I once had this dream. At the time I was 25 and at a bit of an emotional crossroads that had left me feeling particularly lonely and unloved.
In my dream I was a small child in a forest of giant trees. It was a dark and scary place. I was lost and weeping. I was totally alone. Then I felt the branches of a tree reach around and envelop me. I wondered if it was going to kill me. But the tree just held me. It held me for my entire dream – long after I stopped crying.
My dream was just about me being held by a tree. I had never felt so safe or so supported. I woke from that dream with a profound sense of connection to nature and a belief that there is a lot more going on in the world of trees than we realise.
Maybe that saying is true, and the human species really can’t see the wood for the trees. Perhaps trees are sentient beings, with innate adaptability, intelligence, with the capacity to communicate and the ability to heal. Not just other trees, but us too.
Who hasn’t walked in a forest and felt humbled by the quiet power of the leafy giants? Who hasn’t felt like they have entered another world? A softer, cooler, almost timeless place? Can you even describe what that feeling is? Awe is about the closest word I can find to describe it. I guess it’s what they try to emulate in churches or places of worship – a sense of the sacred. I have never felt that in a building – certainly not in looking at a tortured Jesus on a cross, but I have felt a sense of God, of a higher power in a forest. Along with their spiritual significance, trees are also habitat, they create oxygen and in this time of climate change they are our greatest allies – they’re a carbon sink.
There’s one thing you need to know about living in Mullumbimby: we don’t cut down trees. It’s bad juju. We LOVE trees. Hell, some of us have even chained ourselves to them.
The other day someone in my neighbourhood cut down a tree. One that is supposed to be protected by a ruling by the Land & Environment Court. Local residents were powerless to stop the chainsaw massacre of a 20-metre old-growth tree on what was supposed to be a protected ridgeline.
I live on this development too and the ridgeline was a big part of why we moved here. I felt privileged to have one beautiful teak actually on my property and a gracious 30-metre cudgeree as part of the corridor that was left as part of the development.
These trees are supposed to be protected by council tree-preservation orders but sadly those orders are in direct opposition to a 2013 law that allows home-owners in bushfire-prone areas (everywhere there is nature) to remove any tree within 10 metres of a house. The removal of a tree from a protected ridgeline sets a precedent for removal all through the entire development.
‘Safety’ wouldn’t be an issue if Council laws are to be properly enacted and DAs for residential dwellings not approved that close to a protected corridor. Otherwise we end up in situations of community conflict. I would think that wouldn’t need a ruling; it seems like a no-brainer.
Perhaps we need to learn to live with risk. It is almost impossible for us risk-averse humans to live in harmony with nature because we want to kill everything that poses a threat. Shark cull one week, tree cull the next.
To protect our homes we destroy the home of so many others. That one tree provided food and habitat for local koalas and black cockatoos, and was a nesting site for many other birds, mammals and insects. That tree was also part of a community of trees on the protected ridge and part of the Mooibal traditional walkway.
If you believe like I do that trees are sentient, then there will be a sadness in the trees that remain still. A sadness that deeply affects everyone. Especially those of us who love trees. Or should I say, those who respect trees.
If you have a native tree on or near your property, particularly a big tree, you are that tree’s caretaker. Take your responsibility seriously. Trees need our guardianship. Put the chainsaw down, walk into the forest and feel nature’s embrace.