My friend the tree

by | Feb 24, 2022 | Uncategorized | 12 comments


Pōhutukawa love to stretch and yawn, to lean their limbs out into space, even as their roots remain firmly anchored in cliffs and solid ground.
In the park where I walk, one such ancient tree has stretched a mighty limb out over the path. The bushy end of the limb curves over to the bank beyond, forming a large archway. My walking buddy had to stoop but I could walk underneath with ease.


One day, I noticed my head seemed closer to the arching limb as I walked underneath.

On searching the main trunk, I discovered a crack. Over the following weeks, I watched the crack open up a little more. Wider fissures appeared, and after a while, I had to duck a little to walk under the arch.

I knew this mighty limb was reaching the end of its life.

During this time, in another city, a friend was dying after a long illness.

The threat of collapse

The cracks opened further. The arch dropped to the point where I no longer cared to walk underneath in case the branch collapsed on me. I circled around the trunk instead.


Then a cyclone swept in, tearing branches, leaves, and twigs off all the trees until the ground was littered with broken pieces. Slender branches crawled on the ground like giant spiders or stick insects.


When I walked along the path I saw that the pōhutukawa limb had crashed. Fresh ginger coloured wood and dust showed the savage tearing at the trunk. I could imagine the sound and maybe the pain of severance.

Two days earlier, my friend had died.

Clean up

When I returned to the park the day before her funeral, the path was clear. The council had done a tidy job, leaving no trace of the bushy head.


Then I saw the limb itself, where after being neatly cut it had been laid carefully along the edge of the path. Shooting up vertically from it are several healthy miniature trees-to-be, new life arising from the old.
One day they will form an avenue alongside the parent tree as the limb itself gradually returns to earth, finally laid to rest.

Limbs will fall, dear ones will pass.

Through quiet reflection, we can harvest
whatever comes into our lives and seek meaning.

Blessings to you through seasons of loss and seasons of growth,


I take refuge in you, Mother Earth. I do not have to go anywhere
to find you; you are already in me and I am already in you.

—Thich Nhat Hahn, Love Letters to the Earth, IV



For more on the seasons, loss and growth, check out my books:

Celebrating the Southern Seasons

Dancing with the Seasons

Sun, Moon, and Stars


  1. Hilary Foged

    Juliet thank you for the timeliness of this beautiful reflection as I too have had a dear friend die today.

    • Juliet Batten

      Much love to you, dear Hilary. We have both been walking with grief. May nature hold you.

  2. Arafelle

    Thank you Juliet, timely for me too. I’ve been reflecting on death much recently with anniversaries of the births and deaths of friends passed, deaths of friends of friends present, garden plants shredded by cyclone winds and the death of a retired old hen of our laying flock. Feeling knowing the spirit of Life that flows on and through all of the impermanence is a gift of Grace.

    • Juliet Batten

      The losses seem to accumulate as we grow older. Thank you for your beautiful comment, Arafelle, that includes the spirit of life flowing through the impermanence; something we need to remember.

  3. Jocelyn Winters

    Dearest Juliet,
    The timing is also perfect, as it often is, for me as I lost my dog yesterday. She will be buried to nourish the fruit trees she used to run past… the cycle of death and life continues.

    • Juliet Batten

      Oh Jocelyn, that is a big loss. How wonderful that she will nourish the fruit trees and feed the cycle of life and death. Much love to you in your grief.

  4. Kathryn Drew

    Oh how beautiful that you documented this story and the way it corresponded to your friend… so important to realise that death and decay are vital elements of the cycle. Thank you for sharing this. How wonderful that they left the limb there instead of chopping it up and removing it 🙂

    • Juliet Batten

      Thank you, Kathryn. I am loving the responses that are flowing in, showing recognition of the cycle of death and life. I thank the unknown arborist who made this decision to leave the limb. I will be watching it over the coming year.

  5. Nicola

    Grief is with me too. Loved this unfolding story – every sentence capturing me and as lead us from one stage to the next I noticed feelings of re-assurance – it’s all going to be ok. Thank you Juliet

    • Juliet Batten

      Thank you Nicola. Knowing that nature goes through these cycles over and over brings reassurance for me too.

  6. Mary Shields

    Thank you, Juliet! This article touched me deeply as I (and so many I know) are walking with grief right now. I especially love the circle of life and death in the limb that is giving birth to new trees.

    • Juliet Batten

      Thank you Mary. Yes, so many walking with grief. I am watching the limb, and see it being fed by the main tree.


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