Born again in Darebin (circa 2069) [July 6]
I’m peeling again. Great strips of grey bark flaking off me. Feels good. I’m born again, a naked lemon-scented gum tree swaying in the Victoria St Glade in the Forest of Northcote in the Community of Darebin. And there’s a dead woman feeding me.
She died in her eighties back in the year 2039. Luckily there was a flurry of aged care policy changes in the 2020s when all those dementing Baby Boomers started wandering the streets. By the time she was struggling to remember her own name there were a dozen local government-run aged care villages in the Community of Darebin. She spent the last few years of her life living in one under the Westgarth St Glade.
Hard to believe most humans used to live above ground, using up all that earth we trees could have had. Mind you, they weren’t thinking of us when they started digging down. There were just too many of them to fit on the surface. Then they realized they could try to stop The Warming if they lived ‘downstairs’ and planted more of us ‘upstairs’. They’re a bit slow, humans, and a bit selfish. But they get there in the end.
Apparently my human feeder hadn’t planned to live in the Forest of Northcote for the rest of her life. When she turned sixty she flirted with the idea of moving to a bayside Community. She loved the beaches. But by then The Warming was really cranking up and there wasn’t much sand left. So she stayed up here on higher ground. She must have been relieved about that when the Great Bayside Flood of 2031 happened. Dreadful business.
Anyway she had a pretty good time in her last few years. Solar minibuses took her on day trips to the Mornington Island (used to be a peninsula, apparently, until the sea levels rose and they had to build those bridges). In her underground aged care village they had a replica of the original Westgarth Cinema. The residents could watch movies from the 2020s insta-dubbed into any of the 37 languages they spoke. Young people from Community of Darebin Creativity Crews performed plays and concerts for them and helped them write their memoirs. And when the residents had had enough of culture they could potter in the Westgarth St Glade veggie gardens with the Sustainable Food Crews.
It’s also hard to believe that most dead humans used to be cremated. All that carbon dioxide – what were they thinking? Luckily by the time my feeder passed away they’d cottoned on to composting. She had the location picked out and she even got to choose what species of tree would be planted above her. Me!
From my top branches now there’s a great view of the Merri Creek Forest to the south and the pretty wind turbines on Ruckers Hill to the north. When it’s blowing a gale I wave madly at them and I like to imagine they’re spin-waving back at me. Then I return to digesting my human, one delicious atom at a time.
(This essay was commissioned by the City of Darebin in June 2019)