The sky is my Father.
My mother, earth.
I grew up to let light between forest and cloud.
My brother made the ocean his home.
But we share the same scaled skin.
You took to my family with blade and fire and steel.
Dragged them to your houses and ships.
The tide is turning.
Wring your hands
while our wounds weep ambergris.

JANE BERNEY | Kauri | New Zealand

‘No longer’ suggests that it is no more, however in this climate of change,  I am choosing to interpret these two words as transformative rather than an ending (don’t get me started on ‘endlings’). A transformation; which you could apply to every tree on this planet, but I’m going to relate it to a structure/specimen on my land that I call the ‘aerial tree’. ( No imagination required here.) 

 It is not a tree. It is a laboratory of life. An apartment building of feathered dwellers. It looks as if it has been struck by lightning on a nightly basis, and still reaches its branches upwards, crookedly, triumphantly. Fingers to the sky. 

This laboratory. Where feathered lives are hatched and despatched. A heron, with its knitting needle legs took the very top floor for its residence.  Sparrows and magpies catastrophise every passing insect. 

What is the tree when it is no longer a tree?  A United Nations of plumage. Rainbow coloured scatterbrains from across the Tasman chatter to their crew; this is their hood. Orchestral tui take up their positions for dawn and dusk recitals. 

Every now and then a piece of branch plummets, pierces the ground below; pine cones like small bombs nestle ominously in the grass. At the very top balances an old television aerial that was installed by the previous, nimble, owner of this land. 

What is a tree when it’s no longer a tree? For too many its life is shaped and taken by our need for shelter and furniture and travel and warmth (perish the thought of burning kauri for warmth). In my sestude, when the kauri is no longer a tree, it is, according to maori belief, a sperm whale. Think on that.  Taste the salt. 

What is a tree when it’s no longer a tree? When it becomes a floorboard, packing crate, mast, or dining table. I know people who own an ‘antique’ piece of kauri. The most treasured part of this tree is its heart.