I did. How could I help it? From the balcony of my apartment I look out on it every day. Beyond the cypress, and in front of the sea, there it stands through all seasons. In summer it leafs greenly, and in autumn turns to yellow. You will have seen this tree before in my blog posts.
In winter when the leaves drop, it flares brightly, for this is a flame tree. Its lower branch holds a swing for children to use. They live in the apartment block next door, and I often hear their laughter.
The tuis flock from far and wide to sip nectar from flowers. I hear them chortling and croaking in the branches as they flit, black and sleek between the red cups of nectar.
At the end of the day, the setting sun caresses the sturdy trunk and sets the flowers aglow all over again.
Every morning as I exercise or eat my breakfast on the balcony, my eyes sweep out and over this tree. It is my daily companion. And so, I fell in love. Love at first sight, to tell you the truth, but also a love that grows tenderly over the years.
And so, dear reader, you can probably imagine how I felt when I heard the chain saw screaming through the air.
My client saw it first. ‘A branch has just fallen from the tree,’ he said. ‘You’ll have a better view of the sea now.’
I didn’t want a better view of the sea. I wanted my tree.
By the time my client had left, and I dared to look out, many major branches had already been cut.
These photos were taken in haste, not like the loving, lingering photos of the whole tree that you saw earlier.
I phoned the Council immediately. ‘We’ll check the Resource Consent,’ they said.
I put on my coat and ran. Ran up our steep driveway and out the gate. Ran along the street and round the corner. Ran down to the piece of public land that runs along towards the tree on the neighbour’s property.
‘Who’s in charge?’ I asked the lounging workmen, waiting with their empty truck to take the debris away. ‘No one,’ they said and laughed.
I ran towards the tree. One man was tied to the top, and another on the ground held the ropes.
‘It’s coming down,’ said the bloke on the ground, and laughed, showing gaps in his teeth.
But the bloke up the tree understood. He stopped the chain saw.
‘The trunk has rot in it,’ he said. ‘We’re removing the weight from all these branches so that it doesn’t fall over.’
‘We are trying to save the tree.’
My pounding heart began to slow down.
He got the other guy to take me round the back of the trunk. I had to scramble over a tangle of cut limbs and bushy foliage. Sure enough, I saw the rot, and understood what they were doing.
As I left, I passed the neighbours who had come out of their apartments to watch. A suave gentleman called out mockingly, and the other workmen did too.
‘The pohutukawas are going next,’ they jeered. As I left I heard their laughter.
Dear reader, never fall in love with a tree.
You may be seen as a crazy old woman or man.
But when the chain saw tears through the branches, you will feel as if your own limbs are being severed. And when you look out in your favourite direction in the morning, and see the damage, it will hurt. Even though it’s all for your own good.