Let’s talk trees. In fact, why bother talking, let’s write to trees.
I thought it was only the heir to the British throne who had a reputation for hugging our green frondy friends, spouting poetry into their lofty limbs, and emitting a regal air of arboreal abundance. It turns out that hundreds of Melburnians – yes, you and me, and him over there – are in the daily habit of actually writing to trees. Short messages on SMS, whole passages of purple prose, screeds of words on the leaves of notebooks.
There’s one fine Golden Elm on Punt Road, which receives hundreds of emails each year. Yes, Hundreds. ‘Dear Tree’, begins one such message, not yet on first name terms, ‘ if you are that big round beautiful low hanging tree, I think you are my favourite tree. Such beauty in such an ugly road.’ (Which may be a tad unfair on Punt Road, although having sat in an interminable traffic jam there last week, maybe not). The anonymous message concludes with the rather cryptic imprecation: “Keep up the good work.”
In fact, Melbourne’s trees – all 77,000 of them – have a Name (usually two: the common version and the scientific one), an Address (‘on the corner of Letsby Avenue’) and a Number (“I am a tree, not a number!”) and they form a virtual woodland called the ‘Urban Forest’ that was established six years ago, with its own interactive website, promotional video, range of T-shirts, and syndicated merchandise. But it’s the messages that really resonate. It seems that we really like writing to trees. Over 3,000 treemails have been received by the elms, planes, and gums that beautify our sprawling metropolis. Some of them are even answered: ‘So lovely to be appreciated. I am lucky to be well looked after’, then a link to the tree’s webpage, and a perky cheerio from ‘Your special elm’.
I’m trying to suspend my disbelief, to keep a grasp on reality. I mean I’m still wavering about Father Christmas, but emailing trees? So I implore you, log on to the site * (refer to the link at the bottom of this blog) and you can learn about the nearest branch of urban forest in your neighbourhood. I’m delighted to discover that the two pink-limbed giants on the roundabout near the vast cemetery in Carlton are on the protected list; gladly, the two immense lemon scented gums (‘Corymbia’ to the scientists amongst you), are fully expected to live at least 60 years despite the vortex of exhaust fumes they suffer every day.
Discovering this fabulous on-line resource compensated for the acres of burned and charred trees that surrounded me while wild camping in the Grampians last month. And it made me feel better about the thousands of neat conical Balsam Fir and Norway Spruce that are lopped in their youth to decorate our Christmas lobbies and halls. Hence the title to this unseasonal blog: a tinsel-tagged Christmas Tree goes to the Doctor feeling unwell; after a short diagnosis the medic says: “it’s OK you’ve just got tinsillitis.” Beats my other favourite surgery joke: ‘Man visits his GP. Doctor, I can’t help myself, I keep wanting to do impersonations of Tom Jones!’. To which the Doctor, unconcerned, replies: ‘It’s not unusual’.