I’m not writing this blog from the verandah. I’m actually in a park on the bank of the Murray river just outside of Albury. This is my new favourite spot. It’s green and shady and the bank of the river is watched over by huge old gums. There’s something about the trees up here on the border. Something about their size, that makes me sure they’ve been here for ever. I’m staring at one between writing in my notebook. The tree I’m looking out is growing out of the bank of the river at a 60 degree angle. For all I know that tree could be a hundred years old. I love the notion that my enormous gum was putting down roots long before I was even born.
On a morning like this I like to think That tree has somehow been waiting for me to show up and take shade beneath its branches, and to be moved by its steadiness. A while back a mate of mine gave me a Leunig cartoon about the art of appreciating trees. The cartoon said to position yourself with your back against one tree and gaze up at another and breath. I read the cartoon and liked it so much I stuck it on the wall in my writing room. I’d glance at it from time to time and vowed to follow it’s instructions, but it wasn’t till I found myself on the border that I found myself falling in love with trees. It’s only now I understand with my heart what I thought I knew with my head.
I was talking to one of my neighbors recently about the park by the river and he said that the trees there give him energy. He asked me if I felt the same and I said I didn’t. Getting energy from a tree struck me as being a bit out there. I’m not much of a new age guy, spirits and energy and all that stuff leave me a bit sceptical. But despite my denials today I do feel like these old gums are changing the way I feel. There’s just something about that old tree that’s giving me a sense of peace, and maybe when I think about I suppose peace is a form of energy. As I sit here the writing is coming a bit easier, and the promise of life on the border becoming more meaningful.
The park here at Albury has been in the local news lately for reasons both positive and negative. On Australia day it will be filled with people celebrating our big day. There’ll be music and ceremonies and citizenship and new beginnings. But when I think about how the place will be buzzing I can’t help thinking about the tragedy that took place here just after the new year. On a scorching hot day an afghan immigrant came down to the river to cool off after a hard days work. The news of that poor mans death shook me up. Firstly because it happened in a place I’m growing to love and secondly I was sadden to hear that the man had no family here.
I wonder what it’s like to trek alone to a new country. I wonder what it’s like to learn a new language, to find work, to make a new start all on your own. It was a stinking hot day when the man drowned. But authorities said the combination of chilling cold water and a strong current had been to much for him. I can never imagine the fear the man felt when he realised the water was pulling him from his new found home.
I’ll be back here on Australia day to watch the celebrations. I’ll be back here soaking up the energy from the trees. But part of my heart will be sad cause I’ll be thinking about the poor man, so close to a new life and so very far away from home.