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The Death of Giants    
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A reproduction of a news article some time back related to the decimation of the trees in Cecilia Forest.


Despite the changing of the seasons it has still been warm and the early morning coolness has rapidly given way to some hot and humid weather which is what persuaded us to take a less strenuous walk through the shade of the Cecilia Forest and into the world famous Kirstenbosch gardens. Surely we would find some escape from the madness of city life there.

There is something that a forest does to the light that simply cannot be reproduced in any other way; the shafts of sunshine somehow maintain their rigidity whilst at the same time diffusing a golden glow, a natural highlight to the shady forest floor. Walking through the stands of trees is just wondrous, the light is softened by the foliage overhead, the undergrowth ameliorates the slight traffic noise from Constantia Neck and even one’s foot falls take on wraith like subtlety on account of the leaf litter. As though entering through Alice’s looking glass into another world, not dissimilar to the sensation of diving underwater, all becomes quite, soft tones, golden rays and deep greens.

Disappointingly the stillness was shattered by the buzz of chain saws and not far along the path we came across tree felling operations, the noise and dust an affront to our senses, already tuned into the peacefulness of the forest. I suppose the trees are alien and perhaps unsuited to the environment in which they find themselves, perhaps there are some pressing economic or environmental reasons for them to go, but standing in the clearing it saddened us none the less.

Some majestic trunks still reached for the sky around us, paradoxically offering shade to the workers busy with the task of disembowelling their brethren, the remains of the slaughter laying about our feet, cut to length and toe tagged with numbers like so many corpses in the mortuary. No autopsy for them, simply the remains of a one sided battle, the spoils of war, destined for a future in chipboard. We pressed on down the gravel path in search of something to lift our spirits and found it in the gardens.

Many of the flowers were already done with their summer displays but the Strelitzias, signature plants of the place, stood proud next to the path and the textures of the myriad of plants was just breathtaking. The gnarled bark of numerous trees, weathered and beaten but still standing tall, one wonders what sights they have seen, what history is held within those annual rings? The cycads transported us once more to an imaginary tropical island, splayed out like botanical peacock’s tails, the late autumn sunshine backlighting them to reveal their true splendour.

The bizarre display of the “brood boom’s” fruit, seemingly out of place on an autumn afternoon, the sort of thing one might expect to go along with tropical islands and Man Fridays. Perhaps it is the modernisation of man, with our air-conditioned cars and offices that leads us away from the wonders of nature, perhaps we think we don’t need it anymore, but a walk along the Braille trail quickly highlights the natural cooling of the forest and the protection it offers both man and beast. Shade and protection from the wind, shelter and food, all laid on by nature with no request for rent, free to anyone prepared to take the trouble of a stroll. In the end the tree felling upset us but the peace and tranquillity of the gardens began to heal our wounds.
We paused on the way back to say our goodbyes, standing on the sawdust and looking up at the remaining giants. Rather like visiting a relative on death row and trying to thank them for your Christmas presents, the air seemed filled with embarrassed and hollow apologies, and yet one almost felt the trees knew there was little to be done and seemed somehow less upset than we were. In human speak perhaps they “had a good innings” but one cannot help feel they deserve better. I shan’t pass that way again for a while, killing was never really my bag and in the end the wonders of the gardens served more to highlight the tragedy than to immunise against it. The walk was akin to visiting a children’s nursery and gas chamber housed in the same building, one end nurtured hope and promise, the other death and destruction, each a stone’s throw from the other.

Article posted by: Whistling Jack (5 July 2011) [Send private message]
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