Miranda’s Daily Blog: Day 24
I stumbled over the answer to the question. I’ve gotten used to answering all sorts of questions about anything from the details of clause 27 in the IGA – to what I eat and where I poop! But I hadn’t been expecting this one and no one has ever really asked me before. So when the journalist said “how has the forest changed you?” I have to admit that I didn’t know how to respond. So I stumbled my way through an answer, but really what I wanted to say was give me a day to reflect on this and get back to you, it’s a big question!
So, I’ve had some time to reflect, and I want to share some thoughts with you.
The forest has changed me; there is no doubt about that. The question is hard to answer because it goes way beyond the three weeks I’ve spent in this forest. It stretches back to the first moment I stepped foot in Tasmania’s old growth forests. Or maybe it goes back even further than that…. to lying on the grass in Queens park, as a child, looking up into the tops of the trees and pretending I was in the middle of the ‘wilderness.’ Maybe it goes back even further than that?
I want to share something very personal with you and I hope you don’t mind. I didn’t know if I wanted to come up this tree. I’d been planning The Observer Tree project for a while and we were going to launch it a few months ago, because this coupe was listed for logging in October 2011. I was in Sydney having just done the banner drop on the Opera House and preparing to come back to Tassie and come up this tree. Then I got the phone call that changed everything… a good friend of mine had passed away.
It’s funny how the first thing I wanted to do was get on the plane to Tassie and come up this tree. Maybe it is my past experiences in the Floz that have shown me how much the forest can heal me. Or maybe it was the shock and denial that lead me to just want to keep busy with something, anything else. I soon realised though, that what I needed to do was go up to Brisbane to say my goodbyes and be with my community.
Two weeks later I’m back in Tassie, full swing into preparing for The Observer Tree. I’m excited but there is something weighing on my mind. I feel too scared to tell people that I don’t know if I can do it. I don’t want to let everyone down. And most of all I don’t want to let the forest down. I’m not sleeping. Instead I stay up all night watching “the secret life of plants” over and over again.
I think I feared being up here alone. With so much time to sit and think and go over and over again in my mind how things could have turned out differently… how maybe she would still be alive if…? And I didn’t want to be alone because I felt this sudden urge to spend as much time as I could with everyone important in my life. Suddenly spending time with friends seemed so important, you just never know when you’ll never get another chance. In addition, someone very important in my life, a close family member, was unwell. I spent every day worrying about them, hoping they would be ok. The Observer Tree launch date loomed closer. I called up a friend of mine who was helping with the project to break the news…. I had to go back to Brisbane. The Observer Tree was postponed, perhaps indefinitely. I felt the weight of 430,000 hectares of forest on my shoulders. How could I stand by and let this forest be torn apart? Especially now, when it was promised protection, when it is so close to being saved… could I really do nothing as the chainsaws moved in? But I had to, it was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. But sometimes you just have to do what is right for yourself and your family.
As it turns out, the timing was perfect. I felt much better within a few weeks. I returned to Tasmania, packed my bags and came out to the forest. Logging began that week, and so we launched the project just in the nick of time.
You might wonder why I have told you that story and think that perhaps it doesn’t really answer the question. But as I often do, I needed to give you some back ground detail about my life in order to explain what goes on up here. Sometimes when I sit quietly watching the forest I get a feeling of sadness. I know grief takes time, I know that it comes and goes. And sometimes it pops up unexpectedly. So I let it have its place, when it needs to. But what I wanted to say is that the forest for me is a place that heals because when I am quiet and I watch the forest, listen to it, take it in… I start to understand things about life that I just didn’t really grasp in the city.
To be here in this tree that has been growing for hundreds of years before I was born and potentially ( if we give it the chance) will stay standing long after I am gone….In some ways, it makes me feel insignificant. A small spec in time on this planet. Similar to how people feel when they look up into the stars and realise how tiny they are in comparison to the universe. But the feeling of insignificance isn’t a bad one. I like the way it makes me feel humble. And honored to share a moment in time with this forest. It changes the perspective of things in my life. That is not to say that the death of a dear friend is insignificant. Because every person matters and losing a friend is difficult. But one thing the forest has taught me about is the cycle of life and death.
Here you see trees grow old, begin to rot, fall over. It’s strange how the sound of a tree falling naturally in the forest is kind of exciting, and at Camp Floz we’d all love to go and have a look, see which one has fallen and where. It is very different from the loss of a tree before it’s time, at the hands of a chainsaw. When trees fall in the forest, they may die, but they do not stop being a part of the forest. They provide shelter and homes for animals, crucial to the survival of the entire ecosystem. They become a part of the soil, to produce the next generation of trees. They continue to hold their store of carbon. They live on forever, in some ways, recycling and returning their energy into the forest for its continuance. That is why sometimes it seems almost a tiny moment in time to talk of trees that are 400 years old, when really this forest has been evolving for so many thousands of years, each fallen tree regenerating the soil to make life for the next.
Although it makes me feel humbled and insignificant, at the same time it gives me a feeling of importance. Because in the forest it is clear that everything matters. Everything has its place. From the tallest of trees to the tiniest of bugs. Every single thing is crucial to the survival of the whole, of each other. The interconnection of life is clear here.
And the thing about all these understandings I have come to see through living in the forest is; I don’t see them only in relation to “the forest” as something out there, separate from us. When I am in the forest I am a part of it as much as any of the other creatures here. And I realise that we all are, no matter where we live, a part of the earth’s ecosystem. The lessons of the forest are relevant to me because the forests’ life is my life. I am a part of the world; I will live and die like everything in this forest.
In this way, the forest has helped me to grieve and understand death. It has taught me that all things will die, but it doesn’t mean they are gone. As the trees live on after they have fallen, so too will fallen friends who have left this world behind. They will continue to bring life to this world as long as their memory remains in our hearts. All the precious moments spent together, the things they have taught us and what they have brought into our lives; they will remain behind for a long time…Keeping this community, this ecosystem, evolving and changing. Every fallen friend will be forever apart of the world, as will we when our time comes too.
This is just one way in which this forest has changed me. It doesn’t mean I don’t still feel sad sometimes, or ask “why” and “what if.” But I have found some comfort in what I have learnt from the forest. It has been a hard lesson to learn. But I am thankful to this forest for sharing it with me.
This blog is dedicated to Sophie; you will live on in my heart.