Tree of Life

By Peter Stagg

Photo by Barbara Oehring.

Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton might well have a 143 storey treehouse full of all sorts of amazing childish wonders, but I have to remind you that theirs is not the only magical tree. The Magic Faraway Tree might be right up there as a Silver Medal candidate, challenged closely by the many mythological trees, sacred trees, scar trees, Celtic trees, and witchcraft trees. The Black Stump retains its own category.

Indeed they are all special, however, there is only one tree that I believe takes the gold medal. Now I am in no way biased, but that tree happens to be at my place. Conflicted? Not at all. It’s true. May I explain.

For a start it’s real. I see it every day. It’s a hybrid Eucalypt rising twenty metres high and fifteen metres wide, filtering our view of the Glenfern Valley and Port Phillip Bay, shedding its detritus and  its possum poop, filling our spouts and occasionally dropping a hefty branch on our balcony, and yet we love it.

The tree is a multi-coloured feathered menagerie. Every bird in the neighbourhood (Black Cockatoos aside) visits us on a regular basis, all trying in their own way to camouflage themselves among the shimmering multi coloured foliage. The most polite visitors are the King Parrots who quietly fly into the tree, then follow us around the windows to make sure we have seen them. They always get the biggest feed bowl. The noisiest are the Rainbows who come in numbers, screech until breakfast is served, then re-enact the Battle of Britain as they fight each other for their rights. It’s a treat to watch. Our tree is a source of audio and visual entertainment, a source of late afternoon shade, but mostly it’s a source of observation, beauty and learning.

On one hot, hot night I was sitting out on the deck on my comfy chair with a quiet refresher. I had noticed that the movie, Gladiator, was coming up on the TV. I hadn’t been a Russell Crowe fan, but thought I’d give it a look.

I swung the TV around to face outside, and sat with my back to the tree. There was barely a breeze. The only other sound was the regular zapping of mosquitos on that blue light thing on the other end of the deck. They work, don’t they!

The movie started. It caught me. It drew me in. But at some point I became restless, as if I wasn’t alone. It was as if someone was watching me.  Just as Commodus was about to cop it on the end of Maximus’s javelin I heard the slightest of shuffles. I turned slowly and there, barely a metre behind me, nestled together in our tree of life were two Tawny Frogmouths staring at the telly. One was maybe 450mm tall and the other half that. My first thought was – this is an M15+ movie. Should you really be watching this? It didn’t deter them at all. They stayed till the end then disappeared during the credits, like most of the patrons of the Cameo. 

Just another lesson in life. I’ve never watched that movie again. They never came back. Proof enough. Tawny Frogmouths like Gladiator movies.  Interesting!

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