The old apple tree fell down. I was standing quite close to it on the lawn, pondering some question about the garden-in-my-mind, which flourishes everywhere in the years ahead of me. An odd cracking and creaking noise brought me back to the present, but I'd hardly had time to wonder what it was when I saw the tree fall, gracefully and slowly, in an arc of fluttering leaves and snapping branches.
'Oh no!' I said, 'oh no!'
But there was no denying the reality of a very large old tree lying on its side. Its torn roots snaked in the air, still dripping a bit of soil, and there was a large hole in the ground.
It was, of course, my favourite tree. When we first bought the property, I worked out that the group of old fruit trees must have been planted in the early 1890's. This was when the writer Miles Franklin lived here, as a little girl of about 9 or 10. She came here with her family from Talbingo, and although she was only here for a couple of years, she loved Brindabella all her life. Her father built a house in the place where our house now stands, and I still find bits of pottery and glass from that time when I'm gardening. I don't know whether it was her mother or her father who planted the fruit trees - apples, pears and quinces - and perhaps other kinds as well, but along with the elms, these are the only ones which have survived.
One hundred and twenty five years of growing and bearing apples! Every year, about Christmas time, the cockatoos would begin checking to see if the crop was ripe yet. I soon learnt that they like their apples slightly under ripe, so managed in some years to pick a few before the birds stripped the tree. What a delightful surprise when I first stewed some! Knobbly and green and small as they were, as soon as the peeled slices reached boiling point they transformed into the most luscious, soft, creamy-yellow frothy apple stew. Modern so-called Granny Smith apples almost never do this, and I am endlessly disappointed by them. What a treasure these unprepossessing little apples were! Now I'm kicking myself for not saving any seed.
The tree had grown into a fairy tale shape, leaning slightly, whorls and scars of old branches along its trunk marking events in its history I had not witnessed, and gnarled branches drooping heavily to the ground. I had planted violets underneath it.
My neighbour came over and said I should make a fairy garden in the hollow under the roots. I started to imagine children climbing up the trunk and jumping off the end, and making cubbies under the splayed out branches. I wondered about planting another tree close by - an old fashioned apple perhaps? Or a liquidamber?
And I wondered, as I often do, how old the trees I have planted here will grow. In another hundred years, will someone be walking underneath them, loving them, and wondering about who planted them? Will someone see them fall?