I’ve been sitting here for over a week now; occasionally I get up for a pee, or to eat, and at night I crawl into my tent to sleep. Apart from that though, I’m content under this old tree.
My tree’s so far from my day-to-day city life; nothing hurried here, occasionally a bird lands up there to peck at things, or preen itself, or serenade me before flying off to find something else to peck at , or preen itself, or sing a song to.
The Buttercups open to the Spring dawn and close again to the sunset like some ancient ritual of sun-worship; all day long their faces follow the sun, glowing like minute replicas of their God – a much nicer symbol of belief that most of the images used in our religions.
From time-to-time the bees will visit the shining, gold of the buttercups and buzz busily over them, landing to collect nectar and pollen then move quickly to the next flower until they seem to groan under the weight of their bounty. Finally they fly, straight as an arrow, towards the old hollow tree where their hive is to deliver their load in the endless cycle of work that is their lives; the bees remind me of so many people I know in my other world, working themselves to death without dreams or futures. The main difference is that the bees do it for the benefit of their community and improve the world around them as they do so, whereas our system is to the benefit of ourselves and to the detriment of the world around us.
From my vantage point at the base of my tree, I can watch the comings and goings of a myriad of different insects as they scurry about on the ground or dart through the air around my tree. Heavy beetles regularly make the laborious journey to some unknown, but no doubt important, beetle destination. Clambering over small stones and blades of grass with the determination only a beetle can have, these little creatures never let any obstacle stop them in their quest.
Ants rove far and wide, like packs of marauding scavengers, in their ever-urgent search for food; the jackals of the insect world. For almost an hour yesterday, I watched as hordes of ants swarmed over a luckless beetle, at first the beetle just plodded on its journey; after a while the ant’s attack intensified and the beetle frantically attempted to defend itself. Stung again and again it slowly weakened; slowly its battle against the frenzied attack of the ants faded into insignificance and its body was almost hidden by the writhing mass of ants that tore it to pieces while its remaining legs vainly tried to fend off their onslaught. Bit-by-bit, the beetle was carted away, until finally there was no evidence of its existence except for a small cycle of ground raked clean by the frantically struggling legs that now filled the larder of the ant colony; its beetle destiny suddenly brought to an end by a chance meeting on its intended life journey.
I settled back into my seat and wriggled my bum to settle it more comfortably into the soft, mossy ground at the base of my tree. From time-to-time my eyes leave the microcosmic life of the insect world to gaze out over the lush little valley below me. The ground slopes down gently from my tree, the thinly treed slope ending abruptly where the little creek dances its way down to reach the river which is the sum of all the little creeks that run off the mountain.
It’s Spring and the snow has melted filling the top of the mountain with water, so all these creeks are flowing fast with crystal clear water that still has the icy hand of snow in it; the sort of water that always feels like a breath of fresh air on a hot Summers day. Even though it’s an extra weight, I always carry a glass with me on these journeys, for the sheer joy of seeing that water sparkle in its clarity before I feel its soothing caress on my mouth and throat; each morning, before I do anything else I stroll down to the creek for that awakening glass of water. One glassful of that water will give me the surge of energy I’ve seen people spend years taking drugs to try to achieve.
On the other side of the creek, the slope runs steeply up towards the snowline where tall and stately Alpine Ash give way to the twisted, gnarled forms of the Snowgums; these stunted little trees with their dense, hard wood live for several months of the year covered in a thick blanket of snow.
Every evening, several Eastern Grey Kangaroo venture out onto the semi-clear slope beneath me to graze on the succulent grasses growing there; each evening I make dinner before the roos come out so I can quietly eat while I watch the herd graze. Beautiful, delicate animals, they seem to have a collective consciousness that keeps them safe; while the herd feeds, one of their number always has its head up on lookout. Whenever that roo puts its head down to eat, another head will rise from somewhere in the widely scattered herd; with no apparent signal the guard will change so that all get a chance to eat but the herd is always protected.
All my movement during the time the roos are down have to be slow and careful; one wrong move and the lookout roo will stamp one of its big back feet as it starts to run and this noise will set the entire herd into immediate flight.
A couple of days ago I even had a visit from a Dingo; her twitching nose seemed to taste the air as she made her way tentatively across the clear ground, utilising every tiny piece of cover as she moved and freezing mid-step at every sound or movement she couldn’t immediately identify. I wondered as she went if she was on her way to or from a hunt, or did she have a litter nearby and so was coming to check-out this strange interloper into her domain, or perhaps she was just passing through. I knew I’d never know the answer to any of these questions; any move by me would see the flighty beast in her startled and she would be gone like the wind.
I only have one more day with the freedom of my tree, then it will be time to pack my gear for the day long hike back to my car. It will be nearly midnight before I reach the sanctuary of my own home and curl up in a “real” bed for the first time in weeks; I know I’ll appreciate the comfort but it will take me a days to feel comfortable in the city again.
The noise is always the worst; the constant background roar of the traffic, with the occasional shriek of a horn or siren to assault my ears. The constant blaring assaults of radio and TV tear through my inner calm like the serrated edge of a bread knife cutting through bread for my breakfast toast. Every car horn and screaming engine will grate at the stillness left in my heart by my tree, and the foul air will bite at my throat with every breath.
On Monday I’ll force my car through the screaming confusion that is called “Rush Hour” and fight the usual battle for a parking space in the multi-story carpark before I trudge off to the office for another day shuffling documents around my computer .and trying to ignore the office gossip and back-biting politics that fills the life of workers everywhere.
The guys at work will compliment me on my tan and make good-natured jibes about not noticing I was gone, before asking what I did for my holidays; as it was every year my answer would bring laughter from all and sundry.
My answer’s the same every year; “I sat under a tree” I’ll say with a quiet smile.