There’s a wonderful initiative in Melbourne’s central business district to map the trees. It was started by the city council in an attempt to manage the decline through drought of the urban forest. Each tree in the city was assigned an individual identity code, and along with that code, came an individual email address. The idea was that people could email specific reports about individual trees, reporting when branches had fallen, when power lines were being impinged on, when tree roots were lifting pavement, and so on.
But human beings can be truly wonderful sometimes. The good people of Melbourne began writing directly to the trees. Notes of love, admiration, or simply passing the time began pouring in to the council, addressed to specific trees.
It wasn’t long before the world’s media picked up on this, and well… the phenomenon spread. The trees are now receiving emails from around the world.
I wrote a love letter to a gum tree (yes, I really am admitting that). I miss them. I hadn’t told anyone about the letter, and this morning, I woke to a post on Facebook from a friend who spotted the report, and quickly identified my email (here’s the link — mine’s the letter to the Gum, Tree ID 1032002 dated 11 July).
Then, a little later in the day, another friend talked about selling her home and receiving letters from prospective buyers about how they’d use the home. It got me thinking about love letters. It strikes me as particularly charming to write a love letter to a house.
Houses are the receptacles of so much emotion, of moments, precious, terrifying, and banal. I wish I’d written a love note to the home I spent the majority of my childhood in. I would have thanked it for the many secret moments spent in the storage area beneath its floorboards, I would have railed against its hurt as pane windows were smashed by cats and embedded themselves in my foot, I would have wept over its creaking floorboards that bore my desperately ill father through the height of his cancer treatments, and laughed at the memories etched in its walls of the parties with family and friends, at the fights between siblings, at the long weeping days of depression.
When we left the house our kids spent most time in, I did write a love letter of sorts. After a ritual cleaning, the kind one performs for the dead before a funereal viewing, I wept. I grieved the loss, the ending of our time together. It wasn’t all beer and skittles, that house and I had tempestuous times too. Her sagging ceiling, root bound plumbing, and ageing electrical wiring were points of great disagreement between us. She was content as she was, I was forever wanting to change her.
Perhaps we all need to write more love letters. I don’t think it matters whether we’re writing to the living or the not living. What matters is our ability to express our heartfelt human emotions, our ability to connect with our world.
If you feel inclined to write to a tree in Melbourne (there are a huge variety of trees, not just eucalypts), you can go to http://melbourneurbanforestvisual.com.au and click on ‘Explore the Map’. Click on individual trees to learn more about what they are and where they exist in the city. You’ll find a link to email the individual tree there too.
Go tell someone or something that you love them. We could all use more practice at expressing love.