Monday, January 20, 2014

The Morton Bay Fig


The dance of the fig tree wilderness disturbs my contemplation. I watch from behind a mass of veranda windows as the south-westerlies turn round the coastline to come in from the north and pulsate through the giant
fifteen-story-high fig tree in my back garden. As the boughs boogie to the music of the blue heavens, bird song comes to a halt. 

When all is still once more, when the cyclonic action soothes itself and diminishes, the birds chortle in celebration and then disappear again as the huge branches begin their subsequent encore.

This tree, several hundred years old, sheltered on a small plateau before the slope falls away into Rosalie village a few hundred feet beneath us, is multi-trunked with several strong girths intertwining, braiding if you will, to produce huge tree-trunk sized branches that reach up into the skies like a bouquet in a vase two blocks in diameter.  The dancing outer branches twirl in the wind, never quite settling. 

When the gusts arrive the entire monolith moves in all its parts. Branches arrange themselves in conjunction with one another.  The filigree of green ostrich feathered green leaves allow the sunlight of noon to shimmer off  various surfaces.

The slender end branches pirouette, dance in circular forms up and down with the movement of the larger tree trunk sized branches as they move liquidly through the blue. The power inherent in the scene can have frightening qualities accompanying the lovely aesthetic of the tree moving like lace curtains at once dainty and at the same time cyclonic.

The sound, like a far off set of waves coming into shore, quiets as the winds slow. Still the shaking shimmering leaves dance in what is left of their remembered movement. Slowly the dance comes to peaceful stillness until the next gust arrives with full force to move the huge branches. They are full of the strength inherited from roots anchored deep into the earth of this Paddington hillside. Down below near the earth itself nothing moves. The stolid, rounded several trunks hold firm.

 Nothing has broken. No gust has been sufficient to pull the giant from the ground nor even to dislodge the strength of any of its branches from the mother itself.  I know sometimes this has happened.   There are dead branches like huge pythons lying beneath.  However, today no part of the tree seems ready to capitulate, to separate, to crack from the pressure, to lose it's hold on the dance.
Nothing else of similar size grows in this part of the neighborhood.  There are other trees, a macadamia, for instance, and several palms, but the trunks of each of these is less than by half the size of huge limbs of the fig.  

Finally, at a pause in the windstorm, the butcher bird calls to his mate. He knows the next wind will come and warns her to take shelter from the violent dance in the safer haven of the macadamia.