Published by: Digital Schools
The Ironbark Maiden.
The branches hung as chandeliers, drooped and lowered in a vertical canopy with tassels of steely green leaves. Bunches of tiny candy-coloured blossoms bobby in amongst the leaves, and I reached up to try and catch the branch overhead, but it was too high.
The tree itself buried into a crumbling concrete retaining wall, cracked blackened bark that is leaked its sap; it leaned into the now fake bank of the Yarra – its back aching with the effort.
Like all of them along this walk, this tree isn’t well.
I scrutinize the leaves, and like almost all the eucalyptus in the area, it is infected with a mould. The tree dispels onto itself a sticky coating – it is a callout for assistance to aid its affliction. I feel my whole body drop inside- it is too sad to see such a beautiful tree in this unhappy state.
And so I stand a while with her, ‘the ironbark maiden’ holding her leaves as friends hold hands, sharing a message of friendship before I head home along the river.
Our river doesn’t glint and ripple with crystalised light or dancing sparkles. Our river churns and grinds, rolls, and rumbles as a thick brown liquid – the colour of muddied water in a dried-up damn.
Today she is heaving with extra water, the banks are almost broken, and in the Sulley of her streaks, whirls and coils are spinning – the current is fast and deep. That’s what it means, and I call Neumann back from the bank where he is drinking from.
It’s too wide and too fast for him to swim if he falls in there, and I would likely drown too. That’s what is so deceiving about rivers, especially this one. Unless you know it well, the depth and speed a river such as the Yarra has are deadly.
I grew up on a big river, one of the biggest in the world. Much more dangerous than this one, but no river that runs brown should ever be misjudged.
I recall the words from a historian I recently listened to -that people generally have a hard time visualising what the ancient past looked like. And she is right.
Walking the Yarra home, I try to imagine the deep time and what it was like here, where I walk now, and I simply can not.