The Spiral Tree (takayna)
With the upcoming "Tarkine in Motion" exhibition I can't help but reminisce back to a trip I made out to takayna in March, 2019. I remember sitting with my paints engulfed by a recently clear-felled coupe. It had rained that morning, and the poignant smell of moist Eucalypt heartwood steamed through the jagged and splintered wreckage.
In the center of the flattened coupe touching the heavens stood a Eucalyptus Regnan. Regnans can grow to hundreds of meters tall and are known for being the tallest flowering plants in the world. The weighted trunk spiraled and twisted its way up into the cornered branches above. Judging by the disconformity of girth between the trunk and the canopy this tree had been topped, not by the touch of man but something natural, possibly a lightening strike, or by the sway of heavy winds. From this it had recovered, and undoubtedly continued its watch over the surrounding forest it shared. Together they provided shelter and food to the biosphere they harbored.
I set up my easel and began to paint. The spiral tree was so massive I had to revise my plan to fit its entirety onto a small 12x16 canvas. I recalled how Michelangelo used techniques of foreshortening, carving David's hands larger than life to create a believable interpretation for the viewers below. I took a similar route, exaggerating the trunk and tapering the canopy above.
I painted under the supervision of a Wedge Tailed Eagle perched high on the border between what had been cleared and what remained. The eagle watched me diligently as I began contrasting the eucalypt foliage to the orange stumps below. If you brushed away the splinters you could count the rings revealing the various trees ages. This coupe reminded me of walking the streets of Hobart, passing by humans of all ages. Soon this lot will be planted with Eucalypt regrowth, and after the bare minimum of 30 years, they'll be felled again.
I turned 31 this year, surely there is someone or something trying to clear-fell me in some way or another.
As I packed up my paints I paused for moment to show my gratitude and respect to such an outlier of life. I thought even the forestry service has respect for the bounty they harvest, leaving a stoic centurion as a symbol of thanks to the resources they export.
A light wind began to sweep through the Spiral Tree's branches and the Wedge Tail Eagle took flight, soaring off into the distance. After the eagles departure I felt a break in moral and the spiral tree had lost its confidence. Though its roots were planted it told me how it had lost all communication with the forest around it. It heard foreign roars, felt shaking ground, and smelled toxic fumes.
*Explain to me what you see little painter, is my family ok?
Your family has been removed.
Let's see, how do I put this...
The forest that you've watched over for so long was approved of being cut down and exported over seas to use as building materials, wood chip$, and paper. This must be difficult for you to understand, for our tools and machines have appeared in the blink of an eye, and just as like, taken away that which was.
What now is, is no longer what was.
*"Thus is life" whispered the Regnan, and the breeze died from its leaves.
In April I returned to takayna to gather more field studies before the final leg of my project. Upon my eager reacquaintance with the Spiral Tree I was met with an empty horizon. There it lay, uprooted and fallen, reunited with its family that was.