When I was a kid we lived in a very ordinary house in the western suburbs of Sydney. It had a yard full of beautiful trees. Each tree sparked an adventure of some kind. The trees became an integral part of the way we played and occupied our time.
Outside the kitchen window was a huge, shimmering camphor laurel, mostly silent except when the wind rustled through causing wafts of citrusy scent to diffuse through the house. Further down the side of the house, past the privet hedges (crawling with thick camouflaged caterpillars, that, to this day make my blood run cold) was a bank of bamboo that made a little pocket that was a great place to hide or sulk. I hid there one night while I thought through my threat to run away, it was a very good thinking place.
We climbed the mulberry tree, all three of us. Sometimes other kids would join us there. Stuffing berries into our faces and gathering the leaves with our blue sticky hands on our way down to feed the silk worms that lived in a an evil smelling shoe box under my sister’s bed.
There was an apricot tree that gave us copious amounts of fruit despite well co-ordinated and vigorous attacks by the flying foxes. Mum made pies and jam with the fruit and a beautiful shortbread slice that had a layer of apricot jam underneath a toasted almond and sugary crumble topping.
The May bushes offered their tiny white clusters of blossoms for bouquets in our wedding games and we transformed from brides to witches by slipping our finger tips into the long bell shaped blossoms of the jacaranda tree.
My favourite tree lived in the back corner of our yard, it was a willow tree. Fixed into the earth where the ground was so flat it was easy to pretend it was the floor of our fairy house. The roof and walls were the soft tendrils of the willow tree whose limbs hung down in a slightly sad and forlorn way. We lay on the earth floor and looked up to the sky through the flimsy branches being careful not to crush any of the flower fairies that lived in the snap dragons and lupins we planted by the fence.
So much life in our back yard trees, they were like our closest friends; we stretched our bodies across their knobbly bark, we whispered our secrets in front of them and we let them wrap their branches around us offering shade and calm and unconditional love.