Suddenly the sun was shining, the wind had dropped and the sky was clear. I knew this was the perfect day for my pilgrimage to Western Springs Road. Would the trees still be there after all these years?
I’ve been writing about the gum trees in a talk on ‘The Sacred in Nature’ that I’m preparing for a conference. Saving those trees was my first piece of environmental activism. I would often walk to sit under them during breaks from writing my thesis on Thomas Hardy, and listen to the sound of the wind in the leaves. Hardy taught me to listen carefully to the sounds of nature, and as I learned to listen to the gums, I grew to love them.
But the council wanted to fell the lot in order to revegetate the hillside with natives. I wrote letters, and got friends to do the same. When the council found out that people cared, the plan was changed to include the gums along with the new planting.
And there they still are, mature now, stretching high into the clouds. Their limbs are naked, silky and sinewy. I ate my lunch with my back against one of the tallest, and listened to their rustling leaves, just as I used to in my twenties.
The natives now form a bushy cover over the hillside, and the gums along the roadside rise high out of that foliage. They co-exist beautifully, as I knew they would.