THERE’S a school of thought that says routine can be a dangerous thing; that it can stop us from stepping out of our comfort zone.
But sometimes the comfort of that zone is just what we need.
Lately I’ve been in the habit of leaving my car just a little out of the CBD, where the streets are wide and the parking gloriously free.
Each morning I walk past the same familiar landmarks. The same rambling gardens, the same slightly askew letterbox.
I say good morning to the same smiling dog, see the Melbourne train at the platform as I cross the Mitchell Street bridge, and eventually find myself beneath my favourite tree.
When I mention to people about the Moreton Bay Figs in Railway Park near the Marketplace, I’m often met with a blank stare.
We all know and love our iconic buildings, but we often look past those other proud structures that connect us to this place.
It’s the tree on the corner that I love most.
It must be 25 metres tall and just as wide.
In summer its shade is sublime and there’s nothing quite like taking a seat on one of those fat surface roots – like giant feet gripping the earth – and leaning my back against the trunk.
To look up into its canopy, just for a minute or two, and imagine the hands that planted it. The stretch of time. The changes it’s seen as the city’s grown up around it. That a lifetime or two could have been spent sitting in its shade.
In the back corner of our childhood backyard there was a virgilia tree that towered above the fenceline and gave us a view from its canopy of the surrounding backyards.
We called it our Magic Faraway Tree, in honour of Enid Blyton – played in its lofty heights for hours.
But my favourite times were spent in its branches alone.
A friend at school had told me that some trees sucked up so much water that if you put your ear against the trunk you could actually hear it trickling up through the wood.
I’d listen for hours and convince myself I could hear its pulse – like the ocean in a seashell.
I still think about it, particularly when I walk through the dry, box ironbark forests around Bendigo during summer.
All those trees, all those columns of water, pumping moisture to their breathing leaves. Changing the air around them.
There’s a wonderful cartoon in this year’s Leunig calendar called A Herbal Remedy for Lifeache.
“…Lie on the grass beneath one tree and contemplate another tree,” he says.
Our city in a forest is blessed with trees to contemplate.
Whether you have an hour to rest your bones, Leunig-style against a trunk, or just a minute or two to place your ear to the bark – there’s joy to be found.