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Things I will Miss: Item the First

Gum trees. And jacarandas, and leopard trees, and those sprawling shady ones with bright red flowers. And the trees in the neighbourhood – such that remain after the frenzy of tree lopping subsequent to the Big Storms before the Big Floods distracted the lopperatzi. But gum trees in particular. Not just the way they look, with their shaggy shambling foliage, and the startling diversity of textures in their bark. And not just the way they smell, although that will be part of it.

Have you ever stopped to notice how the smell of gums changes through the day, and through the year? In the cool morning air the eucalyptus scent is subtle, penetrating, ringing like a very faint chime in the distance. Under a summer sun as the cicadas ratchet up to electric intensity the scent boils out like a great soft heavy blanket. And as the sun sets the smell becomes dusty and smokey. I imagine there will be some other trees that take their place, and I know there are gums all over the world now – some of the oddest cognitive dissonance watching the continuing collapse of the old regime in Libya is seeing rows of gum trees along the street, presumably planted in the ’40s or ’50s. Maybe I will smell cypresses, or yews, or mountain-side conifers instead.

But in the end there is nothing that says Australia, or Brisbane, more than a towering grey green white grey gum tree in the evening with cockatoos or galahs or rosellas hanging heavy on the branch like fruit ready to drop, or a gum tree in the early morning with a family of squabbling kookaburras or caroling magpies.

I think I will miss gum trees.

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