There stands a tree in Paulik Park, a decaying, disintegrating birch, allowed to remain as a sort of wildlife tree. A wildlife tree is a tree that provides habitat for wildlife. It is often the most broken-down, sad-looking trees that provide the best quality habitats: crevices to hide and forage in, holes to nest in, etc.
This birch had once been a tree in a back yard, which you can tell from its permanent decoration, a clothes line. It’s the style of clothes line you rarely see any more, with an upper and lower cord and a pulley at either end. You would stand on your back porch, and gradually feed your clothes across the yard by pulling one cord or the other. Invariably, the pulleys squeaked.
These days, such clothes lines are frowned upon as unsightly. Decent folk dry their clothes in a machine. But I remember the squeak.
I pass this tree every time I visit the park, and look at the pulley. It has been a long time indeed since it has squeaked, or even turned. It is embedded in the tree; the tree grew up over its bracket and partly swallowed it.
But I had never before thought to look where the other end of the clothes line is attached. It strings through a Deodara Cedar (which must not have been there in laundry times) and is attached to a large oak, about 10 feet up.
Beside the oak is empty space, a space once occupied by a small house. Its back porch is a thing in imagination only, hovering next to the tree, from which someone can reach the line and make the pulleys spin, and squeak.
One final odd feature, a melding of abandoned human function and natural process: a sheet of bark has blown from the old birch, and dangles in the centre of the line, an ancient pair of underwear someone ought to be ashamed of, with no squeak to carry it home.