Up a Gum Tree

I’ve lived here for decades. I was young myself, when I arrived with a young and expectant couple. I remember how they used to fuss over me as they made sure I had enough to eat, and got my daily dose of sunshine. I grew and flourished because I was wanted, and loved.

As a youngster, I enjoyed eavesdropping on the couples’ intimate conversations as they sat nearby. Sometimes they picnicked with relatives, caught up with neighbours or had wild summer nights with friends. Oh, the secrets shared!

It was a privilege to welcome their children into this world. Days were filled with constant chatter; children laughing, puppies yapping and kittens meowing. They all vied for attention and I swelled with pride.

It was a pleasure to bring them joy and fill their days with wonder. I hosted pollinators in spring, and invited seasoned vocalists all year round. I danced wild to the rhythm of wailing wind for their amusement but warned them off during summer storms as I swallowed lightning. All these creatures gave me life and I sustained theirs; a mutual love.

But Mr Commercial has no appreciation. He now calls for my head as he approaches with a bulldozer to uproot me once and for all. Because bottom line is what matters, nowadays. Such is life!

Cabbage Tree

process note: These memories (220 words) are written for Telling Tales with Magaly Guerrero: a Pantry of Prose, and are inspired by the prompt, From the Point View of Trees.

My childhood home is no more. Where it used to be, stands a giant chain store. But gum trees are some of the trees we had at home. And the term “Up a Gum Tree” is sometimes used to mean great difficulties. I’m not a hardcore environmentalist but I believe nature is in great difficulty as human destruction increases.

p.s. It’s not a gum tree in the featured image, I suspect a fern. From all the trees in my collection, I couldn’t find a gum tree. Just goes to show…

Khaya Ronkainen
Khaya Ronkainen is a writer, poet and creative professional. Her blog focuses on all things poetry and creative nonfiction.


  1. Oooh, great story. Love the overall prompt, too–lots of fun ways to get creative with that. Sad to hear how your childhood home has been replaced by a chain store, though. (Such an inevitable thing, anymore…)

  2. 😉 I think that’s a Jacaranda tree the Hadida is sitting in… and yes, progress wipes out memories… not great!

  3. Boo to Mr Commercial! I love the thought of a tree eavesdropping on intimate conversations and watching the couple’s children grow up. I especially enjoyed the penultimate paragraph with the pollinators and seasoned vocalists, wild dancing and lightning swallowing.

  4. Your childhood sounds perfect and beautifully put into words. I don’t know if children have that kind of joy anymore. Interacting with nature was a huge part of it for me. The expression “up a gum tree” is so cute. Gorgeous and soothing photos.

  5. I love the happiness and the communion, how tree and other creatures (most other creatures) live with each other in sustainable balance. I was all grins as I read the tree’s descriptions of the birds or his wind-dance (no idea why the tree feels male). I love his love for the children–I, too, always thought trees most like the children that bring their happiness to them.

    The end, well… It’s so hard not to end a bit (or a lot) upset and disappointed when it comes to how certain people (especially the Mr. Corporations of the world) treat other living things.

    Also, I think these days, anyone with a heart and a brain has to be worried about the survival of trees. Or, at least, we can hope.

  6. I loved all of the memories and the selfless love of the tree. So sad your childhood home is now a chain store. The bottom line is all that matters now, even as the bottom falls out for planetary survival. Thanks to corporations, all species, including us, are now or will soon be experiencing distress. Sigh. I love your poem. Its ending is very effective.

  7. Too many Mr. Commercials running around these days. And too few people who understand that we are living in symbiosis with the other lives that share our space.

  8. Mr Commercial has no heart for trees. His passion is money.
    Thanks for sharing the Cabbage Tree pic. I never knew there was su h a tree
    Happy Sunday. I linked in at #11


  9. This is my favorite part of a very effective story: “I hosted pollinators in spring, and invited seasoned vocalists all year round. I danced wild to the rhythm of wailing wind for their amusement but warned them off during summer storms as I swallowed lightning.” I wish I had written that.
    I’m glad so many of us are giving voice to trees today, praising and appreciating them even as we show the commercialism threatening them.

  10. Great title. A wonderfully rendered prose piece that is a pleasure to read.

  11. What a delight to learn that our good old Aussie saying ‘up a gum tree’ has spread to other countries! But how sad your well-told story!

  12. I agree, one can get creative in lots of fun ways with this prompt. I’m thinking about how lovely trees could feature in your comics. 🙂 As for my childhood home, that’s how things go. No use crying over spilled milk.

  13. You’re probably right, AJ. It must be a Jacaranda tree considering the photo was taken in Johannesburg. Thanks for that. 🙂 Yes, progress wipes out memories, and that’s why we need to write in order to preserve these memories.

  14. You are kind, Val. My childhood wasn’t perfect but happy. Yes, children were children and their primary role was to play, and not marching the streets carrying placards as they protest against climate change.
    I can see nature as a part of you even now, through your blog. Really awesome to discover another nature lover!

  15. The tree sounds like a he, indeed now that you mention. I didn’t even think about it. And yes, all creatures living with each other in sustainable balance is ideal. But money is the thing that sustains, how sad! We can only hope for the conservation of biodiversity.

  16. Thank you, Sherry. I treasure my childhood memories. At least, it’s something that Mr Commercial cannot take away. And that’s why I think it’s important to write our stories, they could benefit younger generations.

  17. Awww, thank you Susan! That is really a kind and encouraging comment. Much appreciated!

    It is such a wonderful prompt, isn’t! I think we nowadays, as society undervalues the role of trees. They certainly need more appreciation.

  18. Yes words spread, so are trees. Those in the know say we inherited the gum tree from Australia. Thanks for reading, Rosemary!

  19. Sadly money making has no foresight and thinks nothing of the environment or the future ramifications of their actions. I’d like to think that somewhere in the world so populations are being sensible and not being buliied by money makers and bif business who can only envisage the bottom line and not the future. This is an excellent post!

  20. Lovely story and frustrating–the idea that something has no use outside of simple monetary value is pretty abhorrent. I would love to see a series of stories about trees and their families.

  21. Alas… we can call it progress, but the joy of a tree is sometimes that can never be replaced by a strip mall… We are happy to have an old oak in our garden which is likely older than anyone living.

  22. I love the happiness the tree brought, the delightful memories, but sadly progress only looks for profit.

  23. Khaya, a beautiful and tender piece full of harmony of nature and humankind … until the end! Inventive how you’ve managed to weave the term ‘Up a Gum Tree’ to match the ultimate mood of the story. Alas, the bottom line seems to be all that counts in many areas. Here in the UK, we had the protected Green Belt within our communtites which were never supposed to be built on, until the law was yet again changed owing to need of housing!

  24. Thank you for reading my friend. Of course, I lament about the home (a structure) that’s no longer there. But things considered, I carry my home (memories) with me. And that in itself is the greatest gift. I’m not familiar with the Green Belt policy, I’ll have to read about to ascertain if it’s a good or bad thing. 🙂

Do leave a trace!