Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Life and Limb

Who hasn't had the debate with family or friends
over when you would pull the plug?
At what point is quality of life so bad
that quantity just doesn't matter any more?

Most of us might consider it when we couldn't think or move;
most of us would probably consider a time
when we couldn't communicate or tend to ourselves
a deal breaker in the game of life.
Some of us would want to dig our heels in
till we naturally take our last breath.
After all, the instinct to survive is a strong one.

Imagine starting life 100 years ago.
You grew up in the sunshine and the fresh air;
surrounded by the green earth and the blue sky.

Now imagine that, at the age of 100,
in an effort to keep you alive as the world progresses around you,
you have been poked and prodded
and put into a facility that allows you to stay alive
while those of us around you can admire you and your beauty
and pat ourselves on our backs at a job well done
at preserving our history.

Now imagine that you are an 18 metre tall River Red Gum tree.

OND 2011

Over $1 million Australian dollars have been spent
as part of a local shopping centre redevlopment at Burnside Village,
solely to save this tree which had previously been in an outdoor location.
While I appreciate the sentiment and the effort made to keep it alive,
I wonder if it would chose to live this way.

The roof over it has a gap to allow for air circulation,
there is an eleven metre protection gap around its tree roots
and it is basically a pot plant
with its own water supply and underground deck for fertilisation and watering.

I guess as it grows, it will be pruned back to fit into its designated living space.

Our city of Adelaide revelled in the tag of being
the only home to Giant Pandas in the Southern Hemisphere.

Now we can add the dubious tag of housing
what I guess would be the only potted, indoor 18 metre tree
in the southern half of the world;
perhaps even the whole world.

"I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth's flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day, 
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain"

Joyce Kilmer,  1886–1918

I think that Kilmer might have been visualising something a little different. 
OND 2011
Not a tree which we get to sit underneath with our shopping bags, sipping our coffees,
looking up (through the netting placed underneath to protect us from any falling branches)
at its sadly out of place magnificance.

When I showed my children last week,
I explained that, while it was a noble sentiment that people wanted to save this beautiful tree,
 I was saddened when I saw what had become of it.
But I wonder how many children will now grow up thinking that a tree in a shopping centre
is nothing strange or sad.

I also wonder if the tree would have chosen a dignified passing
rather than have us chose this future for it.


Kate said...

How bizarre!
We humans are so weird.

How are you?
I miss our emaily chats.
Not long now and we'll be back and I'll have proper wifi.


soho stitch said...

I wonder also how many people will only ever get close to a tree when they can sit under it surrounded by the trappings of urbanization but then will they actually notice??

H said...

You know, I stayed up too late again last night so I am tired. That's my excuse. Because I cried about the tree. It's the poem too. That was the tipping point. One of my Dad's favourite quotes.
No doubt they thought, we can't get rid of it so we'll just have to make a feature of it and then pat ourselves on the back and convince everyone else how wonderful we are.