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Jack Tame: Why did it have to be the trees?

Jack Tame,
Publish Date
Sat, 18 May 2024, 9:38am
Photo / Getty
Photo / Getty

Jack Tame: Why did it have to be the trees?

Jack Tame,
Publish Date
Sat, 18 May 2024, 9:38am

It was my fault.  

One of those things that came about because of whole lot of factors, but which can ultimately be boiled down to doing too much at once. Work, family, life. I was too stretched. Too stressed. And something gave.  

But why did it have to be the trees? 

This will sound really crazy, but I only realised afterwards that maybe the single-biggest reason I bought my home, was the trees. 

We’ve got a section that slowly slopes down, so the backyard is at a lower level than the main living area. It means you would step in off the street, walk into the main living area on the top storey, and suddenly be eye-to-eye with a huge wall of green. 

A jacaranda, a plane tree, a karaka and a pohutakawa, all of them probably decades old, and with enough thickness in the coverage that you couldn’t see beyond them.  

I would step out of Auckland, the noise and the traffic, and into this perfect green sanctuary. A cocoon. Tui, blackbirds, piwaka, they loved it.  

The problem with a perfect green canopy with no light passing through is my neighbour noticed no light was passing through. She asked if we could prune the trees. Just to let some morning light through. They must have been almost twenty metres high.  

I wanted to do the neighbourly thing. A lovely guy came around and surveyed the canopy.  

“We’ll do it on Thursday.” he said. 

I think it was a communication thing, which is another reason why I take the blame. If anyone should be able to communicate, it’s the professional communicator, right? But my wife and I were at work all day, and by the time we got home, it was done.  

The trees weren’t just pruned, they were pruned. Metres taken out of them, right across the top. A straight, brutal cut. Like a bowl cut, but for trees. With all of thickest green canopy, the leaves that provided such a dense, rich canopy, the favourite branches for tui and the piwakawaka, gone.  

I walked into my lounge, where previously I’d stare out at a wall of green. I stared out at a wall of houses. I looked at the stumps of the branches, and I felt tears prick in my eyes.  

My wife didn’t hold back. She walked in the front door, looked at the trees and tears streamed down her face. The neighbour was delighted at how much light was now passing through.   

Two nights have passed. Both nights I’ve had broken sleep, lying there thinking about the trees. My wife isn’t much better. She said she felt we damaged their wairua.  

I can rationalise it. The trees aren’t dead. And I do know they’ll grow back. It may even be that their prune encourages rich, fulsome, rapid new growth. And when there are more leaves and coverage instead of stumpy branches, it’ll be a whole lot less brutal. But no amount of fertiliser or hugs can really speed up the process. We’re looking at years before they are back to where they were.  

And honestly, I feel terrible about it. I feel stupid. I feel guilty, and I feel grief.  

Yeah. I grieve for my trees.  

I know that in the future I’ll laugh about it, but right now it is a very painful lesson. 

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