અલી ગુમિલિયા બેકર | Knowledge of Trees

By and | 1 October 2016

There are river gum trees, massive old bodies that exist from the time before white people came to this land. Some of these trees in Adelaide on Kaurna land live beside rivers that are no more, rivers that have been made into concrete storm water drains. Some of these trees have old names from the time before this time. At one time many people knew the name of this tree or that tree. Now the trees are strangers in the landscape. Many who live near them do not know or imagine their long place in the world.

These are the gnarly old gums with the wide wide trunks. If you all stand with your arms outstretched and join hands maybe you can work out how old the tree is. It feels good to press up and hold their old energy.

Bearing witness to all of the horror that came with modernity.

The knowledge of the names for trees gives me hope. Not names for genus groups or the types of trees, but individually named old trees. Once you have been here for generations you deserve a magical name. Beings that stand still in the landscape.

The place near where they lived had an oldness about it that made you want to rest your head. It was a place of important ceremony. We were protected by trees that were so old they took your breath away. Trees that were so large whole flocks of birds could rest there. Loud screeching birds calling news at sunset and then again at sunrise.

She loved the neglected in-between land next to the airport. She loved the feeling of space, the views of the hills in the distance foregrounded with the small city. The sky so big. More sky than earth here, almost like the place where her Nan was from.

This was one of those spaces that had been forgotten for one reason or another, like the bits of concreted land in the middle of a busy intersection, all dusty and polluted. It was edged with what was once an old creek that had since been concretised and transformed into a stormwater drain. On the other side of the drain creek was a highway where cars travelled fast back and forth from their original destination pathway. Either to the tourist beach or the discount stores.

The cars and the wind over the tarmac blew rubbish up against the cyclone fence with razor wire at the top. Weeds grew in the dried up clay soil. And most people who came near this space were well on their way to elsewhere, imagining themselves in some bigger more important place, some place more beautiful, projected to their next destination, clutching at their bags looking nervously to each other as they took to the sky. They tried not to think about the ground below, tried to detach themselves. Planes took off and people parked their cars in little car parks to watch.

The land on the edge of the airport had not been loved in a long time.

It was what cultural theorists might describe as an interstitial space, like the cavity that holds the lungs in preparation for breath. Between one place and the next. Like the hallway between two languages, the space of translation.

The young woman felt like she could relate to this space, uncared for but with amazing views, neglected except by the imagination. Baudrillard called it the desert of the real. Rotting at the edges.

A rubbish place, a place to call home and learn to love again.

 


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