When I walk amongst the pine trees there is a silence and a stillness. I am being watched suspiciously, and in an unfriendly way. The pine trees do not like it when I upset their fallen needles with my footsteps, and they look on without making a sound. They hope that I’ll pass beneath a dead branch so that they can drop it on me, silence me, and subsume me into the blanket of fallen needles.
The casuarinas are different. They live by the river where the water is always running. The burble of the stream is constantly there, reminding you of the way home. And moreover, the casuarinas sing. They sing in the language of the animals, and the animals sing back. Even the smallest gust of wind is enough to start a conversation between the animals and the trees. The casuarinas whisper their song and the kookaburra laughs. The wombat wakes up grumpily and grunts at the kookaburra, and the riverside symphony continues.
I was walking by the river one day and playing my tin whistle. I can only play three melodies, but I can play them well. It seems that the trees would agree. I have only ever listened to the symphony of the casuarinas, but today they were responding to me. I was participating. There was no wind, but still the trees began to whisper. The whisper slowly changed in pitch. The trees were mimicking the song I had just played on my whistle in a very slow and considered way. They finished the melody but their whispers continued. The pitch was shifting wildly. They were upset.
I could tell that the trees were not happy, but I knew that it was not because of me. There was something wrong. They were warning me with their song. As they crescendoed I realised their message. I turned around and ran the way I came. A gunshot rang out, but I was too quick. The bullet hit a tree near me and the splintered bark flew through the air.
I ran and ran. I heard two more shots. Splinters were flying everywhere. The trees were singing – no – howling at me. They were telling me the way to go. They led me to a dire looking area, with dead branches, rough ground, spiky foliage and an aura of dread. I was hesitant to proceed but another bullet flew past, so I ran ahead.
I could hear the footsteps of my aggressor getting closer. I could hear his breath. He primed his gun to fire with a click. The casuarinas were howling wildly when suddenly.
Then a crack of splinters. The sound of falling timber. A thud. Then a guttural sigh.
I kept running even though I knew the bad guy was dead. The casuarinas had saved me with their song.