Jane Gleeson-White reflects on POEM FOREST 2021.
Being asked to write a poem about a tree for Poem Forest was an honour and a gift. It’s allowed me to acknowledge the poets and trees who’ve fed my soul during my ten years’ writing about accounting for nature, which attempts to value living trees with numbers and money so they have economic worth (they’re currently valued at zero). This is harrowing, soul destroying work. It’s taught me, irrevocably, that ‘saving the planet’ must start with each of us remembering our heart connection to nature. This is the stuff of poetry.
My poem is an offering to the beautiful olive tree who kept me company in Canberra while I was breaking up with accounting by researching the 1942 Japanese invasion of Rabaul! I needed a being as powerfully rooted in the earth and as towering into the heavens as the olive to keep me grounded and inspired.
The tree, Duntroon gardens and Calculus Lane are all real places. The land was named Duntroon in 1825 by Robert Campbell. His daughter-in-law Marianne Close developed the gardens, planting a tree for every country her husband visited. Robert’s granddaughter Sophia died after falling from her bedroom window aged 28. She still haunts the gardens.
Having to cross Calculus Lane every day, with its suggestion of maths, accounting and boundaries, to reach the olive I valued with heart and soul, not numbers and money, was clarifying. Perhaps I needed to be reminded daily just how huge the shift is we must make: from our focus on profit and economic growth, to loving the earth, whose value is incalculable, with all our hearts.