I plant little trees. My neighbours cut big ones down.

I am standing in my kitchen, cutting peaches and plums into jars. The peaches are golden, derrières. The plums are black bleeding hearts.

It is just right — sweet, and saucy — and it pleases me. Tomorrow, I am somewhere else, where I will not know myself, but today was mine. I said not a word to a soul. There were lots of them though, in my head. They ran through it, fluent, like water. It was a breathless, sultry day, after rain in the night. I am simply, quietly happy.

Outside stands an ancient pine, bent, as old men are, by a lifetime’s weather. Creatures live there, and creatures visit. He has been living under the axe. I plant little trees. My neighbours cut big ones down. “It goes like this, in the wind,” she said, referring to the pine, and shifting, fractionally. I said nothing. I felt that my face said it all. We live, side by side, in mutual incomprehension. They are speedway fans. I potter, grubby-fingered, in the shade, coaxing good eating from the soil, trying to get shelter to grow, and just to let things be.

I know that today is the day. I can hear the chainsaw, revving and farting next door. I can see a ladder.

The tree cracks, the ground shakes. It feels like an act of God, but it is not. One old limb, then another, crashes down. It was the work of a hundred years, this is the work of minutes. It was the past, and the future, too. The monkeys gibber and cheer. The light in my kitchen changes. An afternoon, two idiots, and history is gone.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Comments (7)

by Ian MacKay on February 16, 2011
Ian MacKay

As much as I love trees last year another fellow (from DOC) and I killed 61 pine trees in two days. Drill holes in trunk. Pour in weedkiller. Month later its dying. Like rust spreading, the trees die off and slowly disintegrate. Murder you might say. But the aim in the Sounds is to be rid of pines growing in the wrong time in the wrong place. On our section I planted 3 Rimu trees and many little natives, but pine trees outside a plantation? No thanks!

You sadness Claire is understood but let there be light!

by Pat on February 16, 2011

Old pine trees do have a habit of falling over in a decent storm, or at the very least dropping a roof-destroying branch or two.  Maybe your neighbours had personal safety in mind.



by Raymond A Francis on February 16, 2011
Raymond A Francis

One of the down sides of planting trees is how easy it is for someone else to cut them down before their time

Still going to keep planting though

by Claire Browning on February 16, 2011
Claire Browning

Yes, yes. It was an old character, though, on an otherwise pretty blasted heath.

Received local wisdom seems to be that tree-planting is a waste of time, if not a downright public nuisance. There is a very special local pruning method (other than the ground-level one), that involves chopping off the branches. All of the branches ...

My theory is that if everyone planted trees and, you know, let them grow, the wind would not hurtle through them quite as quick.

by tussock on February 17, 2011

Very old trees do fall down on their own, and 100 years is about the limit for the dear old pinus radiata. We've got some down by the river we're letting go naturally for now, well away from everything solid, but it's not the safest option.

And yes, they do stop the wind, no cold southerlies at our house. So will the younger trees inside them when they're gone, as will the next lot we plant in their place, should we still be here to do so.

But trees should all be a good 25m from any house or shed, because heavy rain followed by high wind will cost them branches, so matter what state they're in.

by Claire Browning on February 17, 2011
Claire Browning

I'm on my own here, I can see ... who knew, you were all so bloody literal.

I think that I should have said, of the words: "There were lots of them though, in my head. They came shyly out, from wherever they usually hide, knowing that, today, they wouldn't be shown to anyone."

And, "I cut up the hearts. This is what happens to them."

by Claire Browning on February 17, 2011
Claire Browning

PS. That probably needed a smiley ...

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