natural habitat abundant with my kind. I was here when the changes began and we trees gave way, were taken away, made way for Buildings and Roads… and People, as is the humans’ want to call themselves. But not here by the end.

The Outsiders came with plans and tools and cleared the Land. They said they paid for it with Money, or the Government gave it to them. I still don’t understand about the Money or the Government. They aren’t part of the Creation. Where did they come from?

The Outsiders undid some of the work of the Creation. They called it Construction, it made the Buildings go up and in an instant that’s all there was. No trees, grasses or blossoms. No wild animals, birds or insects. The Outsiders didn’t put them back. If they had thought of it anyway they had no time for Preservation. Instead, with pieces of trees they felled, the Outsiders confined spaces around the Buildings, dug the soil, set their beasts to graze and planted seeds they’d brought with them.

How do I know this? After I was there, before I came again, my Spirit, at one with All, was part of the Witnessing of what ensued. Nothing happens that isn’t observed and recorded in The Annals of Time. Of the Spirits of the Land, some travelled Home, some necessarily remained behind as Guardians. As Keepers of the Earth we do not give up our place lightly.

The Outsiders desired autonomy, opportunity to create their humanmade objects. They wanted more than the Creation could provide. To have their own powers of creation pleased the Outsiders. They were clever, strong and capable, no longer believing they needed to rely on offerings and appeasements to the Creation, subject to its caprices. They were proud.

Before the Outsiders there were the Old Ones. Nomads, they used only what the Creation offered, and in exchange were caretakers of the Land. The Outsiders had no place for the Old Ones either. Now they don’t come any more.

In the beginning there weren’t so many Outsiders. The climate suited to my kind was harsh for Outsiders, and the work of changing things was harsher. They brought more Outsiders from far away. Their dreams and schemes and talk spread like fire-stick burns of the Old Ones. But where from fires and ashes commanded by the Old Ones our kind regenerated, the all-consuming visions of the Outsiders doomed us.

For a while the Outsiders were grateful for the gifts of our kind. We were useful to them. By our bodies they kept warm and built shelter. As part of the Creation this was our calling. For all time we have provided Protection. To surrender ourselves to the Outsiders was a Sacrifice of Honour. Once the Outsiders would have honoured it in return by cultivating and nurturing our kind.

All beings are bound by the Creation and its three Pacts. The foremost Pact is Equality. As part of All no one being is more important than another. The second is Perpetuity. We are part of an endless nurturing cycle of birth, growth, death and rebirth. And, finally what we give we get back. What we take we give back. That is the Pact of Stability.

There were Outsiders who remembered the Creation and understood the importance of its Pacts. However, unlike the Old Ones the Outsiders didn’t roam the Land accepting what the Earth offered up. The Government and the Money claimed they ruled the Land. To get shelter and food the Outsiders needed pieces of the Money. The Money would only yield pieces if the Outsiders exchanged time and toil for them. And so the Outsiders worked to live, and called it Industry.

But as I said, the Outsiders wanted more than the Creation entitled them to. More Outsiders came and believed and laboured pursuing the possibilities and successes of their own toil. They made a new pact amongst themselves. They called it Profitability. Profitability was acquiring lots of pieces of the Money. The more they thought about Profitability, the less important Equality, Perpetuity and Stability seemed. It became harder to live by the Pacts of the Creation. Everyone was busy pursuing Profitability. Profitability was time-consuming.

Profitability was also successful. The People wanted more. They exchanged the Money with each other in return for trinkets. Industry began to make all manner of trinkets they called Product. The People worked even harder to get pieces of money to swap for Product. They believed many pieces of the Money and beautiful, numerous or newest Product gave them special powers of Status as well.

After a while there were so many Buildings, Roads, Product and People, the Government and Money weren’t able to maintain Order needed to control Profitability. They appointed Politicians who were Outsiders that made rules for the People which they called Laws. The Politicians were busy making Laws so they chose other Outsiders to be Police to make sure the People obeyed the Laws. Because the Politicians and Police were busy with Laws and didn’t have time for Industry the Government decreed they could take some of the Peoples’ pieces of the Money which they called Taxes.

Rather than calling it the old name Order, the Government gave it a new name Community, which was better for Profitability. People toiled harder when they believed they were doing it for the Greater Good. A portion of their Taxes were returned to them in kind in the form of Services for the Greater Good and Benevolence for the unfortunate who didn’t have many pieces of the Money. The People were proud of what they created, their Industry and Benevolence. They worked harder, building more and better, earning more pieces of the Money.

Some time ago, one of the first Outsiders, among the last who remembered the Creation and its Pacts was approaching the end of his physical life, preparing to rejoin Spirit. He’d kept all these years a single gumnut pocketed in the first days of the Construction. After the woman he’d passed this life with returned to Spirit, he carried out one last act for the Creation to redress the balance of Stability. He planted the seeds from the gumnut in a crock the day they returned her body to the Earth.

While nine moons passed the issue of gumnut rose from the soil into two young saplings. The day after the young man returned the old man’s body to the Earth, he planted the saplings outside his Building of Industry where he would pass them each day. The tears he shed over the green shoots and into the soil summoned my Spirit and that of my twin, to dwell on the Earth once again, as patient observers.

The young man stopped by each morning and evening as we grew taller than him, then taller than the Buildings. At midday he brought food and sat beneath us sheltering from the weather. Many turns of the Earth were passed like this until the young man came to resemble the old man, and didn’t come as often. For many moons no People came at all. But the birds returned and we offered them shelter.

The young man, now old, came and last stood with us as we watched the Machines bring down the Buildings. Once again Construction emptied the Land before it made more, bigger Buildings go up, higher than our reach. The People came back but different, among them women and children. The Buildings are called Real Estate, shelter for the People.

We trees are few in number but stand here strong, Guardians yet, waiting still.”

​”It’s one of the most important sites there and is a major project in moving from a former workers’ precinct with brick-making and a tannery to a new residential masterplanned community with new street blocks and pedestrian laneways.”​
Erskineville’s newest housing project





26 thoughts on “I asked my neighbour about its life . . .

    1. Eucalypts make it feel like Australia/home. When I visited San Francisco quite some years ago there were Eucalypts everywhere and it really felt like I was in a different part of Australia rather than overseas in another country.
      Our eyes are open now to environmental issues but it’s such a long road back.


  1. Ahhh, yes.So lovely, Dee. Sad, too. Trees are more important to me than the sea, the beach, faraway hills and mountain streams – you’ve conveyed why here – and why the pursuit of Profitability is so senseless. Thank you.


    1. Trees are so immediate I think. Even in the city there’s usually the respite of a tree close by. Like humans, trees are citizens of the world. Unlike us, they are a benign presence.


  2. It’s a lovely story — or is it a fable? Old trees give such a sense of time, you can imagine all the people who have walked below them and the animals that have sheltered in them. You have captured that feeling so well. I especially love the Pacts. If only we were all able to live by them.


  3. It is incredible what an emotional impact trees have on us although I think we often don’t realize it. Obviously there are all the other benefits too…. One of my early memories is of my mothers sadness when a huge jacaranda had to come down in our back yard. Your beautiful writing reminded me of this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I once bought a block of land because of a tree; I knew it was the place. When I moved on, the last thing I did was say goodbye to the tree.
      Jacaranda’s are my favorite tree, we had one on my grandparents’ farm from which my Pa hung a swing for me, and we have 2 at Taylors Arm, in the front and back yard.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Beautiful post. I love the words “a balm to city life.” I remember getting a phone call many years back from my brother in Coffs saying his daughter had chained herself to a tree to stop development. He thought she was nuts and I thought she was a hero. Trees are the lungs of the earth and I just couldn’t imagine life without them xxx


    1. It’s amazing the difference the proximity to trees, gardens or even a potted plant makes to life.
      I’ve been telling the G.O. that when we escape city life one of my plans is to participate in some environmental protests… I’d be quite happy to chain myself to a tree if it could make a difference 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. What a lovely story. So many of our beautiful ancient redwood trees here in nothern California have been cut down and it is so sad.
    Elladee, have you read the Giving Tree from Silverstein ? It touches me every time I read it.


    1. Losing great, old trees really saddens me to. To make something from them beautiful and long standing is one thing and still a shame, but to simply destroy them for profit or convenience is quite another.
      I hadn’t read Giving Tree from Silverstein, but I looked it up; a poignant story. Thank you for pointing me to it 🙂


  6. Beautifully and sympathetically written, Dale. It made me sad, too. When we first moved into the house we have now lived in for 16 years, there was a vacant block on one side and a stand of native trees at the bottom of a housing block on the other side. Within a few years the local council allowed someone to build an inappropriate house on the vacant block, and on the other side the trees were all cut down to accommodate a swimming pool. I have mourned their loss ever since. Very much enjoyed this piece.


    1. Thank you. It may be fanciful but I see trees as sentient beings sharing life’s experiences with us. We consider those in our inner city proximity valuable companions much as we do neighbourhood cats.
      The loss of your neighbouring trees saddens me also. So many people are gungho in their attitudes, and I find myself promoting an alternative mindset… at least the G.O. and I are in agreement about what happens in our own backyard.

      Liked by 1 person

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