It begins with a tree, I saw it lain down on the side of the road, partly dissected and incomplete. A great glorious tree, now saw dust, leaves and broken limbs fallen from great heights. An urge overtook me, well it took a few days to put this urge into action. I went and found a quiet back path to the place of the fallen tree. I gathered, planning on taking only what I could carry in my bright blue ikea sack, and I sat and photographed, and just was present with the tree for a while.
I visited the tree again and again, slowly immersing myself in the parts of the tree, the bark, the wood, and the leaves that would only have such a short life now they were lain on the ground in piles. Some friends came too and we sat and talked about place and plants and connections. The last of the larger trunk was removed and taken away by a crane and truck. I thought the story was finished.
And that was the beginning, the trunk had been taken to the local tip for chipping, I went and asked the manager if I could take some photos, thinking this might be a nice addition to my small collection of fodder I planned to make a record from. I was asked my purpose, and told I could take the trunks if I wanted, ‘ooops’ now I really was neck deep in wood and ideas and possibilities. I felt I could not own the tree as the mass is far beyond my needs, and the responsibility of looking after a 200 plus year old tree was overwhelming. So I call myself a custodian of the tree.
A large tree, up to 50 m tall, bole straight and clear for more than one-half, up to 2 m in diameter. Bark decorticating over the whole trunk in large plates or flakes to leave a smooth or mat, mottled surface, white, grey or grey-blue; some rough, dead bark is frequently retained at the base of the tree. … source: Prosea
It grows to a height of from 20 to 50 metres, and a girth of up to 2 metres dbh . The trunk is straight, and is usually unbranched for more than half of the total height of the tree. Thereafter, limbs are unusually steeply inclined for a Eucalyptus species. The bark is shed in irregular sheets, resulting in a smooth trunk surface coloured in patches of white, grey and blue, corresponding to areas that shed their bark at different times. … source: Wikipedia
A learning on a larger scale has begun, I learned about trucks and cranes, and milling and drying. So now part of the wood sits at our local cafe, awaiting the next part of its life. And part of it is milled slowly drying at my place. The tree blew down in a storm I have been told, I am happy that it had reached the end of its life before it was removed. The project that I am working towards will be one of celebration, honouring, respect, and there will be other emotions and responses that emerge from participants.
The project will be two fold, firstly bringing workshops from facilitators, some local, some from further afield, to create learning and sharing of skills and ideas, in response to our resources, heritage and culture. Letting this grand tree bring connection through creativity both literal and conceptual, online and in real time. The second part will be an invitation to artists, community bodies and interested parties to put in a expression of interest to participate in making something either from the tree, or of the tree, or in response.
Listening to peoples responses so far is fascinating, some have an idea of what could be done with the large tree parts, things they would like to make. Others tell me about their connection to place, to trees, memories of childhood and trees and family, and yet others are connected through wildlife, bats, koalas all of which have a need for these types of trees. This is a lesson for me to just listen, as the stories of the everyday unfold, and so the project has already begun.
Resources of interest
The oldest living things in the world – an article about living treasures
Eucalyptus tereticornis botanical information and identification tools
Tree Line a Sunshine Coast initiative that celebrated the stories of trees and environment
Floating Land a Noosa Council initiative that celebrates environment and community
One Tree a UK project that involved 70 artists and 1 oak tree
Cooroora Institute Fig Tree Project and Songs of the Earth