Branching Out by Jo Frew
Jo is an English teacher and avid reader who writes to scratch a creative itch. She’s trying to reassemble her childhood memories into stories.
Behind the high court is a little triangular park folded into Emily Place. Pohutukawa have been left to grow their own way and have taken up astonishing shapes and attitudes. An arborist once told me their natural inclination is to first grow up, then when their limbs become too heavy, to gently recline. These recumbent old dears have been tired for a very long time and have draped themselves heavily across the path, down the hill and towards the road. It’s a marvel that the council, usually so intent on pushing things into shape, has accommodated this elderly wilfulness and even propped up some of the branches on poles. But one limb is so low to the footpath it leaves an arch of only about a metre. Just before, a tall man with long awkward limbs of his own struggled under this gap, uncertain which way to fold his knees and body to make it through.
Our pohutukawa at home can’t be indulged like this. We prune it every ten years or so, trimming out dead wood and removing branches that threaten the chimney, protrude across the lawn and block the light. It was sad this year to have to lose the branch that held the rope swing. Now it’s chopped into neat sections - next year’s firewood. Children loved that swing with its yellow nylon rope and bum-smoothed slab of six by three. Mounting it took some daring: stand on the planter box, grab the rope, leap - hauling legs onto seat in one move - then hope not to bang into the corner of the house on the way back. So many bruised knuckles, so many skinned knees.
And now we are thinking of taking a leap and letting go our home of 28 years, the only one we have lived in together. It’s a good house. It doesn’t catch enough sun and is cold in the winter, but the garden is finally finished. This house has re-modelled, re-decorated and transformed itself as we have; grown to suit new purposes, changed to reflect new tastes. My husband once said the house is us. It’s time to think about leaving. We can never leave.
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