Publication Details

Cavanagh, V. (2020). Friday essay: this grandmother tree connects me to Country. I cried when I saw her burned. The Conversation, 24 January 1-9.

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The Conversation


I remember brushing my teeth over the green enamel sink. I would gaze out the window at a prominent grandmother and ponder her age. This grandmother had soft pink skin, smooth and dimpled, and incredible curves that burled in places. She stood at least 25 metres tall. She was one of the sentinel trees which stood strong on the property where I grew up in Colo Heights, northwest of Sydney, at the edge of Darkinjung Country. Belonging to the Angophora costata family, she, like me, is part of human and non-human kinship networks that connect us with Country. To begin to understand this connection, you might start by thinking about how every native tree on this property grows in its perfect place. Thousands of generations of evolution caused for it to grow right there. Each plant belongs to that very soil, and under that particular sky. Each plant is connected to the next, also growing in its own perfect way. Just like this grandmother tree, the plants are all families to each other. A community that is woven together with every element of nature participating. This is Country. It includes the plants, the animals, the weather, rocks, fire, soils, waters, air, all of planet Earth. The powerful celestial beings too. They are all crucially important, in their belonging place. Humans are part of this community, evolving together. Our relationships with each other, human and non-human, helped us thrive as the longest continuous culture on Earth. There is much to learn from honouring this connection. These are not new thoughts. I am not trying to be a clever person. Indigenous people have shared this story for millennia. Indigenous people have adamantly protested against greedy environmental destruction.