The Money Tree series, created in 2015, was inspired by events in my home town of Willunga South Australia, which resulted in the removal of some large trees to allow for high density housing. Many birds and animals made their homes in these old trees, which had hollows for nesting and resting. It will take decades for any replacements to provide a similarly protective and welcoming habitat.
In capturing images of other significant trees in the area, my aim was to raise awareness of the fact that these trees are unique individuals that play a vital role in supporting the existence of other creatures. All the birds featured live in the Willunga area. The nude figure depicted on each tree trunk represents the life force within the tree and its relationship with the animals.
The question that should always be asked: Is removal of these significant trees the only solution or is there another way? After all, if they have survived in a particular location for one hundred plus years, they surely deserve to be respected.
The following poem, written by my daughter Dani, expresses this concept in a beautiful way.
In every life there is a spirit, one defined by time, by every sight seen, by every song heard, and each with a story to tell.
Dear irreplaceable friends who shared cloudy skies and dry cracking earth, who together watched the golden sun rise. Companions and care-givers, they watched over all, and would shelter any who asked.
They have grown as we’ve grown, and counted the passage of time, life etched deeply into their skin. They are the givers we take from again and again, until nothing is left but their ghosts.
And no more golden suns will ever be shared, no more storms will they shelter us through. Unless in this moment a new choice is made, forever gone will be the friends that we knew.
The Money Tree
The Money Tree
Unlike the other trees in this series, this tree no longer exists, cut down in the name of ‘progress’. This image represents the whole dilemma and argument that occurred when the developers moved in, and the aftermath.
The native birds are Sulphur-crested Cockatoos (Cacatua galerita) and Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus funereus), representing local residents. The introduced species is the Common Blackbird or Eurasian Blackbird (Turdus merula), symbolizing the developer.
The life force figure holds on desperately, the memory of her former magnificence fading as only a stump of the tree remains. But that too will soon be removed. The cockatoos look with alarm at the blackbird, demanding to know why he has done this. We can see why – the entrance to this estate is paved with $100 bills (blood money). Unconcerned about ‘just one tree’, the blackbird promises that there will be more trees planted. But, because the old tree is no longer there to offer refuge and protection, for generations to come the birds must keep flying past to find sanctuary elsewhere – they have nowhere to land. The cockatoos understand it will be many years before another tree could grow to become a true replacement.
The Southern Boobook Owl (Ninox boobook) is the smallest Australian owl, and nests in hollows such as this tree provides. With its reclining posture and outstretched hand, the life force figure invites relaxation, offering the owl support through the heat of the day. It will be kept safe until dusk when, under the cover of darkness, it flies off to feed.
This red gum can be found in the Bell Tree Paddock on the corner of St Judes Street and St Andrews Terrace in Willunga. The bell from the original Wesleyan Church was placed in the tree in 1895, and I wanted to use it to prove that many trees in the area are more than 120 years old.
Sitting on the sign is a New Holland Honeyeater ( Phylidonyris novaehollandiae), while the other bird is a Singing Honeyeater (Gavicalis virescens). The old bell echoes the sound of the honeyeaters as they sing their morning songs, and the life force figure stands tall, basking in the beautiful morning light, a ritual they have shared for more than a century.
With its twisted branches and buttressed trunk, this tree on the 7th fairway at Willunga Golf Course seems to exude an air of mystery, as do the ‘tawnies’ that live there.
The Tawny Frogmouth (Podargus strigoides) is a master of camouflage. By day this grey-coloured bird roosts with narrowed eyelids and a stretched neck. As their plumage so closely resembles the tree’s bark, this is their primary method of defence. The life force figure stands stretched out, echoing the stance of the tawny, offering safety through camouflage. Even though they are in plain sight, no-one sees the birds. This is the tree’s gift, as the tawnies wait patiently to gently glide down and seize passing prey.
Laughing Kookaburras (Dacelo novaeguineae) sit in an old gum tree in High Street Willunga, right in the middle of the town. They nest in tree hollows up to 20 metres off the ground. Often seen perched on a limb, looking out for the small lizards and snakes they eat, the birds have a loud and distinctive call, which sounds like maniacal laughter. This unique cry inspired the popular nursery rhyme and round, Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree, written in 1932 by Marion Sinclair.
With the kookaburras about, the life force of the tree is shown stepping up to get ready for the show.
A tall sturdy gum on St Judes Street Willunga offers a site high above the ground for Australian Magpies (Gymnorhina tibicen) to nest. Magpies are often heard early in the morning or as the sun is setting; I really love their beautiful warbling melodies. However, magpies have a reputation for aggressive behaviour in the breeding season, when they swoop and attack those who come too near their nest.
In this image, the life force figure bends over backward, a symbol demonstrating that magpies are not malevolent; they are merely prepared to do whatever it takes to look after their families – a lesson for us all perhaps.
This image is of one of several large trees in the Rose Garden on Aldinga Road in Willunga.
More often known as the Galah, I have chosen to call Eolophus roseicapilla by another of its names, Rose-breasted Cockatoo, because I believe it provides a more fitting and dignified description of the bird, which has attractive pink and grey plumage. It is common throughout Australia and is considered a pest in many areas, as is its cousin the Little Corella. However, my image shows a beautiful bird resting peacefully in arms of this magnificent tree, in contradiction of its noisy reputation. Here, the life force is depicted in a balancing position, reminding us that nature is always in balance and, when it appears not to be, perhaps we need to take a closer look at ourselves.
This magnificent tree, with its heart-shaped scar, stands near the 6th fairway on Willunga Golf Course.
Rainbow Lorikeets (Trichoglossus heamatodus) are loud, fast-flying, gregarious birds, mostly seen in small groups. They are not at all shy and are delight to experience. I believe that when Ralph Waldo Emerson said, ‘Nature always wears the colours of the spirit’, he was looking at a flock of Rainbow Lorikeets.
The life force of the supporting tree is in a pose of unfettered joy. She demonstrates that, at times, one must stand out and be ‘in your face’, to show others how to live and love life. She provides both a home and a supply of nectar for the lorikeets to feed on.
Located at St Stephens Cemetery Aldinga Road, this tree stands strong and tall at the entrance to Willunga, a central feature in the quiet little graveyard.
With their striking colours and chattering disposition, the Adelaide Rosella (Platycercus adelaidae) and Eastern Rosella (Platycercus eximius) are a joy to host. As she looks on at the two rosellas while they dance among her limbs, the life force figure stands back, barely noticeable, content that she is part of something magnificent.
This tree is located in the grounds of the Old Courthouse in Willunga, which was one of the town’s first buildings.
The Eastern Barn Owl (Tyto delicatula) nests in deep hollows such as this tree provides. As the moon rises and dusk turns to dark, the barn owl is ever watchful and alert, waiting for a mouse. The life force figure also sits alert, offering its support, with hollows to nest in and strong branches that act as vantage points for the owl to swoop down silently on its prey. Without this relationship the owl cannot survive.