14 July 2021

The tragic faraway tree weathered all storms bar one

| Sally Hopman
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A large tree in a paddock

The Tree that weathered all storms – except when it came to its own survival. Photo: Sally Hopman.

Sometimes, particularly if you’re a tree, you have to take a stand. Usually quite tall and always willing to branch out.

The best of such trees stood on top of a hill that I drove by every time I left the house.

It was so handsome it could have grown in any field it wanted to – I was just glad it chose the paddock near home. Because it was perched so high on the hill, it seemed able to predict the weather. It certainly knew when to shine – mostly when the sun was out.

It could do dark and moody almost as well as Jane Austen – usually just before rain.

It also, unlike the rest of us, always seemed to know which way the wind blew. It became home to so many birds: eagles, choughs, cockies and kookaburras – and everything flew and far between.

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It was the strong silent type. Regardless of how many times I sat under it and discovered the meaning of life, invented cake that made you skinny and found the secret to world peace, it remained upright, non-judgmental and never let its bark affect its bite.

Yes, The Tree was over the border on the neighbour’s property, but that’s just geography. It had to be a trillion or so years old judging by its height and girth, so clearly it could not belong to anyone remotely still alive.

I loved The Tree. I loved driving past it in the morning on my way into town but loved it more on the drive home at night. I was very mature about it, driving slowly past it, pretending I was Enid Blyton and that it was my very own Magic Faraway Tree. Except that it wasn’t really so far away – barely a click off the dirt road from my place.

I bored everyone about The Tree, taking its photo more often than had it been a favourite child. Instead of cute outfits, my pics showed it from every angle, roots and all.

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Then one day, I drove home and noticed that something was missing. Something really big.

I stopped the car and drove backwards for a bit. Not being very good at driving forwards, let alone backwards, I soon drove into a small mountain of sawdust – and lots of lumpy bits. The Tree. It was gone.

It turns out this glorious tree, like most heroines, was dying from the inside. The neighbour decided to give her the chop. A little too literally.

It’s hard to mourn a tree. Usually, they’re the things that help us not be sad by planting them over dead things. So I went out and bought a ute load of tube stock. Baby gum trees merely a few centimetres high, and I planted them everywhere. Mostly too close to each other. And the house. Other trees and fence lines.

Epitaph: The Tree. A cut above the rest.

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Beautifully written and echoes my feelings about the ancient gum in our back yard that has been dying for decades. It will have to go soon but I dread its loss.

I loved this eulogy to your tree, Sally. I wish everyone felt like this!

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